Cult of Chucky
Directed by: Don Mancini
Run time: 90 minutes
The Lowdown: It just doesn’t make sense.
Of all the iconic horror franchises out there – from Halloween to Friday the 13th to A Nightmare on Elm Street – how is it that a little slasher about a possessed killer doll might just outlast them all?
Yet, here we are, face-to-face with Cult of Chucky, the seventh film in a franchise that dates back almost 30 years to the debut of Child’s Play in 1988.
Make no mistake, this is not by any means a condemnation of the Child’s Play legacy. In fact, since 1998, with the fourth (and best) film, Bride of Chucky, this series has delivered the goods, bringing fans one deliriously over-the-top sequel after another.
And Cult of Chucky is ridiculously good. It’s unhinged in the best possible way, a meta-dissection of the entire series, bringing together Fiona Dourif (star of Curse of Chucky), Jennifer Tilly (co-star of Bride, Seed of Chucky and Curse) and Alex Vincent (who played young Andy Barclay in the original film and Child’s Play 2, before returning for an unexpected cameo in 2013’s Curse) for the first time.
One reason why the Chucky films work so well is Don Mancini, who has written all seven features and directed the past three. This is his legacy, and Mancini seems to be having a blast pushing the envelope into unexpected territories. His direction continues to improve, as does his writing.
While my favorite is still 1998’s Bride of Chucky, Mancini truly raised the bar with 2004’s Seed of Chucky, which introduced Glen, or Glenda, the gender-fluid doll spawn of Chucky and Tiffany. This is also the film where Mancini went all-in with the meta-craziness, and had Tilly begin playing both herself and Tiffany.
For Curse of Chucky, Mancini took the series back to its roots, downplaying the more extravagant flourishes, and placing the bulk of the action in a creepy old house with a young paraplegic protagonist confined to a wheelchair.
If Curse was Mancini’s homage to Hitchcock, then Cult is his love letter to Kubrick by way of Herschell Gordan Lewis.
Cult of Chucky is the franchise’s bloodiest, goriest entry yet, with a fantastic third act where the body pile reflects a wide-open embrace of extreme kills. It’s also the most cerebral of the bunch with thoughtful ruminations on mental illness, co-dependency and abandonment issues. And, best of all, Cult finally delivers on Chucky’s long-promised leap from killer doll to human host, but with a big twist (or two) that viewers won’t expect.
Put simply, I honestly am excited for the eighth film to arrive.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – The hottest, because Jennifer Tilly once again stars.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Considerable.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – OK, you really have to ask?
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
The Survivalist (Shout! Factory, 104 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): We’ve already reviewed this solid post-apocalyptic thriller, but it bears repeating that you should really should check it out!
Jackals (Shout! Factory, 87 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): A director should never be judged solely on the franchise sequels he’s forced to helm to establish his name and put his foot firmly through the door.
Kevin Greutert did what he could with the last two Saw sequels, given that the elements that made this series such a visceral thrill had long since evaporated, but his first major solo film, Jessabelle, sank beneath the weight of its murky backwater bayou gothic trappings.
However, his latest, and the first film produced directly by Shout! Factory, Jackals, is a gory delight.
Jackals takes a familiar home invasion premise – one that has produced far fewer hits (The Strangers) than duds – and amplifies the gory malice, resulting in a decidedly grim but satisfying shocker.
Greutert benefits from a capable cast of genre veterans, including the alluring Deborah Kara Unger and Jonathan Schaech (in what’s possibly his strongest post-that thing you do! outing), along with an inspired turn by Stephen Dorff as a take-no-prisoners interventionist.
But the thing that horror fans will enjoy most is Jackals dripping disdain for happy endings or turn-about-is-fair-play reversals that often mar entries in this particular subgenre.
Greutert and writer Jared Rivet have no use for unnecessary exposition. Once they’ve set up the basic facts – a family of modest means hires a deprogrammer to assist with extracting their son from a murderous cult, only to have the cult’s leader and his devout followers arrive to thwart the family’s plan – Jackals hits the gas, accelerating quickly into a brutal lesson that blood alone cannot subvert the intoxicating pull of brainwashed suggestion.
A Ghost Story (Lionsgate, 92 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Writer-director David Lowery aims for Terrence Malick greatness with this thoughtful meditation on life and death. A Ghost Story isn’t the be-all, end-all classic that it aspires to be, but there are brief flashes of greatness that help propel the slower periods, and the ending is as appropriately thought-provoking as it is abrupt.
Children of the Corn: Collector’s Edition (Arrow Video, 92 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): It’s mind-blowing to think that this 1984 adaptation of the Stephen King short-story has since spawned eight sequels (!) with a ninth supposedly releasing this year, plus a remake in 2009.
Even more surprising is how well the original film, Children of the Corn, directed by Fritz Kiersch, and starring a pre-‘Sarah Connor’ Linda Hamilton, has held up with this high-definition release 33 years later.
Kiersch, who would go on to direct my all-time favorite cult classic, Tuff Turf, the leading man debut of James Spader, keeps the focus sharply on the killer kids, and despite the lackluster, pre-CGI special effects, crafts a taunt and suspenseful thriller that benefits from solid performances and an effectively creepy score.
The Forlorned (Midnight Releasing, 86 minutes, Unrated, DVD): A funny thing happened while I was watching director Andrew Wiest’s The Forlorned.
When I nodded off about midway through, I woke up to a completely different, and surprisingly, better film than the one I started watching.
That’s not to say The Forlorned is bad. Far from it. But this paranormal possession flick, which centers on a guy named Tom who takes a terrible job working and living in isolation on an island repairing a lighthouse next to a dilapidated mansion where lots of bad stuff has happened, feels really familiar - as in, you've seen this set-up many times before.
Essentially, on Tom’s first day, the crusty, cantankerous local barkeep Murphy (Cory Dangerfield – a dead ringer for Brian Doyle Murray) basically says everything possible to scare the bejesus out of Tom: The house is haunted. Here’s where someone died, literally. Don’t mind the voices.
You know that old Eddie Murphy skit about The Amityville Horror? In this case, Murphy the barkeep wouldn’t have had to say but one thing and most people would have been like, I’m out! See ya! Bye ghosts!
But not Tom – no, poor Tom is trying to save money to help his father. So, he hunkers down in the cold by the fire and no sooner than the sun sets, weird stuff starts happening.
This all goes on way too long before Tom finally confesses to Murphy and another bar patron that he might be losing his mind.
And this is where I fell asleep, probably 40 to 45 minutes in.
But when I woke up, Tom had been possessed by one of the ghosts from the house, and suddenly he seemed a lot more interesting. Colton Christensen, the actor playing Tom, also seemed to be enjoying his role more playing someone possessed.
And the whole movie seemed to be energized and moving much more quickly, with purpose. Some of the trapped spirits were trying to help Tom fight back the demon holding onto his soul, and then Murphy got involved, and suddenly Tom had a love interest (not sure when she entered the picture) but he also was about to die!
So much apparently had happened in a short span while I napped.
The Forlorned definitely plays better past its midpoint, which might not seem like the greatest compliment. Truth be told, other people might enjoy the early goings-on with the ghostly voices and weird dreams.
I think it’s safe to recommend The Forlorned. If you find yourself getting droopy-eyed, just fast-forward a little. You’re guaranteed to pep right back up!
Sniper: Ultimate Kill
The Book of Henry
A Fish Called Wanda: Collector’s Edition
The Suspicious Death of a Minor