Don Mancini’s Cult Of Chucky is an anomaly; Hollywood’s smallest horror icon “jumps the proverbial shark” but instead pulls off a daring scripted stunt that sticks its revitalized landing. We’ve come a long way since 1988 – Andy Barclay fighting his Good Guy nemesis – far enough to introduce a bride, child and now congregation into Chucky’s life. Mancini plays as wacky-and-loose as he wants with plot – it doesn’t get less believable than a murderous children’s toy possessed through a voodoo curse. So why not evolve mythology and upgrade Charles Lee Ray’s murderous capabilities? In keeping with the tradition of a forward-thinking franchise focused on reinvention, Chucky’s latest playdate strives for vigorous kills, legacy unquestioned and a logical blend of 80s-meets-modern-classics slasher intuition.
I’ve screamed it before and I’ll pontificate again – Child’s Play is the strongest horror franchise still running, ever created, all of it. Go ahead and “@” me like the kids say.
Disciples of Chucky, you should probably stop reading this review now if you haven’t watched Cult. You’ll only spoil the fun. Trust in Mancini and believe that his Curse Of Chucky post-credits tease is immediately paid off. Go on, get out! We can discuss once you’ve experienced Cult Of Chucky.
For those who demand more? Suit yourself.
We reunite with Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif) at Harrogate Psychiatric Hospital on the recommendation of Dr. Foley (Michael Therriault). Nica is still convicted of the multiple homicides from Curse since no one believes her walking, talking demon-toy tale. Chucky (Brad Dourif) isn’t finished with her, though. With the help of girlfriend Tiffany Valentine (Jennifer Tilly), Chucky infiltrates Harrogate and begins killing patients and nurses alike. It’s open season on the criminally insane, but then a hero enters the fold who can stop Chucky once and for all – an all-grown-up Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent).
Before you roll your eyes at the nostalgia factor of throwing Tiffany, Andy and maybe even another franchise favorite into the mix, understand that Mancini so cares for his blood-splattered universe. One of the first things he does is show Andy in the dating world, forced to answer questions about his dark past. There’s a reason why Chucky’s “friend to the end” line haunts Andy, because memories of Chucky will never be erased. It’s the survivor’s mentality that drives Andy to own four stocked gun cabinets that’d make Ted Nugent drool, doubled-down once he pulls an artifact from behind a framed Kent Military Academy sweatshirt. They’re sadistic tenancies inherited from Chucky himself, evolving a character who experienced fantastical trauma from a young age.
Mancini allows for new faces to wander the rooms of Dr. Foley’s primary facility, from pill-popping patients to white-suited orderlies. It’s actually Dr. Foley who unknowingly makes Chucky’s job easier by bringing a Good Guy doll into group therapy, shoehorning an easy entrance. None of the other patients believe Chucky is real, but some do have their own alternate reactions. Mostly just for body-count fodder, but hey, Chucky’s got plenty of work to do if he’s going add a dash of color to the pure, wintry whiteness of snowy grounds and bleach-white hallways.
Madeline (Elisabeth Rosen) sees Chucky as her baby, going as far as to breastfeed her replacement child. “Multiple Malcolm” (Adam Hurtig) – a multiple-personality sufferer who thinks he’s everyone from Michael Phelps to Mark Zuckerberg – immediately joins Nica on her quest towards innocence. Nurse Carlos (Zak Santiago) nearly discovers Chucky’s identity on multiple occasions, but is always too distracted. All of them are supporting players who are only ever included to die in front of Nica, as Chucky torments the paralyzed girl while having some deserved fun – and have fun he does.
Cult Of Chucky doesn’t ignore the security of familiarity by way of deaths – possibly nodding to Bride Of Chucky‘s mirror kill, even – but also spices things up. We’re in a facility with medical capabilities after all. So many tools that can drill and slice right through skulls, for instance. Tiffany keeps her switchblade lubricated (making a “cherry snow cone”), glass rains down like sharp, glistening snowflakes, guts push through separated slits of flesh – yet there’s just as much doll violence as there is human massacring. It’ll all make sense, and damn you Don Mancini for making Cult Of Chucky so hard to write about. Chucky doesn’t get all murder-happy until after a slower first act, but when he does, Child’s Play signatures are dotted with skulls and crossbones. Gleeful gore, ludicrous trap-setting and malevolent enjoyment without timeouts.
OK – sorry. I can’t contain myself anymore. I’ve earned
one two spoil-heavy paragraphs, so read the next collections of words at your own risk.
Still with me? Here goes.
There are multiple Chucky dolls in Cult Of Chucky, and Mancini is feelin’ himself given his trio of tiny tyrants. How? Because Charles Lee Ray learned an “Ade due damballa” alteration that allows him to possess anything with two legs and hands for stabbing. That *includes* Ms. Nica, which means Fiona Dourif gets to play Brad Dourif trapped in a female body – Brooklyn heavy accent, crazy eyes and all (slay, Fiona!). Don’t get me wrong, Brad is still King Creeper – Chucky’s constant admiration of Dr. Foley a recurring, sinister joke – but Nica’s rebirth is such a like-father-like-daughter transformation with horror gravitas. Dourif’s kin a demented, so-fitting heiress.
You’d think “Nica” reuniting with Tiffany – as Charles – would be the film’s highlight, but no, it all still belongs to three Chucky clones laughing and killing like best psychotic friends. Fighting over who gets first crack at Andy, debating who had it worst so far. “At least you got to suck a tit,” a reference with Madeline, but ultimately, the Chucky with one ugly haircut gets dibs because, well, “LOOK AT MY HAIR!” Together they commiserate over Hannibal‘s cancellation (legit), recall past murders and drop nostalgia bombs, with Mancini loving his reinvention of the wheel as a brand new murder weapon. The proverbial door is swung open and not in a cheesy, forced way. Instead, Mancini pushes forward unlike many other horror franchises stuck on repeat.
If I don’t get another Child’s Play movie after Cult Of Chucky because of movie pirates, I’ll find a way to assemble my own Chucky squad to hunt everyone who downloaded a bootlegged copy. Don Mancini strings up another blast of a slasher sequel that may take a few scenes to find its genre legs, but ends on such a franchise high-note. While other horror icons reboot and remake their way downward, Charles Lee Ray finds fresh, nasty ways of not only remaining relevant, but inspiring hope that Chucky will outlive us all. Still chugging, still slashing and still kickin’ it with the best all these years later. This is just Mancini showing off.
Cult Of Chucky roots itself in nostalgia long enough to shock us all by flipping the Child's Play franchise on its head in an invigorated, inspiring, and oh-so-deadly way.