I can still clearly remember the day Curse of Chucky was first announced to the public. I can remember the day it was released as well. On October 8th, a friend and I went to the video store and rent the new film. I have adored the Child’s Play films for as long as I can remember, and I very much wanted the film to serve as a return to form for the franchise after Seed of Chucky sent it spiraling in a bad direction.
I could hide my skepticism. The film was the first installment in the series to be released direct-to-video, which, at times, can mean a lack of faith or enthusiasm from producers and distributors involved, but it was written and directed by series creator Don Mancini. Although it’s different from how I normally conduct a review, I will lay my cards out on the table straightaway and admit – I strongly disliked Curse of Chucky when I first watched it.
In retrospect, however, as I revisited the film alongside its followup Cult of Chucky, I realized I may have let my affection for the series at its best pay detriment to the actual quality Curse had.
Make no mistake about it, I still don’t think Curse of Chucky was a good film, but my arguments and criticisms weren’t as reasonable and considerate as they should have been. A lot of my criticism had to deal with what the film wasn’t, rather than what the film was.
I have always thought of them as colorful, enthusiastic, and most certainly playful. They are about a foul-mouthed children’s doll offing people. I would always hear the criticism about how the films weren’t scary because Chucky himself wasn’t a very imposing threat, and my response to that was always that they were never positioned like they were meant to be.
Curse of Chucky is more attuned to the mindset of a horror fare, with a more serious approach, and, all in all, it’s a decent enough film oftentimes dismayed by its own limitation.
The Chucky doll looks more than a little off the whole way through, whether it be the chubby face or goofy, dumbfounded facial expressions. The most off-putting moments are the scenes when he goes down stairs, with it feeling very cheesy and animated.
The film decided to head in the direction of standard horror fare, focusing on a disabled woman named Nica Pierce, after the death of her mother Sarah, as her family members, including her manipulative and condescending sister, arrive at the house to console her and discuss how to divvy up the mother’s will.
The word “standard”, I think, is a description that aptly describes Curse of Chucky as a whole, and it is a word that rings in my head again and again as I watch the film. The characters don’t engage me, with subplots involving an affair love-triangle with the nanny and Nica’s sister and brother-in-law.
In slasher films, in-general, characters can oftentimes feel like pigs lining up for the slaughter, with characters like Nica’s sister portrayed in such a rude, unlikable manner that you’ll find yourself rooting for their demise. In the best case, however, it is hopeful you will be able to make characters feel, if not less expendable, more entertaining in the moments leading up to their eventual comeuppance. If they can’t do that, they have to appeal to the more gratuitous approach that the genre often appeals to.
The saving grace from the human side in Nica, who is played by Fiona Dourif, daughter of Brad Dourif, the actor who does the voice of Chucky. She provides a likable lead for the film. I would have liked to have seen the film double-down on her, but that, once again, isn’t the film we received.
Brad Dourif is fantastic in the voice role of Chucky, or, at least, he usually is, with his signature laugh and a light-heart, dartk enthusiasm that isn’t often encountered in the slasher genre, or the horror genre, for that matter. The film doesn’t offer very much for him to work with, however. The lines they have for his character are cheesy, a reoccurring trait for the Chucky series, but this is different. Previously, it came with a level of charm to it. In this film, they were cringe-inducing at worst and ineffective at best. Group that in with how off his look felt, and the film’s main-antagonist isn’t up-to-task to payoffs that the film builds toward.
The established connection between Chucky and Nica is also over-the-top and cliche.
Curse of Chucky isn’t the awful film I remembered it as, but the film plays it safe and doesn’t engage with very many unique ideas as far as the human characters are concerned. Slasher films have survived without this before, but where Curse really fails in my opinion, is by how the series’ namesake disappoints. In-retrospect, the film is an improvement over Seed of Chucky, simply because it doesn’t make the same mistakes. At the same time though, at lest that film was willing to try and fail at doing something different.
Curse of Chucky was right in the belief that the series needed to take a step-back and strip itself down to the basics, but I believed it stripped down a lot of what I liked best about the series’ identity.