Curse of Chucky (2013)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #152

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Number of Views: One
Release Date: 24 September 2013
Sub Genre: Slasher
Country of Origin: United States
Budget: $5,000,000
Running Time: 97 minutes
Director: Don Mancini
Producer: David Kirschner, Don Mancini
Screenplay: Don Mancini
Characters: Don Mancini, David Kirschner (Chucky doll)
Special Effects: Michael W. Hamilton
Cinematography: Michael Marshall
Score: Joseph LoDuca
Editing: James Coblentz
Studio: Universal 1440 Entertainment
Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Stars:  Fiona Dourif, Danielle Bisutti, Brennan Elliott, Maitland McConnell, Chantal Quesnel, Summer H. Howell, A Martinez, Kevin Anderson as Judge, Jennifer Tilly as Tiffany, Alex Vincent as Andy Barclay and Brad Dourif as Charles Lee Ray / Chucky

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Suggested Audio Candy:

Joseph LoDuca Curse of Chucky

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This one’s gonna hurt. Before I commence I must formally apologize to our dear First General of Grue for the following 1000-odd words as I know the pain he will be enduring just casting his eyes over this appraisal. You see, Chucky divides audiences into two distinct groups: one that digs on the little fella and hang from his every word awaiting one of those quick-witted quips and…the rest of us, Giles very much inclusive. I say us, when really I don’t have a massive issue with Charles Le Ray. The Child’s Play franchise is actually reasonably consistent throughout and there have been more highs than lows. But the highs are a lot less lofty when dealing with a pint-sized pest like our Good Guy.

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None of the films, including the straight-faced original, have exactly set fire to my loincloth. But neither have they caused me to swill my own vomit. I despise indifference but in the case of this particular franchise, it is the overwhelming response. In recent years the sequence has fairly successfully made the switch into lighter territory but on this occasion the chortles are at a premium. Eminently poker faced, it is more of a spiritual successor to the first movie and focuses more than ever before on back-story. For the lion’s share of the screen time it actually works out pretty well too.

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Curse of Chucky had its work cut out from the off. Mere days earlier I had been exposed to James Wan’s The Conjuring and had revisited my illogical fear of creepy-assed dolls. Don Mancini’s film attempts, at least in its first act, to replicate the chills. Making Chucky a fearsome antagonist is a fairly tough ask by any stretch of the imagination. There’s simply nothing scary about him. Sure, he’s stuffed to the battery pack with malignant voodoo and houses the inky soul of a particularly troublesome serial killer. But that’s all he’s got, strip it away and you’re left with a Brady Bunch reject who pisses his pants on a bi-hourly basis.

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To be fair Curse begins strongly and, whilst accepting that the scare quota is invariably going to be non-existent, I was quietly impressed by the steady build-up. One early scene around a dinner table showcases the director’s intent exquisitely. It may not be the most original, but it drags out the tension admirably and is followed by the first of a number of well-executed instances of grue. Chucky is well and truly off to a flier and it’s not so far to fall when you’re a foot tall.

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Fiona Dourif, daughter of legendary Brad, provides a central protagonist we actually care for and that hasn’t been the case with the franchise for some time. She plays paraplegic Nica with vigor and acts as glue, keeping the whole rickety show from falling away at the seams. Still in a state of shock over her mother’s mysterious and untimely death, she soon has to contend with the brood as they house-crash, dreaded child actor in tow. Enter split loyalties and dastardly plots a plenty. Any attempts at weaving a clever yarn, however, are soundly thwarted by one-dimensional characterization of some fairly hateful players.

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The plot gets all up in itself and threatens to miscarry entirely but Mancini’s direction is slick enough and his script pacy enough, to make it through its 97 minutes relatively unscathed. Our plucky heroine is assisted, in no small part by Mark Ruffalo-lookalike Ian (played by Brennan Elliott) who, right up until it all begins to get a little Scooby Doo, provides the only other genuinely affable character. As mentioned, there’s also a smattering of back-story to pad out the running time and this is novel, but doesn’t sit right within the overarching experience.

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As for Chucky…well he keeps his head down, whilst procrastinating not over causing mischief. Wisely he remains zipped for much of his screen time and it pains me to say this as I adore Brad Dourif and believe he can do no wrong. He is as reliable as ever here and my problem isn’t with him. It’s the whole concept of Chucky speaking in the first place which needles me.

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Bride and Seed both veered more toward Black Comedy and it’s just so hard to shake off. Thankfully Mancini resists the urge to explore the comical and keeps things straight down the line but, as the experience wears on, it begins to enter more familiar territory.

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It may appear as though I have been a little harsh on Curse of Chucky and all I can say to that is that you’re lucky our First General of Grue hasn’t weighed in. He loathed it from start to finish, and after the credits rolled, he hated on it some more. As for Keeper, well I find it mildly diverting and would applaud it for taking the series back to its dark roots.

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But for all its hard work and perseverance, the fact still remains…Chucky has pretty much run his course. I applaud Mancini, who directed Seed of Chucky and has writing credits on all the previous films, for attempting to buck the trend. But for all the layers of gloss, inventive grue and that assured turn by Fiona Dourif, it’s just another Child’s Play movie.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 4/5

For The Grue-Guzzlers: This is where the meat and potatoes lie. Some stellar FX work and mean-spirited dispatches raise the bar from what has passed previously. Two instances stand out, a grisly decapitation and hatchet kill delight and this is, without question, the most visceral entry in the long running series thus far.

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