Cult of Chucky
Starring Fiona Dourif and Alex Vincent
Available on Netflix, DV
3 stars out of five
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/10/2017 (1119 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It seems strange to say about a movie marketed to audiences primarily interested in gory murders. But the thing that distinguishes Don Mancini’s Cult of Chucky from any number of other direct-to-DVD sequels is... love.
Cult of Chucky is the seventh movie about the killer doll inhabited via voodoo by the spirit of crazed serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif), first seen nearly 30 years ago in the Tom Holland film Child’s Play. Mancini wrote the screenplay to that movie when he was still a student at UCLA and has maintained the screenwriting credit over the entire series. He took a more hands-on responsibility as director of the last three movies: Seed of Chucky (the 2004 film was shot in Romania), Curse of Chucky (shot in Winnipeg in the fall of 2012) and now Cult of Chucky (which wrapped its shoot here earlier this year).
That long-term commitment gives Mancini an imperative to keep the franchise fresh, though the budgets of the past two films were a modest US$5 million apiece. Hence, in a series where the movies seem to come in matched sets, the broadly comic self-parody of Bride of Chucky/Seed of Chucky have given way to the more gothic set pieces of Curse of Chucky/Cult of Chucky, even as they reintroduce us to callback characters. Returning to the franchise are Jennifer Tilly (as Chucky’s equally depraved soulmate Tiffany) and Alex Vincent as Andy Barclay, the grown-up, messed-up little boy from the very first film.
This film still focuses on troubled paraplegic heroine Nica (Fiona Dourif), framed for the murders in the last chapter and now occupying a sterile asylum tucked away in a wintry hinterland (Winnipeg is, again, well cast). A sketchy psychiatrist (Michael Therriault) has convinced Nica she was indeed responsible for the Curse of Chucky mayhem and to help make his case, he’s brought along a Chucky doll.
An asylum is, of course, the last place anyone would pay heed to someone making the claim that mysterious deaths are being caused by a sentient doll. So, of course, it’s fertile hunting ground for Chucky, who gleefully disposes of patients and staff alike in creative, horrible ways. (The degree of carnage is variable: the DVD features "unrated" splatter you won’t see in the R-rated Netflix iteration.)
Mancini’s ambitions are as modest as his budget. But he has sufficient skin in the game (albeit rubber-doll skin) that he fashions a tight and tidy thriller punctuated with equally-rationed shocks and laughs.
The movie allows important contributions from Winnipeggers in front of the camera — including the reliable Marina Stephenson Kerr as a demented patient and Ali Tataryn as a frosty nurse — and more locals behind the camera, including cinematographer Michael Marshall, make-up effects wizard Doug Morrow and production designer Craig Sandells.
Fiona Dourif might elicit suspicions of nepotism, given that she’s the daughter of Brad Dourif (to which I respond: check out her funny work as a free-range assassin in the Netflix series Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency).
She makes for an unusual, caustic heroine, and given the weird parameters of this franchise, that’s just what Dr. Mancini ordered.
In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.