Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Cult of Chucky (2017): Madcap Tale that Ultimately Falls Flat

Continuing on with my 31 Days of October horror reviews, I'm going with Cult of Chucky, which was just released today on Netflix.

The Plot: Four years after the events of Curse of Chucky, Nica finds herself transferred to a medium security mental hospital and prey again for Chucky's evil schemes, but this time he has a few helpers along the way, including his old flame, Tiffany.

The Good:

-Fiona Dourif as Nica. She gives a solid performance as our tortured heroine. Blamed for the murders from the previous film, she must try and hold onto her sanity at an asylum where her doctor and therapy group do far more harm than good. Second, without spoiling too much, the final fifteen minutes take a twist that give Fiona a lot more to do than be the scared heroine and that view of her range was fun. Finally, it's a bit of a mind fuck to see her in a more strung-out, cuckoo's nest scenario. Her father (Brad Dourif, chucky's voice actor) was in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest for which he was nominated for an Oscar. To see her now in her own hospital gown and get up makes you think strongly of Brad. The fact "Chucky" is chasing her makes it even more messed up.

Brad Dourif circa 1975

Fiona Dourif Right

-Andy Barclay is back as played by his original actor, Alex Vincent from Child's Play 1 and 2. He had a fun teaser cameo in the previous installment and it was a blast to see both how living his life in the shadow of all that carnage has left him lonely and damaged as well. One thing this series does well in its more serious installments (not Bride or Seed, I admit) is to look at how trauma continues to affect the people it touches. Both Nica and Andy may be our heroes, but they're also deeply flawed.

-The idea of the cult - it's actually a new spell Chucky has researched so he can basically horcux himself and exist in multiple copies of the same doll at the same time. It's a neat idea, and adds a bit more menace since the killer doll angle is hard to sell period.

-The cinematography - again, I don't want to give much away, but there's a decapitation scene that's mixed with falling snow (won't say who), and it's framed in a beautiful way. Director Don Mancini has an eye for bizarre and haunting images and this movie has more of a dreamlike quality than films before it.

-Also, again, can't spoil too much but Chucky is actually not even the most despicable villain in this movie. Didn't see that coming.

-Finally, this movie plays with gender in a way you might expect if you'd seen Glen/Glenda in Seed of Chucky. It's a different sort of set up, but it's interesting to see that Cult of Chucky is exploring a bit of newer ground.


The Bad

- the pacing is all off - it started resorting to dreams in dreams by the fifty minute mark. It felt like it only had enough plot for maybe a tv episode or an hour tops. However, the ending leaves you wanting more and feels a bit more like the middle part of a trilogy (maybe?) than a full film on its own.

-the psychology is wrong - that might not distract other people, true, but for me, I kept spotting all the things that would never happen in the hospital---including patients being able to sneak off for sex in the hallways---and it threw me out of the film

-the "cult" took a bit too long to explain - I admit that Chucky doesn't reveal the truth about the new spell he's picked up until about 3/4 through the film. As a result, you keep going "but Chucky can't be in Andy's cabin and at Nica's insane asylum at the same time!"

-at the end of the day, a doll killing people is still never going to be scary. They find ways to immobilize people so there's at least some aspect of a threat, but it's still more cheesy that chilling. 


The Verdict - C- and I think that's in part becuase I do get a kick out of the inside jokes and both continuity and Cuckoo's Nest references as well as the fun in-casting with Fiona Dourif as Nica. Overall, I think it struggles too much under the weight of its own uneven pacing and, frankly, the fact that Chucky is just never gonna be scary.

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