Cult Of Chucky Review: What If Hannibal Was A Dumb Slasher Movie?

6.5
  • Horror
2017-10-03
cult-of-chucky-finger
Chucky's back in Cult of Chucky. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Cult of Chucky is the seventh entry in a series stretching back to 1988’s Child’s Play. It is every inch a Chucky movie, which is to say most horror movie fans should know already whether a new Chucky is their blood type or not. For slasher enthusiasts, Cult of Chucky offers bloody kills and tolerable wisecracks. It’s the best series entry since 1990’s Child’s Play 2. And yes, Cult is much more like Curse of Chucky than it is Seed or Bride.

If you’re just roving Netflix and looking for an October horror flick, Cult of Chucky probably isn’t for you. Not only is it continuity-intensive — really not a big deal, these movies aren’t complicated — but  Cult of Chucky is more a celebration of tropes for the dedicated slasher viewer than an engaging, standalone horror movie.

Born eight years after Jason Voorhees and four years after Freddy Krueger, Chucky is the most self-aware of the 80s killers. His backstory is farcical: serial killer Charles Lee Ray enacts a voodoo ritual after the cops corner him in a toy store, transporting his soul from a mortally wounded human body to a Good Guy doll.

Cult of Chucky opens with Andy (Alex Vincent), a grown man who fought Chucky as a child in Child’s Play and its sequel. His life is still distorted by Chucky, but he has one slim compensation: Chucky’s living head, which Andy blew apart with a shotgun at the very end of Curse of Chucky. Imprisoned and tortured, how is it then that Chucky is simultaneously killing people at the facility where Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif), another of his surviving victims, has been institutionalized?

The answer isn’t all that satisfying — a joke explanation plopped out halfway through the movie. All that matters is that there’s more than one Chucky now. So they do a lot of killing, with falling glass, power tools, sharp bits of wire, even ramming a hand down someone’s throat to pull out some spine.

There’s nothing really scary about Cult of Chucky — it does have the annoying habit of blowing its jumps on fakey “Cat Scares” — but that’s not really the point. The primary objective is giving Chucky room to taunt his victims, kill them horrifically and express delight in their violent end. In this Chucky tops even Robert Englund (whose Krueger also has a mouthful of bile), because Chucky is voiced, as he always has been, by gem of the ages and treasure of the human species — Brad Dourif.

But as much as Cult of Chucky captures already beloved elements of the series, it also folds in a surprising new influence: Bryan Fuller’s landmark serial killer series, Hannibal. Or maybe not so surprising, considering Don Mancini, writer of every Chucky movie and director of the three most recent, also wrote two Season 3 episodes of Hannibal (“Dolce” and “...and the Woman Clothed in Sun”).

“I’m just saying, it behooves us to watch our step,” one Chucky says to another.

“Behooves, listen to you, you sound like Hannibal Lecter,” the other Chucky replies. “I can’t believe they cancelled that show.”

Despite what Mancini told Dread Central — “Chucky: it’s 180 degrees away from Hannibal ” — the influence of Fuller’s ethereal, nightmarish show is pretty obvious on Cult. Despite some set design and/or budget limitations, Cult is stylish and moody. It houses reality-bending electroshock dreams, identity confusions and a Dr. Chilton type who employs the very same invasive hypnosis routine. Of course, it’s all used to radically different effect, taking on a shade of satire as Chucky marvels at the dark arts practiced in the institute:

“This guy is-is diabolical. I mean what a piece of work. I’m actually a little envious.”

Squeaking his Keds through the linoleum hallways and group therapy rooms of a too-typical movie sanitarium, Chucky isn’t likely to win a lot of new adherents to Cult. As a horror movie, Cult of Chucky wouldn’t stand all that well alone (maybe in the 90s). But Chucky movies have become a delivery vehicle for small pleasures cherished by long-faithful fans: meta Jennifer Tilly jokes, blood and guts, Chucky’s romantic side and odd habit of half-befriending his victims. And most of all, we get to hear more of Dourif, who (in tandem with fantastic puppet work) continues to elevate Chucky from a foul-mouthed doll into an acerbic killer-commentator, whose wisecracks make murder fun.

REVIEW SUMMARY
Cult of Chucky
6.5
Cult Of Chucky Review: What If Hannibal Was A Dumb Slasher Movie?
The best Chucky movie since Child's Play 2, Cult of Chucky brings back all the best elements of the series and adopts some new influences.
  • Brad Dourif as Chucky will never get old
  • A worthy nemesis in Nica Pierce
  • Lots of violence and practical effects
  • Combines best elements of the series
  • Not very scary
  • Mental institute setting is barebones and overplayed
  • Chucky's new powers are joked in to existence
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