Written by: Matt Molgaard
When a film franchise survives through six installments, it hasn’t done terribly for itself. When the best flick in a six-feature franchise happens to be the very best of the lot, something amazing and extremely rare has occurred. Most concepts simply do not have the goods to run on that kind of longevity. Child’s Play however, proves that genuine time, effort, passion and full blown dedication can make the implausible possible with seeming ease.
Curse of Chucky is a bad ass flick, rooted in a darkness that we simply haven’t seen from any of the other five films to feature this maniacal doll. Chuck still delivers a punch-line or two, but it’s the atmosphere, the general setting and the demeanor of the characters that drag the pic into a black opaqueness that very few could have seen. The film isn’t funny, it’s frightening.
Confined to a wheelchair, Nica receives an unexpected package in the mail. Not only does she not know what it is, her mother is a tad baffled herself. When they open the package and discover a Good Guy Doll they simply dismiss it. But a few hours later mommy is dead, and Nica’s world is suddenly turned upside down. Family arrives, tensions mount and then the murder begins, in full force. Of those in the home, Nica alone has her head on her shoulders, and she’ll need to keep her wits about her if she hopes to outsmart the resilient Chucky.
The decision to keep this picture confined to one small location (a house that sports a fine vintage appeal) worked wonders. Not only does it limit hopes of escape, it manufactures a grating sense of claustrophobia. As a viewer, it’s hard not to feel completely trapped in this mad house, and knowing that Nica is handicapped adds a palpable level of tension. She can’t just up and run away from this danger, she’s got no choice but to attempt outsmarting Chucky.
And speaking of the little booger, I should note the cool backstory incorporated in Curse. We get a nice look at Charles Lee Ray before he managed to transplant his own soul in the shell of a cheap plastic doll. We learn that his encounter with Nica and her mother is no mere accident. There’s a connection here, and it doesn’t feel too far-fetched to buy into. The subtext is just a really welcomed layer to a Child’s Play film that – for the first time – relies on mystery more than over the top jump shots. Don Mancini takes his time with this one, building tension like never before. We don’t even see Chucky go Chucky until 50 minutes have passed. All narrative up to that point is character illumination, atmosphere establishment and study of habit and location. It’s so effective it is ridiculous, and the slow burn effect amplifies the final showdown exponentially.
I love this flick, plain and simple. I’ve seen it a number of times now, and each time offers up something I missed the previous time I checked it out. It’s dark, it’s unsettling and it features Brad Dourif’s own daughter Fiona, who for the record, is gorgeous (and surprisingly polished on an acting front). I’ve got to say it, in the case of Child’s Play the third time isn’t the charm: the sixth is.