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Receiving a horror intervention, Child’s Play’s sixth entry is dumped direct-to-video, with all of the below average budgetary constraints which pursue these franchise extenders. Curse of Chucky is locked inside of a rickety, worn home poking from the forest, and events bring together a suite of victims for the Brad Dourif-voiced monster to kill.
Audiences are here for Chucky, a possessed Good Guy doll whose entire relevant satirical shtick died sometime in 1992. However, possession dictates the little knife wielder still needs to wander around stabbing people in the face, marketable toy trends be damned. So he does. A lot.
Curse of Chucky bides its time, less effects budgets run over depicting the wholly unique title character. In step a flood of insufferable, broadly drawn characters, inserted into tension driven sequences where there is none. Chucky’s first kill is sullying a chili dinner with rat poison, and viewers are purposefully lost as to who is ingesting said concoction. Camera work pans around a table of family indifference, zooming for close-ups of shifting eyes as if it matters; each character here, with the exception of the heroine, is doomed anyway.
Curse of Chucky is a return to direct horror, although so direct as to drop any pretense of doing something refreshing or revitalizing the character. Brad Dourif’s gripping, gravely voice elicits terror, if not personality when performing a weary routine. Traditionally, Chucky wanders around snapping at opportunity for a reason (say, resurrection), something Curse sits on until a thematically jarring and expository ending.
Say what you will for Chucky’s adventures in rude comedy and offspring raising, but those delightfully stupid entries were self aware enough to punch this franchise into a violent wake up call. Curse of Chucky is drowsy in terms of its ideas, implanting a lesbian love affair because modern horror said so. Something needs to splash the screen before the title character’s 45-minute awakening, even if it superficially adds to the thinning narrative.
Nica (Fiona Bouriff) finds herself confined to a wheelchair, certainly a means of ratcheting cheap tension when Curse of Chucky needs a quick injection. Gothic elevators and vintage staircases place Nica within this horror home – which was never designed to be anything less – forcing her to out think her deviant miniature rival with only half of her functionality. The dynamic is something to move forward on, certainly more so than sniveling sisters, needless priests, and half nude caregivers, which is what Curse insists upon.
Yes, Chucky has returned to his staple, and there remains something inherently goofy in his now scarred facade to keep this minuscule horror icon relevant, even if his material falls flaccid. He bites, stabs, pokes, and cuts with a mixture of modern visual effect elements, but ultimately succumbs to being a motion film. It can’t stop going through them.
Outstanding digitally sourced visuals greet this meekly budgeted horror flick, with absolute precision resolution displaying textural qualities in close-ups or of the rotting home. Paint chips, splinters in wood frames, fraying wallpaper, and dusty fixtures display in beautifully resolved still shots. Pre-scarring, Chucky himself contains visible specks of dusts on his face, the type of minutiae visible from this Arri Alexa-shot piece.
Curse of Chucky will find itself in a holding pattern until nightfall, presented with resolute sharpness and contrast. Black levels deepen imagery with satisfying patches of darkness, respectful of shadow detail. By default, Curse will lose some of its zip as its inches to its closing act, patching together minimalist light sources which disallow found fidelity seen earlier. Design dictates HD appeal.
Despite being captured digitally – the only Child’s Play to date to do so – there is a veneer of noise layered over these frames. It seems too consistent to be accidental or an artifact, rather a subtle means of film mimicry. Universal’s AVC encoding offers no challenges to this faux grain or any additional element.
One final caveat is waning cinematography, which is determined to squeeze maximum visual weight from the first act, then drifting into softer close-ups in-lens as Curse forges ahead. It is more than lighting turning toward a dark streak.
Assigned budget manages to string together a piecemeal audio mix, splitting stereo channels wide and ignoring the presence of surrounds. There are no instances of Chucky creeping up on people from behind with his adorably tiny walk, and jump scares strictly face forward. House ambiance is almost nill, voices echoing with slight evidence of surround assistance, negligible even if it peaks.
Saving graces lie in the midst of the subwoofer, tracking a hearty heartbeat (!) as it thumps to build tension on multiple occasions. A late flashback sequence dupes an explosion from the first Child’s Play with effectiveness, the sonic highlight of this quaint DTS-HD mix.
Director (and franchise creator) Don Mancini is joined by puppeteer Tony Gardner and actress Fiona Dourif for a commentary track, followed by a robust bonus section for a feature dumped to video. Six deleted scenes and super brief blooper reel run into the first featurette, Playing With Dolls. At 15-minutes with generalized praise, the piece is tired but holds enough information to satisfy. Living Doll charts the creation of this latest Chucky prop, and how closely it adheres to the original.
Voodoo Doll discusses the franchise’s legacy with clips from the Universal-owned films, certainly off-putting for their filtered, sharpened, and dated masters if those are set for the new box set. A series of storyboard comparisons finish the disc off.