Play n' Slay.
There is no genre that loves sequels more than horror. Horror movies are relatively inexpensive to make but have the potential to make a lot of money, and as a result, it's hard to think of many horror hits that haven't had at least one follow-up. And as any fan knows, the big successes can spawn any number of sequels and remakes, mostly with a rapid decline in quality.
The exception is the Child's Play series. The first movie was a great slice of late-'80s slasher fun that introduced the world to possessed killer doll Chucky. But by 1992's Child's Play 3, the formula was already feeling tired, and it would be another six years before Chucky would return. However, 1998's Bride of Chucky was a complete revitalisation of the series that gave us two killer dolls (Chucky and his bride Tiffany) and a much needed dose of uproarious dark comedy. Nearly 20 years on, the series is still going strong, with the seventh movie--Cult of Chucky--finding new and ghoulish ways to entertain.
Series creator Don Mancini returns to direct Cult of Chucky, and delivers most of the elements that have helped the series find a dedicated fanbase over the years. So Chucky is obviously back, voiced once more by Brad Dourif. We also have Alex Vincent, playing Andy, Chucky's owner in the first movie and now a revenge-driven adult. Jennifer Tilly returns too, as Tiffany--now inhabiting the body of, er, actress Jennifer Tilly, plus Fiona Dourif, who starred in 2013's Curse of Chucky (and is Brad Dourif's daughter), as the main character Nica.
The story picks up where Curse left off, with Nica sent away to a mental institution after she is framed for murder by Tiffany and Chucky. Unsurprisingly none of the other patients believe her wild stories about killer dolls, but when Tiffany manages to smuggle Chucky into the hospital, Nica is forced to deal with not one but three murderous toys.
The Chucky movies have long since stopped trying to maintain narrative logic, and by this point in the series, Mancini knows that weirder is better. So we have multiple Chuckys stalking Nica and her pals around the corridors of the hospital, sex-mad doctors, oddball patients, and plenty of gruesome, stylishly orchestrated murder. It's the goriest Chucky movie to date, with one particularly spectacular death involving a large window that is straight out of a Brian De Palma movie.
That said, Cult of Chucky is not particularly frightening--by now, Chucky is simply too familiar a horror movie villain to create much in the way of menace. But it's not boring either, and Fiona Dourif proves that she has inherited some of her dad's acting chops with a committed (pun intended) performance. Nica's fellow patients are a stock collection of movie loonies--the schizophrenic, the amnesiac, the suicidal woman, and so on. But the relationships between the characters are well acted and written, and for the most part, their various conditions do serve the plot.
Of course, Chucky remains the star of show, and Brad Dourif makes the most of playing a trio of Chuckys--the scenes where the bickering, foul-mouthed dolls hatch their evil plans are extremely funny, but if anything, there aren't enough of them. Mancini's determination to keep Chucky as an animatronic puppet is to be applauded too; thankfully we are spared the sight of a CGI version.
Cult of Chucky is no classic, and while the movie sets up an inevitable eighth part, it's hard to see what further mileage can be wrung from the formula. But everyone said that after the third movie, and the series was only just getting going at that point, so let's see what Chucky and Tiffany get up to next time. For now, this is one cult worth joining.
|The Good||The Bad|
|Not one but three Chuckys!||Not very scary|
|Stylishly directed||Makes very little sense|
|Good, gory murders|
|Funny, self-aware cameo from Jennifer Tilly|