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November 30, 2013

Curse of Chucky

by Franz Patrick


Curse of Chucky (2013)
★★ / ★★★★

Nica (Fiona Dourif) and her mother (Chantal Quesnelle) receive a package that neither of them ordered. Curious as to what it contains, they open the box and inside is a Good Guy doll. Perplexed, they conclude that the package is some sort of joke and so the doll goes in the trash. Later that night, a scream awakens Nica. She heads downstairs and discovers her mother’s bloody corpse. The doll is no longer in the trash.

Many people think that the story of Chucky the killer doll (voiced by Brad Dourif) has moved toward horror-comedy (and leaning toward the latter) over the years, but for someone who has a nightmare about the “Good Guy” doll just about every year—my mom allowed me to watch Tom Holland’s “Child’s Play” when I was six or seven—I approach every installment with slight unease. While the dark sense of humor and puns remain in the script, “Curse of Chucky,” written and directed by Don Mancini, is a welcome return to form in some ways. Like the original, it takes its time to build.

We do not see Chucky move his limbs or change his facial expression until just about halfway through. This leaves plenty of room for waiting which proves to have its strengths of weaknesses. Regarding the former, I enjoyed Nica as the lead protagonist. Paralyzed from the waist down, I felt increasingly worried for her the more she suspects that something is not quite right with the doll. She sees it sitting still one minute and the next time she checks up on it, it is gone. I wondered how she will be able to defend herself against Chucky when his past victims, who had full control of their bodies, had not fared so well. The material avoids portraying Nica as a wilting thing. It surprised me because there are times when I found that Nica and Chucky are just about evenly matched.

But the supporting characters not at all interesting. We never get the sense that they are smart or strong enough to hurt or seriously damage the doll in some way. Nica’s sister and family, who are there for their mother’s funeral, simply wait to be picked off. The background stories they are given—the unhappy wife (Danielle Bisutti), the suspicious husband (Brennan Elliott)—come off very superficial that the writer-director should not have bothered. I considered an alternative: the picture might have been stronger as a whole if Nica was the only person in the massive house for the entire duration while the suspense is embedded in her small but important discoveries about the strange package.

While some deaths are gruesome, disgusting, and enjoyable, I was not fully convinced when it comes to Chucky’s facial expressions. What made the doll so creepy in the original is that his expressions are limited—like a person is struggling to break out of that plastic body. Here, his face is given more range—to appear more human-like, I suppose—but, ironically, there is less to read. The angles of the doll’s face work under certain well-placed shadows, but when the mouth and eyebrows move I was reminded that I was watching CGI or a puppet being controlled rather than a criminal whose soul is stuck in that doll.

“Curse of Chucky” is most entertaining when bare. It is severely limited at times by doing too much: juggling too many characters, playing with heavy effects, and turning on the background music so profusely that one can usually predict when something will pop out or run across the screen. Still, more than a handful of scenes are good enough to compete against the peaks of its predecessors—even if it is a direct-to-DVD sequel.

(Fans of the series should stay for the hidden scene post-credits.)

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