The first of the In Defense of series
by Bethany Rose
Welcome to what I hope will be a new series of articles defending some of my favorite overlooked, despised, or generally forgotten films. This series will begin with the sixth film in the Child’s Play series: Curse of Chucky.
In Defense of: Curse of Chucky
The most I heard about this film before its release was that it would be a type of reboot for the series. The first three Child’s Play films were slightly campy. Much like Freddy in the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, it seemed killer doll Chucky got a bit more comedic with each film. Still, Charles Lee Ray’s quest to free his soul from the Good Guy doll he was trapped in and take over the body of his former owner, Andy, (a young boy in the first two films, a teen in the third) was often chilling. The fourth and fifth films upped the camp factor to new levels. In Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky, the killer doll is scarred, in a relationship with another killer doll, and eventually becomes a father. Andy is nowhere to be found, but Chucky is still up to his same murderous ways.
While Bride of Chucky and especially Seed of Chucky certainly could use some defending (I personally think they are amazing), Curse of Chucky was the first time I wasn’t excited about a Child’s Play film. Maybe it’s because, as campy as it was, I liked the “Chucky gets a killer family” aspect of film’s 4 and 5. Jennifer Tilly did an amazing job as the voice of Tiffany (and as “herself” in Seed), and I probably enjoyed the Glen/Glenda part of Seed more than I was supposed to (plus, um, John Waters is in it, so it scores a lot of points right there). Though I didn’t necessarily think the series needed to get even wackier, I certainly didn’t think it had to try being too serious again.
Then there was Chucky himself. One of the many things I disliked about the reboot of A Nightmare on Elm Street was the scarecrow-like appearance of Freddy. I knew his look would change some since a new actor was taking on the role, but I thought the change was too drastic and it did not work. At all. Not even a little bit. I wasn’t surprised that Chucky’s appearance was going to change for Curse, especially if it was going to be a reboot. It wouldn’t make sense for Chucky’s face to be mangled and scarred, but there was something so fake about the new look. Yes, yes, I know that Chucky is a doll, but the original Chucky face from Child’s Play looked more realistic. It actually looked like a living doll, something Freud himself would have wanted to study, but this new Chucky looked like a regular doll.
Only two things got me to actually watch Curse of Chucky. First of all, I just have to. I watched the first five films, so I couldn’t not watch this one. Second of all, I was highly intrigued by the fact that Brad Dourif, who played Charles Lee Ray and voiced Chucky, would return as Charles/Chucky. Unlike Jackie Earle Haley’s replacement of my beloved Robert Englund, which I will never recover from, the actor who brought life to the murderous doll would return. Just that news gave me a glimpse of hope that Curse wouldn’t be the worst reboot I’d ever seen. Even Don Mancini, who wrote all of the Child’s Play films and directed Seed would once again be writing and directing. If the guy who created the series was rebooting it, then maybe there was a good reason for the reboot.
Then, something even more amazing happened. I watched the film, and I not only was impressed with it, but by the end(ings) I was positively giddy. I wanted to kiss my television. Here are some reasons why I’m glad I gave Curse of Chucky a chance, and why I think more people should do the same.
From here on out, there are major, major, major spoilers.
Chucky has been around. He traveled around Chicago and to military school in his search for Andy. He took a bloody road trip to New Jersey in Bride of Chucky. And he made Hollywood his home in Seed of Chucky. The traveling and scene changes were fun, and not unwelcome, but the setting of Curse ups the scare factor by having most of the plot unfold in a large house on a stormy night. The minimalistic setting allowed Chucky to get really creative with his kills and created a feeling of entrapment for the audience, escalating the tension of each scene.
Chucky has never really been subtle about his kills. He takes advantage of the fact that most people think he is a lifeless doll, and then surprises them with the truth just before he kills them. But Chucky is very quiet in the first part of this film. Knowing his history, it is very unsettling to see him silent in so many scenes. Then comes dinner. Chili is on the menu, and Chucky acts as sous-chef. He sprinkles rat poison on one bowl, but has no time (or maybe no intentions) to sprinkle it on any others. As the family and friends sit around the dinner table, a great case of dramatic irony unfolds. Just like the audience of Hamlet knows Polonius is behind that curtain, so does the audience of Curse of Chucky know that one dinner guest is eating his or her last meal (and if you have never compared a Child’s Play film to a Shakespeare play, well then you’ve never really lived). The tension grows as each guest is shown eating the food. It could be Nica, the character who was poised to be the film’s protagonist, or it could be her niece Alice, no characters are safe. Until suddenly, a drop of sweat forms on the forehead of Father Frank. Fortunately for Chucky, the poison landed in the right bowl, but more about that in a minute. Father Frank’s death doesn’t end at that table. No, his death scene is much more gruesome. And the gruesome and shocking (sometimes literally) deaths keep coming.
It’s Not a Reboot!!:
I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if I misread a story, or if I read an early idea for the story that never came to fruition, or if the whole thing was a trick, but whatever happened, I was shocked when I realized this was not a reboot. The truth revealed itself slowly (which makes me think that “the whole thing was a trick” option is correct). Father Frank gave me the first glimpse of the truth, as he seemed to suspect Chucky was not just a doll. How would he know? Then more talk of a killer doll named Chucky, and flashbacks to Charles Lee Ray and his connections to Nica’s family made me know for sure that this wasn’t necessarily a true reboot. Along with the reboot talk, I know I’d heard mention of the story veering away from the campy tone of films 4 and 5, so I thought that maybe this was supposed to be like a Halloween H20 type of film. When that film was announced, viewers were supposed to ignore films 3-6 of the series, making H20 technically the seventh film in the series but also technically only a sequel to the first two, which almost sounds as confusing as a Days of Our Lives family tree. The more of this film I watched, the more I assumed I was supposed to consider this a sequel only to the first three Child’s Play films and forget about the other two.
As much as I liked Bride and Seed, I was OK with ignoring them for the sake of this film, since I was really enjoying Curse. But then there was Barb’s death scene. This scene didn’t just mark the point in the film where Chucky becomes more “alive.” It also revealed a surprise that I didn’t know I wanted until it happened. While alone in the attic with Chucky (big mistake), Barb notices that some of the plastic is peeling from his face. Confused, Barb begins to peel off the layers, revealing Chucky’s scarred face. I seriously jumped with excitement when this happened. No wonder he looked so fake!
The film has more than one ending, which could be annoying, but there was only one of them I didn’t find enjoyable so I won’t even bother to mention that one. But the rest of the endings created an even greater sense of Chucky’s overall plan. He is no longer just looking for a body to transfer his soul into. He wants to bring misery to everyone who did the same to him. Jennifer Tilly returned. Alex Vincent (who played Andy in 1 and 2) returned. It was an exciting sequence of ending scenes that connected all the films, from the creepy to the campy, in an incredibly satisfying way.