Cult of Chucky, 2017
Written and directed by Don Mancini
Starring Fiona Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Brad Dourif, Alex Vincent, Elisabeth Rosen, Michael Therriault, Zak Santiago, Grace Lynn Kung
Chucky returns to terrorize his human victim, Nica. Meanwhile, the killer doll has some scores to settle with his old enemies, with the help of his former wife.
Sorry Jack – Chucky’s back… again.
The serial killer doll Chucky – who has been terrorising people since 1988 – was given a new lease on life following 2013’s fantastic Curse of Chucky. It was a movie that took Chucky back to his darker roots following the campy Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky, and was well-received by fans and critics. Original creator Don Mancini – who wrote and directed Curse of Chucky – is back again with Cult of Chucky, the seventh entry in this long running franchise. But has he found the same success twice?
Cult of Chucky picks up after the events of Curse of Chucky, with Nica (Fiona Dourif) now in a mental asylum, being treated for her “illness” that made her believe a killer doll murdered her family. In an effort to help Nica recover and the other patients during their group sessions, a seemingly-good intentioned doctor brings in a Good Guy doll to show everyone that Chucky isn’t real. However, patients start dying in gruesome ways, and another mysterious Good Guy doll has been delivered to the hospital by Chucky’s former lover Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly). Not only that, but original Child’s Play survivor Andy Barclay (a returning Alex Vincent) is also back on the scene, and wants to end Chucky’s terror for good.
Curse of Chucky was an incredible return to form for the franchise, and Cult of Chucky brilliantly follows on from it. The dark and moody atmosphere is ever-present, and while it isn’t as scary as its predecessor it succeeds in creating a few jumpy moments. The minimalist set design works perfectly for the movie, as the stark white walls, floor and ceiling is contrasted against the bright red hair of the Chucky dolls – and the blood he spills. Mancini has created an sublime new vision for this series, and Cult of Chucky is a real treat for fans.
But Mancini isn’t here to rest on his laurels. This review won’t go into any spoilers, but rather than just repeat the successful formula of Curse of Chucky, Mancini has created some very interesting twists and turns in the Child’s Play mythology. Although it contains man nods, winks and tie-ins with other entries in the series, Cult of Chucky is more than just fan-service. It’s the next step in Chucky’s story, a new angle to the franchise. With Freddy, Jason, Michael and Leatherface all getting “updated” and “gritty” reboots that no one asked for or liked, Cult of Chucky is a shining of example of how to keep a franchise alive nearly 30 years later, appealing to both old and new fans.
Mancini has said in interviews he likes to add something new to each addition of the Child’s Play franchise, and he certainly succeeds in doing that here. The first film had a lot of mystery, the second film was a straight-up slasher flick, Seed of Chucky was a Jon Waters movie, and Cult of Chucky is a surprising ‘Whodunit’. It’s incredibly impressive how Mancini’s script carefully creates a plot – 30 years after the original movie where we all know who the killer is (it’s the doll) – that will keep you guessing all the way up until the film’s climax. Just when you think you’ve got the answers, Mancini and Chucky change the question.
It should also be noted that while Cult of Chucky is a dark, moody and sometimes trippy piece, it’s also very funny. There are some clever quips in there from our killer doll friend, but also some of the character interactions are light on their feet. It helps balance out the film’s overall tone.
This is helped by a fantastic cast, once again led by Fiona Dourif. The daughter of Chucky voice actor Brad Dourif (who returns here once again), Dourif shows that her casting is more than simple nepotism (not that it ever was to begin with). She’s incredibly natural on-screen and in this character, and shines in every scene. Her stoic performance is brilliantly mirrored by Jennifer Tilly’s wonderfully manic scenery-chewing spectacle. As soon as she comes on screen with her vibrant look and trademark voice, it’s almost impossible to take your eyes of her. She’s over-the-top in her performance, but it’s all by design. And it’s amazing to think that nearly 30 years later, Brad Dourif can still do the Chucky voice without showing any signs of ageing.
As noted earlier, this review won’t be going into any form of spoilers, but it would be rude of this writer to not mention the return of Alex Vincent as Andy Barclay. Having graced the screens back in 1988 and 1990, Vincent returned for a fun cameo in Curse of Chucky, which is expanded upon here in Cult of Chucky. It’s a wonderful character progression, and there are very interesting themes that tie-into the overall ideas of the movie. Like the aforementioned nods and winks, Vincent is here to be more than just fan service, and he does a great job.
There’s so much to unpack from Cult of Chucky, but you’re better off going into your viewing knowing as little as possible. Just know that Don Manicni and his team have hit another home-run for the franchise, and it sets up some very intriguing further adventures for everyone’s favourite killer doll.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth, the co-host of The Flickering Myth Podcast and the author of Lights, Camera, GAME OVER!: How Video Game Movies Get Made. You can follow him on Twitter @ThisisLukeOwen.