Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Horror Violence, Grisly Images, Language, brief Sexuality and Drug Use
Directed by: Don Mancini
Written by: Don Mancini
Starring: Fiona Dourif, Michael Therriault, Adam Hurtig, Alex Vincent, Elizabeth Rosen, Grace Lynn Kung, Jennifer Tilly & Brad Dourif
In the realm of slasher series, most long-running horror franchises falter over time. Strangely, this has never really happened to the CHUCKY films, which have remained consistently entertaining and served as gory guilty pleasures. The first three CHILD’S PLAY movies were fun slasher flicks, BRIDE was a horror rom-com, SEED pushed campy limits to the friggin’ extreme, and CURSE OF CHUCKY was possibly the best direct-to-video horror sequel that I’ve ever seen. The comments made about CURSE also easily apply to CULT OF CHUCKY, the seventh(!) installment in this long-running slasher series about a possessed toy with a penchant for murder and a foul mouth.
After being framed for the murders of her family members, Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif) has been committed to an insane asylum and believes that Chucky (Brad Dourif) was a figment of her imagination. However, a killer doll did actually slaughter Nica’s family and its living severed head is currently in possession of original victim-turned-vigilante Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent). Things become stranger when another Chucky doll arrives at Nica’s asylum and begins talking, stalking, and slaying all over again. It’s up to Nica and Andy to get to the bottom of this blood-soaked mystery before Chucky plays a long-awaited game of “hide the soul.”
If you’re a fan of the CHILD’S PLAY series, then you’re bound to get a kick out of CURSE OF CHUCKY. This film has a ton of returning cast members/characters who aren’t merely included as fan service, but also further the plot along in new crazy directions. Though it’s not nearly as campy as SEED or as funny as BRIDE, CULT captures the creepy atmospheric suspense of 2013’s CURSE. That’s not to say that CULT is free of laughs and doesn’t fully embrace its wild plot revelations, because it revels in both and yet keeps a close focus on the ever-evolving series’ storyline.
It may sound weird to say that the seventh installment in a long-running slasher franchise is concerned about creating a good plot, but the reason for that is because series creator Don Mancini has been with this series since its beginning. Mancini has always found new and interesting places to take his pint-sized, plastic psycho killer and continues to do so in CULT. This film is completely entertaining, while also taking bold steps to move the franchise into more insane and unexpected directions.
CULT is also benefitted by a cast that clearly cares about delivering their best performances. While I’m not going to lie and say that the acting is flawless, I will say that most of these characters are compelling and deliver exactly what was required of them. Fiona Dourif plays the mentally unhinged, traumatized Nica as a protagonist worth rooting for. A returning Alex Vincent (who served as an awesome cameo in CURSE’s post-credits scene) steals the show as Andy, especially when he’s sadistically torturing the severed head of the killer doll that made his life a living hell. Be sure to watch for another post-credits scene too, which makes me hope that we’ll see an eighth installment from Mancini and company in the near future. The rest of the cast members (excluding Brad Dourif and Jennifer Tilly) range from good to mediocre in their moments.
I’d be remiss not to mention Brad Dourif (returning to voice Chucky again) and Jennifer Tilly (in the role of Tiffany who’s possessing Jennifer Tilly’s body). Dourif got lots of dark humored laughs out of the me, by injecting one-liners and sarcasm into his murders. Tilly is a bit underused, but still has a couple of shining moments that are sure to please long-time fans. As far as the murders go, this film (at least the Unrated version) delivers some pretty awesome kills. The weakest death is a pale imitation of BRIDE OF CHUCKY’s best scene, while the rest of the gory kills use things like scalpels, drills, and even Chucky’s plastic fists. The final third delivers images that fans never imagined they’d see in a CHUCKY film, making for some of the best highlights in the whole damn series.
Despite having a small direct-to-video budget, CULT OF CHUCKY looks mostly outstanding. There are a couple of shaky effects, mainly during an out-of-place nightmare sequence and the aforementioned kill that was stolen from BRIDE, but nearly all of the visuals look professional and worthy of a theater screen. Concerning the film’s narrative structure, there are a couple of slow moments and Andy’s storyline almost seems like an afterthought until the stellar final third. CULT is far from a perfect movie, but it’s near the top of the CHUCKY pillar and that actually means something for fans of this slasher series.
Some people have complained about Universal “mistreating” the CHUCKY series so far, by “dumping” these later sequels onto video shelves as opposed to giving them wide theatrical releases. While I’d love to see these CHUCKY films on a theater screen and I also complained about this in my CURSE OF CHUCKY review (back when this blog was just getting started), Universal deserves props for letting Don Mancini do his thing and still bothering to even fund these films. This is a niche slasher flick for a niche group of fans and delivers exactly what they (myself included) want to see. With an inevitable eighth film awaiting down the line (especially with the way that CULT concludes), I look forward to seeing what else Mancini and Universal can bring to the table. CULT OF CHUCKY is far better than it has any right to be and continues to deliver new highs in one of the most consistently entertaining slasher series ever.