A mysterious package is delivered to a big old house that contains its own mysteries. Within live an overmedicated, overprotective mother (Chantal Quesnelle) and her wheelchair-bound adult daughter Nica (Fiona Dourif), and you can just tell - whether from the overcharged way in which both women respond to the delivery boy's presence, or from the van Gogh-like sunflowers that the mother paints, that there is already a tangled history of repression and bad psychic JuJu in this household, just waiting to be unwrapped.
In fact the box, addressed to the mother, has a red-headed, overalled Good Guy doll inside, whose name and creepy-cute features (not to mention the film's title) tell us that this will be yet another instalment in that franchise about the toy possessed by a dead serial killer Charles Lee Ray. Yet before giving full rein to Chucky's gleefully foul-mouthed slice and dice, writer/director (and series creator) Don Mancini keeps the doll's movements (if not their consequences) off screen for quite a long spell, expertly building tension while focusing on the heady atmosphere of family gothic. The sinuous cinematography in this first section of the film, as the camera teasingly circles the house and the goings-on inside from every angle except head-on, is astonishingly well-crafted.
When her mother dies shortly after the doll is delivered, Nica must endure the arrival of her rapacious sister Barb (Danielle Bisutti), Barb's husband Ian (Brennn Elliott), their five-year-old daughter Alice (Summer H. Howell), and adulterous au pair Jill (Maitland McConnell). All, apart from Alice, are leading secretive, duplicitous lives - and the sinister turn that Alice's play quickly starts taking with her new 'friend' serves only (well, not quite only) to mirror the domestic dysfunction in the air. It is a dysfunction, as it turns out, whose troubled history has long been intertwined with Chucky's own story, ensuring that once the doll emerges from the shadows with knife in hand, the ensuing chaos of slash and dash retains its disturbing psychological subtext.
Picking up largely from where Child's Play 3 (1991) left off, Curse of Chucky has been touted as a departure from the postmodernism of Bride of Chucky (1998) and Seed of Chucky (2004), and a return to the scariness of the original trilogy. In fact right from the start it is funny (in a knowing, darkly Hitchcockian manner), and by the end it brings thing full circle with cameos from both the first and last films, ensuring that faithful franchise fans - especially those who sit through all the closing credits - are rewarded with a trawl through everything, good and bad, that they have loved about these films. Whether that is blessing or curse may well depend on how involved the viewer is with Chucky lore - but the film, unfolding for the most part in a veritable doll's house, is certainly a stylishly twisted unpeeling of its antagonist's strange history.
'Curse of Chucky' screens at Film4 FrightFest 2013...
Main Screen, Thurs 22nd August, 9pm
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