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March 2, 2018

Cult of Chucky

by Franz Patrick


Cult of Chucky (2017)
★ / ★★★★

Casting Alex Vincent again as the original Andy Barclay, the first owner of a Good Guy doll that contains the soul of serial killer Charles Lee Ray, also known as Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif), is the only inspired decision in this mess of a horror film. The story begins with great promise as we learn how Andy’s life has been irrevocably changed following the grim events surrounding his sixth birthday. Although he survived the ordeal, in some ways Chucky had claimed a part of him. It is a nosedive from there, however, as writer-director Don Mancini rehashes the same tired clichés that plague pictures set in a mental institution.

The spotless psychiatric hospital never comes across as a real place, let alone a foreboding one. As expected, the patients are composed of by-the-numbers crazies, stereotypes from top to bottom, from a man with multiple personalities (Adam Hurtig) to a mother who had murdered her baby (Elisabeth Rosen). As the decibel levels increase during therapy sessions led by Dr. Foley (Michael Therriault), our patience with the material decreases at an exponential rate because we realize early on that these scenes only serve to buy time until the killer doll begins to exercise his specialty. Not one of these new characters, including our paraplegic heroine Nica (Fiona Dourif), the survivor from the preceding “Curse of Chucky,” is worthy of our time and attention.

The violence and gore are supposed to be over-the-top, but they are not at all enjoyable. The problem is, they just happen as opposed to the filmmakers actively building tension until they could no longer be contained. Without suspense, or at the very least understanding the importance of suspense in horror pictures, violent occurrences come across as shallow, busy. It is akin to opening up a book and trying to read the text, but realizing that all of the words are jumbled up thereby forming nonsense. It is supposed to be a horror film with comedic elements, but there is no well-written or fully realized content to be explored here. The jokes are recycled from previous installments.

There is one intriguing angle that is never taken beyond an elementary idea. That is, the material introduces the possibility of having more than one Chucky. It is increasingly alarming how many Good Guy dolls end up in the asylum. Yet we are never provided details as to how that might work which is most disappointing because the supernatural elements are already laid out by the 1988 original. This film is so lazy, it doesn’t even bother to expand upon how the voodoo, mumbo jumbo works. Instead, it is busy parading around familiar faces, lines of dialogue, and situations from previous films.

Having seen the genuinely creepy “Child’s Play” when I was about five or six years old, Chucky gave me nightmares. I loved the character, but I feared him. That film became such a part of me that once a year, to this day, I expect and eventually have a dream about the murderous doll stalking me. And so it goes without saying that I want this series to be reinvigorated—the quality being at least on the level of the first two pictures. It is so disappointing that sequel after sequel is one wasted potential after another. Ade due damballa—give us a great modern Chucky movie, we beg of you. The crushing dissatisfaction is getting old.

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