Curse of Chucky (US - BD RA)
Gabe begins practicing his killer doll punting exercises again...
When a mysterious package arrives at the house she shares with her mother, Nica (Fiona Dourif) doesn’t give it much thought. However, after her mother’s mysterious death, Nica begins to suspect that the talking, red-haired doll named ‘Chucky’ (Brad Dourif) her visiting niece has been playing with may be the key to the ensuing bloodshed and chaos. (From Universal’s official synopsis)
I’m not sure a franchise reboot has ever been more undersold than The Curse of Chucky. It was almost as if the development process was a secret, because most people, even fans, weren’t sure what they were in for. Was it a remake of the original Child’s Play, a sequel to Child’s Play 3, the last strictly horror-themed film in the series, or was it a follow-up to the more comedic Seed of Chucky? I’m not even sure Universal knew what they wanted, aside from a new movie starring Chucky. Having already softly-rebooted the series once as a meta-satire didn’t make things easier, but, by the time it was announced that The Curse of Chucky was going to be an straight-to-video release, it was pretty clear that no one at the studio was particularly happy with the final product. Personally, I’m not an abiding fan of the Child’s Play series, so I didn’t have much in the way of expectations myself. The original film was a very well made, genuinely suspenseful B-movie product that got a deserved A-release. It’s a product of its time (the wind-down of the ‘80s slasher cycle) that actually subsists, despite a dated look. The first two sequels are genuinely bad, boring, and unscary horror movies. The first of the spoofs, Bride of Chucky, is my favourite in the series and exactly where the franchise needed to go in the post- Scream era. Seed of Chucky took the goofiness a little too far and proved that the comedic slant had probably run its course. It was time for a return to stronger horror roots that Curse of Chucky promised.
With the massive change-up in tone and style at the center of the series (not to mention five different directors), I’m guessing that most viewers didn’t know that the same base creative team – actor Brad Dourif (obviously), producer David Kirschner, and writer Don Mancini – has been behind every one of the films-. Mancini was the original architect of the Chucky franchise and he has stuck with it, owning up to all of its successes and failures equally. Seed of Chucky, his first shot behind the camera, wasn’t a particularly well-directed film (I believe even fans hate it), but it was crafted with conviction. Curse of Chucky is a definitive step-up into assured, image-driven filmmaking. It’s clear from the beginning that Mancini was working on a constrained budget (there’s a steady air of ‘made-for-TV’), but it isn’t a cheap-looking film. The camera movements are almost shockingly graceful and the compositions are often quite artistically conceived. Mancini takes a lot of time setting up suspense and scares, which adds quite a bit to the film’s surprisingly classy image quality, but it also comes back to bite him when he crams two or three too many fake-out scares into the first act. This turns building suspense to cheap filler. Still, it’s a largely successful attempt at bringing life to a character that Mancini himself had transformed into a joke. He even finds a clever way to incorporate the ever-popular found-footage motif into the film without it feeling extraneous or gimmicky and embraces gory violence without playing it for lurid laughs, like the last two movies in the series.
Mancini proves his skills as a director, but his attachment to the franchise seems to have led him to not fully commit to the change of tone. For the record, and I guess non-specific spoiler alert for the rest of the next paragraph: Curse of Chucky is a sequel to all of the Child’s Play films. It is not a reboot and does not specifically ignore the events of any of the films. The problem that is that, for most of the film, it really seems like we’re meant to think that we’re watching a soft reboot. Unveiling direct callbacks at the last minute feels dishonest, or at least misguided following the fresh, ‘respectable’ version of Chucky. The first two acts work well, like they’re part of an anthology of movies where Chucky is thrown into an already volatile family situation like a monkey wrench. The basic A-to-B drive of the horror side of the story is relatively predictable, but the characters are well-rounded and take many unpredictable turns. Mancini is also smart to not simply repeat story beats from the other movies, aside from the very basic concept that Chucky is keeping his presence secret from the adults as he slowly bumps them off. Tying events from the original film isn’t even an immediate problem – it isn’t until the final five or ten minutes (including a post-credit stinger that doesn’t really make sense, following the pre-credit revelation) that Mancini reveals his entire hand and sort of insinuates that the previous 90 minutes of well-managed horror was just an extra long set up for a punchline that most of us will only laugh at the one time.
I can’t find any video specs on The Curse of Chucky, but it’s clear from frame one that it was shot using digital cameras, not 35mm film. This 1.78:1, 1080p transfer is just too clean and grain free to be anything else. Details are sometimes limited by shallow focus, but are still quite sharp in close-up and during the wider shots without any notable edge haloes. Things are so crisp that you can discern the differences between satin and cotton-blended pajamas, even in the dark. Mancini and cinematographer Michael Marshall aim for a relatively muted, but eclectic digital palette. The house’s interior is tinted with blues, greens, and browns that are acutely separated and bounce nicely against the more vivid highlights, like blood red and ‘Chucky hair orange.’ There’s also a mostly black & white flashback sequence that includes some cool hints of colour in the yellow of sunflowers (this includes footage from the original movie, which is notably grainier). Despite the deep blacks and the flashy, blown-out white contrasts, the hue gradations are mostly smooth and clean, with only minor cross-colouration effects. I did notice some vertical scanning lines across some of the blurrier backgrounds, but, otherwise, this transfer is free of major compression issues.
Curse of Chucky is presented in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio. The sound design is relatively simple, but the simplicity works with the subject matter. This is, for the most part, a play on traditional haunted house motifs, so silence is, as they say, golden in developing the appropriate mood. Occasionally, the track will spring to life with a shot of the outside world (thunderstorms, police cars) and some of the kills involve multi-channel enhancement (one victim is electrocuted for quite a while, another is trapped in a garage with a revving car engine), but the mix works best when Chucky is sneaking and scuttling throughout the rear channels. Underrated Evil Dead series composer Joseph LoDuca is credited with ‘original music,’ which, I guess, is something different than a proper score. Whatever the reasoning for the credit, this is a typical showing for LoDuca, including solid, hummable themes and a nice, layered production. The instrumental elements are all acutely separated and well-spread throughout the channels. Some of the less melodic music stands in for moody sound effects as well.
The extras begin with a commentary from Mancini, puppeteer Tony Gardner, and star Fiona Dourif. This is a cordial track that makes time for basic behind-the-scenes facts between charming asides. Mancini is more or less the track’s moderator, just like he has been on other Child’s Play commentaries, and his slightly scatter-shot, hyperactive approach is infectious, bringing out the best in Dourif in particularly. I’d normally complain about the lack of focus and time wasted congratulating the cast and crew, but it’s really difficult to not love the un-waning enthusiasm. I’m even left wishing I liked the climatic reveals a little more. Thanks to Gardner’s input, this track is also an effective guide to mark differences between the puppet Chucky shots and the digital Chucky shots.
The Blu-ray exclusive extras include:
- Living Doll: Bringing Chucky to Life (8:40, HD) – A look at the ins and outs of fabricating, mechanizing, puppeteering, and digitally augmenting the various Chucky dolls.
- Voodoo Doll: The Chucky Legacy (7:10, HD) – A retrospective of the Child’s Play series, complete with clips from all but the first movie, which I suppose Universal didn’t have the rights to include at the time.
- Four storyboard comparisons with Mancini introductions (25:20, HD)
The rest of the extras, which, along with the commentary, are available on the DVD release as well, include:
- Six deleted scenes (6:20, HD)
- A gag reel (1:30, HD)
- Playing with Dolls: The Making of Curse of Chucky (15:40, HD) – A generalized behind-the-scenes featurette that covers Mancini’s work on the entire series, his direction, casting, set/production design, make-up effects, and stunts.
Interviews throughout the featurettes include Mancini, Gardner, make-up effects supervisor Douglas Murrow and Emmerson Ziffle, stunt coordinator Rick Skene, stuntwoman Kristen Sawatsky, knitter Adelle Burda, mechanical designer Peter Chekov, both Dourifs, and actors Brennan Elliott, Danielle Bisutti, Maitland McConnell, A Martinez, Summer H. Howell, Debbie Lee Carrington, and two people I won’t mention because of spoilers.
The final minutes of Curse of Chucky are definitely cute and do not ruin the experience by any means, but I think there was a better way to manage this film while still making it a part of the ongoing franchise. On the whole, it is a very solid, if not slight horror movie that will please fans and probably confuse series newcomers (without entirely alienating them). This also feels enough like a capper on the series to usher a full remake in the future, so I’m sure sales of this disc will certainly improve the odds of a direct sequel. This Blu-ray features a gorgeous transfer, an effectively subtle soundtrack, and a fair number of entertaining extras.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 8th October 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 French and Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Director/Puppeteer/Actress Commentary, Living Doll: Bringing Chucky to Life, Voodoo Doll: The Chucky Legacy, Playing with Dolls: The Making of Curse of Chucky, Storyboard Comparisons, Gag Reel, Deleted Scenes, DVD Copy, UV Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Don Mancini
Cast: Brad Dourif, Fiona Dourif, Danielle Bisutti, A Martinez, Brennan Elliott, Chantal Quesnelle
Genre: Comedy, Horror and Thriller
Length: 97 minutes
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