Cult of Chucky

| October 4, 2017

The Child’s Play franchise went completely off-the-rails with its fourth installment, 1998’s Bride of Chucky. And that’s saying a lot for a series that’s already predicated on the idea that a killer could put his soul in a doll to keep killing from beyond the grave! A post-Scream horror meta-narrative of absurd proportions, Bride delivered buckets of gore with more nodding and winking than ever before in the already heavily-comedic series. The follow-up, Seed of Chucky (2004), took this meta-humor to another level as Jennifer Tilly, the actor who played Chucky’s bride Tiffany in the previous film, appears this time as both Tiffany and herself!

How much further could they possibly take this meta-referential material when actors in the film start showing up as themselves alongside the fictional characters they’re also playing? Obviously not much further, as the next film, Curse of Chucky (2013), pushed all that meta stuff into the background in favor of a smaller, more simplistic narrative about a house full of folks being picked off one-by-one by Chucky.

This is not to say they retconned anything in Curse. Tiffany still exists and all the events of the previous films are still canon it seems. Don Mancini (who’s written or co-written every film in the franchise and also directed every film from Seed on) just put all that on the back burner in order to let Chucky get back to simply doing what he do best: killing and quipping.

While I appreciated the simplicity of Curse, it did come as a shocking departure from the previous films in terms of its extremely limited scope. Clearly budgetary restrictions forced Mancini’s hand there a bit. Still, he turned out an entertaining little slasher with what he had at his disposal. It of course helped that series star Brad Dourif returned once again to play Chucky and that he was joined by his real-life daughter Fiona Dourif, who played the film’s lead, Nica.

It took four years for Mancini to deliver a follow-up to Nica’s story, not to mention the cliffhanger post-credits sequence of Curse, which saw the return of the series’ original protagonist, Andy Barclay. And thus we find ourselves with Cult of Chucky (2017), arriving on home video today. The film finds Nica institutionalized for the murders Chucky committed in the previous film and very nearly convinced it was indeed all in her head. Meanwhile, Andy’s coping the best he can now that Chucky’s back in his life, which he does by keeping Chucky’s severed head in a safe and torturing the “Good Guy” for catharsis on his nights off. So… they’re not well.

Most of the film takes place in the asylum though, as Chucky returns to dole out some murder to the mentally ill. For the most part, it’s pretty standard asylum fare if you’ve seen any movie set in one: you’ve got people who think themselves to be a celebrity, a woman traumatized by the death of her baby, a plethora or schizophrenics, and seemingly endless, sterile white hallways.

But wait, you may be thinking, didn’t you say Chucky’s head’s in a safe at Andy’s? Yep! Then how can he be killing people in an asylum?

At first this discrepancy seems like some sort of non-chronological storytelling device, bouncing between Andy and Nica at potentially different points in the same timeline. Later though, you learn that Chucky’s not alone… or more specifically, that he’s not the lone Chucky. This becomes quite clear quite fast, actually, but it’s an incredibly fun setup for a sequel, the premise of which seems so terribly simple and obvious once you’ve seen it that you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it before or Mancini didn’t do it earlier.

Sure, most of the films in the series find Chucky trying to transfer his souls into other people. But this is the first Child’s Play movie to take full advantage of Chucky’s ability to transfer his soul into other objects/people and make it the lynchpin of the action. Using a spell he learned recently from “voodoofordummies.com,” lest we wonder why he hadn’t done it like six movies earlier, Chucky essentially copies his soul and brings to life a whole “Cult of Chuckys,” like a living army of horcruxes or something, only it seems the soul is copied over entirely.

Thus, Cult of Chucky offers a fresh take on the Chucky character that keeps this old franchise kicking for at least one more installment. How much further Mancini can take this particular idea going, I have no earthly idea. But for one film at least, it makes for a hell of a good time. (Plus, media ethics teachers like myself can rejoice in the series welcoming a character who’s a gay, married, Hispanic man into the mix for some always welcome diversity!)

Cult of Chuck is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital and On Demand from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (and is also part of the simultaneously-released Chucky: Complete 7-Movie Collection). Special features on the home video release include:

-“Inside the Insanity of Cult of Chucky” featurette 

-“Good Guy Gone Bad: The Incarnations of Chucky” featurette

-Feature commentary with director and writer Don Mancini, and head puppeteer Tony Gardner.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
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