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cult of chucky 2017CULT OF CHUCKY

3 Stars  2017/18/88m

“You may feel a little prick.”

Director/Writer: Don Mancini / Cast: Fiona Dourif, Michael Terriault, Alex Vincent, Jennifer Tilly, Brad Dourif, Adam Hurtig, Zak Santiago, Elisabeth Rosen, Grace Lynn Kung, Ali Tataryn, Marina Stephenson Kerr.

Body Count: 8

“…The look on my victim’s face when they realise in that final moment that it’s all really happening: A children’s toy is actually beating them to death with a yardstick.”


Credit where credit’s due – the Child’s Play series has done an impressive job when it comes to continuity, more or less keeping on top of film-to-film plot lines for almost thirty years and seven movies. To that end, rather huge spoilers are necessary to ‘splain Cult of Chucky

Four years after the events in Curse of, original hero Andy Barclay – now mid-30s – has kept Chucky’s living head in a safe at home, and ritually tortures it. Nica Pierce, meanwhile, has been locked up in an institution and convinced by her shrink that she was the one responsible for the murders of her family.

cult of chucky 2017

Said shrink decides to move Nica to an isolated lower security clinic now that she no longer blames it all on a possessed Good Guy Doll, going so far as to bring in such a doll to a group session. Nica is fine with it, and the doll is summarily adopted by fellow inmate Madeleine, who treats it like a real baby. Bitchy Claire doesn’t trust Nica; away-with-the-fairies Angela claims she received a phone call from Chucky, warning them all he’s coming back; and multiple-personality sufferer Malcolm flips between thinking he’s Mark Zuckerberg and Michael Phelps.

cult of chucky 2017 alex vincent jennifer tilly

Nica receives a visit from Tiffany, who was somehow appointed guardian of her niece Alice, and breaks the news to her that Alice is dead. Broken, Nica attempts suicide but wakes in the morning to find her slashed wrist stitched up and a message for her left in blood. Meanwhile, another patient has successfully topped themselves, and the floodgates soon open in Nica’s memory.

Chucky stalks the halls, killing patients and staff by shattered glass and powerdrill, while Andy races to save the day, but has to get around Tiffany first.

The cult in Cult of Chucky is reached by a new voodoo curse that allows his spirit to possess multiple vessels at once, so ultimately we end up with this:

cult of chucky 2017

At the time Curse of was released, there was much hoopla over the back to being scary approach, which was the result of the remake falling through and the straight-to-DVD quasi-reboot coming instead. Though the film was sluggish in places due to its reduced budget, it succeeded in creating some atmosphere lacking in the Bride and Seed chapters.

Well, forget all that as Cult takes us back to the comic one-liners (albethem sometimes hilarious), wacky demises, Jennifer Tilly’s loony toon Tiffany back in the fray (but not centre stage), and a bit of a mess to try and untangle as things get weirder and weirder.

cult of chucky 2017

Mancini weaves things together well enough, leaving the door wide open for the eighth film – Christ knows what they’ll title it though – and as per Curse‘s post-credits gag, another face from pastures old puts in an appearance, giving the entire series a familial boost over its contemporaries. Fiona Dourif also gets to flex some reasonable acting muscle as well.

I’ve never been more than a casual fan of Chucky at best – he’s always entertaining and none of the instalments are crap, but I’d rank Cult in the lower echelons of the series, though it’s great to see the original creators still onboard and pushing things forward rather than phoning in a crummy remake or instalment-ignoring cash-grab as most of the others have done.

Blurb-of-interest: Adam Hurtig, who plays Malcolm, was also in Curse as Officer Stanton.

Baby Doll

Day Four… Getting a bit over-Chuckified by this point…

*

seed of chucky 2004SEED OF CHUCKY

3 Stars  2004/15/83m

“The family that slays together, stays together.”

Director/Writer: Don Mancini / Cast: Jennifer Tilly, Brad Dourif, Redman, Hannah Spearritt, John Waters, Billy Boyd, Steve Lawton, Jason Flemyng.

Body Count: 13

Laughter Lines: “If this is what it takes to be human, then I would rather take my chances as a supernaturally possessed doll – it’s less complicated!”


I remember a criticism of the series at the time of the release of Seed of Chucky that it’s become a joke only Don Mancini and Jennifer Tilly are in on and, despite how hilarious this outing is, they weren’t far off the mark. The horror series with some comedy had done a one-eighty and was now a comedy with some horror.

A pint-sized doll slashes its way through a British household in what’s revealed to be a dream of Shithead, a living doll imprisoned and mistreated by a ventriloquist. Shithead watches a report from the in-production movie Chucky Goes Psycho and realises Chucky and Tiffany are their parents, escapes, and makes it to Hollywood. When Shithead discovers C&T are just prop dolls, they read from the amulet they’ve had since forever and restore life to them one more time.

seed of chucky 2004

Chucky and Tiffany awake, kill a poor schmuck, and discover Shithead is without gender-decisive parts. They rename them Glen. Or Glenda. Pending their offspring’s decision. Chucky wants a son, Tiffany wants a daughter.

The trio of dolls hide out in lead-role Jennifer Tilly’s limousine and set up home at her place, planning to transfer themselves into the bodies of her and rapper-turned-director Redman. Jennifer, disillusioned with her career, plans to sleep her way into Redman’s Biblical epic, much to the disappointment of Jennifer’s PA Joan (former S Club 7 member, Spearritt), who is then subsequently fired.

Tiffany convinces Chucky to give up killing to set a better example to Glen/da, which he dishonestly agrees to, but offs Britney Spears and John Waters’ paparazzi behind her back, taking Glen/da along with him. Tiffany meanwhile, sorts out a voodoo pregnancy for Jennifer, and tries to atone for her past sins in a hilarious scene where she calls the widow of a previous victim and apologises.

seed of chucky 2004 jennifer tilly chucky

The film begins to fall to pieces towards the end as everyone falls out, Glen/da appears in drag, then wants to be a boy, or a girl, and the dolls attack each other while the now-heavily pregnant Jennifer tries to escape, eventually writing itself into a bit of an inescapable corner that Curse of Chucky largely ignored nine years later, but at least didn’t entirely retcon.

Best viewed as a dark comedy – you’ll certainly get a lot of laugh-mileage. The confusing narrative with Tilly voicing Tiffany was well as playing herself is difficult to get to grips with at various points, but the fans’ ambivalence and only moderate box office success (about half of Bride of Chucky‘s haul) kept a lid on things for almost a decade, during which threats of a remake were rife. That at least hasn’t happened yet, rubber fingers crossed.

seed of chucky 2004 hannah spearritt

Blurbs-of-interest: Tilly was also in The Caretaker; Dourif can also be found in Rob Zombie’s Halloween re-do’s, Urban Legend, Chain LetterDead Scared, Color of Night, and Trauma; Jason Flemyng (who later stated he wished he could erase this film from his resume) was in From Hell;

Morality, Mistruths, and Military School

Day Two: I reviewed Child’s Play 2 some while ago, so it’s a hop, skip, and a jump (unless you’re three-feet-two, Chuck) on to the one that got blamed for a few things, Part 3…

 

child's play 3 1992CHILD’S PLAY 3

3 Stars  1991/18/86m

“Look Who’s Stalking!”

Director: Jack Bender / Writer: Don Mancini / Cast: Justin Whalin, Perrey Reeves, Jeremy Sylvers, Travis Fine, Dean Jacobson, Dakin Matthews, Andrew Robinson, Peter Haskell, Brad Dourif.

Body Count: 8


Just as the folks at Camp Crystal Lake never learned and keep re-opening the joint, so the Good Guys toy manufacturer fails to learn from all the deaths linked to their product and keep resurrecting it.

Some of Chucky’s blood from the molten plastic heap he ended up as at the end of CP2 leaks into the production of a new batch and thus gives him a new body. He celebrates by tormenting and killing the CEO of the company, after he brands consumers idiots.

Eight years have passed and Chucky uses a computer to track down Andy’s whereabouts (he does this in about 16 seconds despite eight years of software upgrades), discovering he’s been packed off to the Kent Military Academy.

child's play 3 1991 justin whalin

Naturally, Chucky appears soon after but instead of being unwrapped by Andy, he’s picked up by pre-teen cadet Tyler, who, under the new-body rules, is now the target of Hide the Soul. Andy’s attempts to stop Chucky rile bullying Colonel Shelton, but draw the affections of fearless female cadet DeSilva (watch her awesome hair shake-out as the sadistic barber happens by).

So it’s death by garbage compactor, grenade, and terror-induced heart attack until the ghost train finale, which seems a bit contrived, even by the standards of this series. Creator Don Mancini was allegedly pushed into writing this outing without much preparation time and considers it the least impressive of the lot, which is a fair summary.

child's play 3 1991

Now, the film’s bizarre legacy has gained more notoriety than the picture itself: When two 10-year-old boys abducted and murdered a two-year-old in the early 90s, Britain’s infamously shitty tabloid press decided not to question parenting or social issues that led to the crime, no, they pointed the finger squarely at horror movies, in particular this one, which had been rented by the stepfather of one of the boys some months prior.

the mirror child's play 3 banned

Complete bullshit. Nothing was banned.

Never mind the fact neither of them had seen it, or that none of its content tallied with the crime, it was evil and must be banned, said the likes of The Sun and The Daily Mail, unquestionably THE worst newspapers in the history of print media. One paper even tried to encourage people to burn their horror video cassettes in a sad echo of the 80s ‘Video Nasty’ bollocks, and The Mirror praised itself for ‘banning’ Child’s Play 3 on its own front page – about the only time Chucky will get that accolade.

Coinciding with this but hardly reported on at the time, a teenage girl tortured and murdered was played a sample of Chucky’s infamous ‘wanna play’ utterance at full volume by a group of scutty assholes who killed her over a stolen coat!

As with these papers and their ilk, it was all lies. The film was not banned, it was simply withdrawn by the distributor CIC, the knock-on effect of which was that incoming psycho-child flick Mikey was refused a BBFC certificate. Nothing banned, nothing achieved by hack right-wing morality play journalists. The film reappeared within a few years, notably sporting an 18 certificate instead of the 15 granted to the first two movies.

Homicidal cockwombles will always exist and moral guardian tabloid wannabes will always find a sub-cultural scapegoat, be it horror movies, video games, or Marilyn Manson tracks, but never their own media moguls who exploit tax loopholes and lie to the masses in order to save more money. Nope, never them.

child's play 3 1991

All this drama aside, it’s probably the least fun entry in the series, but a moderately enjoyable hour-and-a-half nonetheless and the military school setting is good, if not used to its full potential. And fuck you, tabloid liars.

City of the Doll

Cult of Chucky is pending. I noticed I’ve only reviewed two of the other films in the series, so let’s countdown to the release by rectifying that…

Day One:

 

child's play 1988CHILD’S PLAY

3 Stars  1988/15/84m

“You’ll wish it was only make believe!”

Director: Tom Holland / Writers: Don Mancini, John Lafia & Tom Holland / Cast: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, Dinah Manoff, Brad Dourif, Jack Colvin.

Body Count: 5

Laughter Lines: “He said Aunt Maggie was a real bitch and got what she deserved!”


The inauguration of a horror icon begins here with the hokey but fun enough debut, which gives us all the information we need as to how the spirit of the Lakeshore Stranger – Charles Lee Ray – projects his soul into a talking Good Guy doll using voodoo mumbo jumbo.

Said talking doll is purchased from a homeless guy by hard-up widow Karen Barclay, for her six-year-old son Andy’s birthday. Andy is overjoyed with his new friend, and soon begins relaying the slightly odd things Chucky is apparently telling him. This is bad news for his babysitter, who receives a blow to the face from a toy hammer and tumbles out of an apartment block window.

The homicide detective from the Strangler case is assigned and immediately suspects Andy of the killing and the death of the Strangler’s accomplice soon after. Andy is packed off to a clinic for observation, blaming Chucky who, of course, just prattles off his three phrases.

child's play 1988

Karen is quick to discover that there is more to Andy’s story when she finds the batteries that came with the doll are still in the box, in what’s easily the film’s creepiest scene. She tries to convince the detective but his instinct is to believe she’s just trying to protect her son from the consequences but then stumbles upon some coincidences between the case and that of the Strangler. Da-da-daaaaa!

Chucky himself finds that the longer he stays a doll, the harder it will be to find rebirth into a human soul and the more vulnerable to harm he becomes, and the only viable soul is that of the first person he revealed his true self to – Andy.

Relatively high-end production values distinguish this film from the dying slasher genre at the end of the 80s, raking in decent profits as Jason, Freddy, and Michael experienced diminishing returns. Child’s Play achieves its distinction – and probably a chunk of its success – to avoiding most slasher movie rules, at least in this first one, with murders by accident or voodoo as opposed to the doll-with-a-blade in the sequels.

child's play 1988 hicks sarandon

A fair amount of debt should be owed to Freddy Krueger, as Chucky soon becomes efficient with his potty-mouthed one-liners in Brad Dourif’s inimitable drawl. Imitators soon appeared in the shape of Puppetmaster (and its ten sequels!), Demonic ToysDolly Dearest, and even the more recent Annabelle, proving a degree gold had indeed been unearthed.

A lot of weight also rests on the shoulders of Alex Vincent who, aged just seven, does well with the dark material without descending into territory of annoying child who the audience secretly wants to see thrown into a meat grinder (see Absurd for that kid). He also gets to utter that awesome climactic line: “This is the end, friend!” For her part, Hicks does a great job as his beleaguered Mom and defacto final girl.

child's play 1988

Mancini’s original script was far more psychologically based, with the doll serving as an excuse for Andy’s psychosis and a critique of the marketing-to-children boom in the greed-obsessed 80s. Everyone remembers the urban legend about Cabbage Patch Kids right? As it is, despite the final act descending into outright parody as the doll that just won’t fucking die, something of a modern classic in spite of itself.

Blurbs-of-interest: Hicks was another Mom-on-the-run in 1982’s Death Valley, which featured another pre-teen kid as the lead; Alex Vincent returned for the next film as well as Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky; Brad Dourif was also in Chain LetterColor of NightDead Scared, Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies, Trauma, and Urban Legend.

The 100 Greatest* Slasher Movies Part IV: #70-61

*According to me. Me, me, me. So there’re bound to be a few of your faves missing…

To provide some context, this batch all scored around 7 out of 10.

See #100 – 91 here
#90 – 81 here
#80 – 71 here

70: Coda (1987)

A music student at an exclusive conservatory is murdered and her classmate becomes hell bent on solving the mystery, thus making herself the next target of the masked killer. This Australian TV thriller comes equipped with a lush classical soundtrack and spooky Halloweenie stalking sequences, plus one of the actresses was in Prisoner: Cell Block H. Also known as Deadly Possession or Symphony of Evil.

Crowning moment: Remember when you were young (or in my case well into my 30s) and you ran along with a shopping trolley and rolled across the parking lot? In Coda, the killer does that down a corridor brandishing a sharp weapon.

69: The Funhouse (1981)

Tobe Hooper’s Halloween-inspired creeper follows two teenage couples when they dare themselves to spend the night in the funhouse of a travelling carnival, only to discover that the Frankenstein-masked attendant of the ride is a mongoloid who wants to kill them all! Surprisingly scary and in terms of the horror-at-the-carnival sub-sub-genre, it’s unbeaten.

Crowning moment: Jittery final girl Amy spots her Dad outside, picking up her traumatised kid brother, and shrieks for her life but is muted by the cooling fans between them.

68: Some Guy Who Kills People (2012)

Ken Boyd (Kevin Corrigan) is a simple-living malt shop worker not long out of an institution when the gang of bullies who pushed him to the edge years earlier begin showing up dead all over town. Meanwhile, he acquaints himself with his estranged daughter, but even she becomes suspicious… How can he balance fatherhood with killing folks? A rare thing: A slasher flick with a big, soppy heart.

Crowning moment: Ken has an amusingly clunky date with Lucy Davis and tries to stick up for his daughter to humiliating avail.

67: Friday the 13th Part III (1982)

Crazy Jason is still killing kids up at Crystal Lake, this time a gaggle of vacationing friends fall foul of the maniac and he finds his trademark hockey mask for the first time – and all in 3D! Crap acting is buffered its camp appeal and some awesome demises, including the infamous ‘eyeball pop’.

Crowning moment: Jason follows shrieky final girl Chris (Dana Kimmell) into the barn for the epic final showdown, consisting of several take-downs that prove ultimately un-fatal.

66: Bloody Bloody Bible Camp (2012)

In 1977, horndog teenagers at a Bible Camp were laid to waste by homicidal nun, Sister Mary Chopper. Seven years later, another van load of religious teens stop by and the killings begin again. Friday the 13th collides with elements of Sleepaway Camp, lots of crude, sometimes stupid gags, and Ron Jeremy appears as Jesus.

Crowning moment: The opening kill-fest set in ’77, including doggy-style with a decapitated camper.

65: Pandemonium (1982)

Probably the most fun slasher parody (Scary Movie will not be gracing us with its presence): Bambi’s Cheerleading Camp reopens after it was plagued by unsolved murders and attracts six new recruits (Candy, Mandy, Randy, Andy, Sandy, and Glenn) who are soon the targets of the returning killer. Most of the jokes were hugely outdated by the end of the 80s, but it’s way better than Wacko, Student Bodies, and Class Reunion. Carol Kane plays the telekinetic final girl, and Judge Reinhold and Paul ‘Pee Wee’ Reubens appear in early roles.

Crowning moment: A toss up between the cheerleader shish-ka-bob that starts the film off or death by super-charged toothbrush.

64: Bride of Chucky (1998)

The dead and buried Child’s Play franchise was sparked back to life by this post-Scream reboot that pushed the comedy in front of the killing (in the wake of the falsified bad rep the previous film had in the UK) and paired Chucky with Jennifer Tilly’s excellent Tiffany doll, who is almost as homicidally motivated as he is.

Crowning moment: Either when Chuck n’ Tiff take out John Ritter’s slimy, crooked cop, or the moment they succumb to their carnal desires after offing a couple with the help of an over-the-bed mirror (“Honey, I’m all rubber!”).

63: The Pool (2001)

The private graduation party of a popular high school clique is foiled by the arrival of a masked and machete-swinging psycho. A joint venture of several European countries (shot in Prague) gives this one some cultural flavour and characters of varying nationalities. Though the identity of the killer was a bit naffly obvious. Future megastars James McAvoy and Isla Fisher are among those skewered.

Crowning moment: Easily the [pictured] waterslide kill, as a boobular babe slides towards a splash pool containing her lover’s corpse and notices a machete pierce the bottom of the chute and slides uncontrollably, legs akimbo, towards it. As my friend Kerry commented upon seeing the aftermath: “It looks like the period from hell!”

62: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

At the time, Elm Street 4 was a phenomenal box office hit, keying into the MTV generation and cranking up Freddy’s one-liners – and thus beginning the decline of his character as remotely frightening – he gets rid of the surviving Elm Street children and moves on to their friends, using the dream-joining power of dreary new heroine Alice.

Crowning moment: Freddy focuses in on Debbie’s (Brooke Theiss) bug-phobia, first letting her arms fall off before turning her into a roach. Eww.

61: Venom (2005)

Kevin Williamson produced, and I Know What You Did Last Summer‘s Joe Gillespie directed this swamp-set slasher in which a mechanic is bitten by snakes belonging to a voodoo-priestess and possessed by the souls of various killers. He sets about slaying a bunch of local teenagers who stand in between him and the surviving granddaughter of the voodoo chick.

Crowning moment: Unpleasant teen Bijou Phillips is caught stealing from the killer’s cash register, gets trapped under a car, and is sand-blasted to death.

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