Back in the day sequels to horror movies were a a dime a dozen. As soon as an original horror movie raked in enough dough, the sequels kept on coming until they ran out of steam. Popular franchises like A Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday The 13th and Hellraiser all had movies released on a yearly basis. Or so it seemed at least. There are even entire franchises of (straight to video) movies that people only know of because there are so many installments. Puppet Master, Leprechaun and Children of the Corn come to mind.
One of the more prolific and famous franchises is the Child’s Play series starring Chucky; the killer doll. Like the clown from IT he has this reputation of being one of the scariest characters having traumatized young kids on the occasional sleep over. Not surprising considering both movies deal with a homicidal maniac disguised as a figure originally created for children. After a rushed trilogy the series took a step back in its release schedule with the seventh entry, released 29 years after the original: Cult of Chucky.
I’m not sure, but I think the Child’s Play franchise is going for a record here. It’s been almost 30 years since the first movie was released and the series still manages to contain cast/crew members that have been around since the beginning. Don Mancini, Alex Vincent and Brad Dourif have all been around since day one. Especially Dourif is in the run for portraying the same character in a film series for the longest amount of time. Even if it’s just voice work. Chucky is brought to life by his unique voice. Robert Englund played Freddy Krueger for 19 years (1984 – 2003), while Doug Bradley played Pinhead in 8 Hellraiser movies released between 1987 and 2005. I can’t recall another movie series running for so long while staying true to its origin.
Cult of Chucky is a direct sequel to the previous Curse of Chucky. We follow wheelchair-bound survivor Nica as she has been committed to a high security psychiatric institution after receiving the blame for Chucky’s murder spree. Things are looking bright for Nica as she’s being transferred to a medium security facility where she will be able to mingle with other patients and allowed to have visitors. As you can probably guess, the visitor she’s about to receive is the last one she wants to see in the world. Soon after, bodies are dropping and all fingers are pointed to Nica.
As you can probably tell by the synopsis, Cult of Chucky doesn’t score much points for originality. In fact, it uses much of the tropes we have seen in many horror movies. The setting of the mental institution for instance. Both Hellraiser 2 and A Nightmare on Elmstreet 3 had a similar setting. The whole “This killer doll story is a just figment of your imagination” attitude has been lifted straight from the first three Child’s Play movies. I understand it would be weird if people did believe that story instantly, but rehashing the “you’re nuts” angle again felt tiresome.
As a slasher movie, Cult of Chucky also has the same questionable choice of actions by characters seen so many times before. Somehow the doll can move around without ever being seen. Surely there must be some CCTV system right?
When the murders (looking like accidents) start everybody acts shocked for a moment, then goes around their business like usual. By dead body number three in a mere period of days, one would start asking questions. Then again, this institution even has a graveyard on their lot. What kind of institution has that? The people that work there, must be really bad at their job.
“Oh, Greg killed himself. Well, we’ll bury him this afternoon. We’ll notify the family when they come around for their monthly visit.”
Even the morally ambiguous psychiatrist is a trope we’ve seen so often. I’m surprised psychiatrists haven’t spoken out against their portrayal in horror movies, since it gives them a bad name. Much like IT does for real clowns.
Not all is bad though as Cult of Chucky is a beautifully shot movie with some inventive murder sequences. When I saw the title I was a bit afraid. Movies about cults tend to be either awful or I just don’t like them personally. Children of the Corn, The Wicker Man or even Halloween 6. Rarely do I find horror movies about cults enjoyable. I don’t even like Rosemary’s Baby all that much. Luckily the cult in the title doesn’t refer to a group of people worshiping Chucky. I won’t reveal what it refers to, but it paves the way for a truly memorable scene in which we see Chucky talking to himself. I find it to be a nice twist.
As I stated, the movie looks great. The mental institution is an almost sterile environment consisting of mostly gray-scale tones with a dash of cold blue. The same goes for the actors who all wear clothes with either white, black or just bleak colors. The brightly colored Chucky doll really bounces of the people and sets around him. The same goes for Jennifer Tilly’s Tiffany, who returns in a blood red coat. She pops off the screen.
One of the best choices director Don Mancini made is relying on old fashioned animatronics to bring Chucky to life. It would have been a mistake to create a CGI-character. While the lip-movements don’t always follow the lines spoken exactly, the fact that the doll is actually in the scenes with the actors makes it all much more convincing. It even gave me a jolt of warm, fuzzy nostalgia.
Those looking for closure beware. Cult of Chucky has an open ending, so I’m hoping that there will be another installment. Maybe even one that finally closes the book and come full circle with the character of Andy Barclay. He’s prominently figured in this movie, but the way they use him feels kind of a letdown. There iss more potential with his character and they waste him in the finale. They have given his character the same arc as that guy tracking the Stepfather down in the original 1987 movie. And that was also the weak point of that movie.
Cult of Chucky definitely has it’s moments and is a fine addition to the franchise. A franchise that is rather seemingly consistent in its quality with only “Seed of Chucky” as a real mishap in my opinion.