“CURSE OF CHUCKY” (Blu-ray/DVD Review)
When CURSE OF CHUCKY had its world premiere at Montreal’s Fantasia festival this past summer, it passed a crucial test for a disc-bound feature: It felt right at home on the big screen. The movie was shrewdly tailored for its lower budget by writer/director Don Mancini, who also reverts the central Good Guy back to scary bad guy status.
The secret to modestly financed horror is to limit your locations, and Mancini took the cue to make what he describes (in the extras on Universal’s Blu-ray and DVD) as an old dark house movie. Here, that house is a remote mansion where wheelchair-bound Nica (Fiona Dourif) lives with her mother Sara (Chantal Quesnelle)—but not for long, as the delivery of a familiar oversized rectangular package leads to Sara assuming room temperature. Enter Nica’s meddlesome sister Barb (Danielle Bisutti), Barb’s husband Ian (Brennan Elliott) and their little daughter Alice (Summer Howell), along with their nanny Jill (Maitland McConnell) and the family priest (TV veteran A Martinez). Barb wants to move Nica out and sell the house, and thinks Ian is getting it on with Jill, so the stage is set for a certain amount of bad feelings even before Chucky starts getting up to his old mischief.
All the family melodrama, which incorporates a couple of unexpected twists, keeps CURSE OF CHUCKY bubbling along nicely in between the evil doll’s bursts of naughtiness, which range from profanely threatening Alice to fun with assorted sharp objects. Along the way, we learn a little more about the possessive Charles Lee Ray’s flesh-and-blood backstory, giving Chucky voicer Brad Dourif a chance to get his face onscreen in this franchise again, and Mancini succeeds in transitioning his creation from a figure of dark-humored fun back to being a scary presence. He shoots the movie with great Gothic gusto, helped immeasurably by Michael Marshall’s shadowy photography, showcasing a few impressive Hitchcockian overhead shots. EVIL DEAD series composer Joseph LoDuca complements the visuals which old-fashioned music that’s heavy on zithers and whispers, occasionally homaging past scores like SUSPIRIA.
While CURSE OF CHUCKY doesn’t break any particularly new ground for the franchise, it is likely to please those fans who might feel the little guy got too far from his frightening roots in BRIDE and SEED OF CHUCKY (entertaining as those films were). They’ll certainly be pleased by a couple of latecoming surprises (in case you haven’t heard, be sure to keep watching through the end credits), but they should definitely not sample the discs’ special features before viewing the movie, as the extras jump right in with the spoilers. Three of them are exclusive to the Blu-ray: “Living Doll” manages, in just over eight minutes, to shed light on every aspect of putting Chucky on screen, from Tony Gardner’s animatronics to little actress Deborah Lee Carrington’s contributions to glimpses of Dourif recording his dialogue to the sweaters hand-woven by Adelle Burda. It’s clear who the star of this show is, or as Bisutti mock-complains, “Chucky gets 14 takes!” “Voodoo Doll: The Chucky Legacy” has the creators and cast waxing about the film series’ appeal, their favorite moments and a few of the big names who have made appearances, and Mancini hosts an assortment of storyboard comparisons; as he points out, the limited budget and time meant the shoot stuck pretty close to his sketches.
Mancini, Fiona Dourif and Gardner sit down for a commentary that finds them reminiscing with enthusiasm and good humor about making the film (which the latter two are seeing completed for the first time). There’s quite a bit of ribbing going on, but also plenty of nitty-gritty, from details on the FX and Mancini’s shooting style (the writer/director filmed many scenes from the lower vantage points of Chucky and Nica, and the set had to be adapted accordingly) to actor anecdotes (both the starring toy and Mancini upset little Howell at different points). “Playing With Dolls” is a standard-issue making-of offering the usual mix of mutual admiration and quick glimpses of the impressively creepy set and graphic gore gags, with a few noteworthy revelations (this production marked the first time Brad Dourif witnessed his animatronic counterpart in action). The supplements are rounded out with a selection of moderately interesting deleted scenes and a brief, silly gag reel, all supporting very rich and sharp 1.78:1 transfers that do full justice to the color palette, from the slightly sickly color scheme to the bursts of red blood (especially vivid in the nastier unrated version).