Friday, October 6, 2017

DVD Review: 'Cult of Chucky' (2017) SUCKS

Don't fuck with the Chuck - and don't even bother with this fucking shitty-ass straight-to-DVD sequel.

By: Jimbo X

Like the Elm Street series, the Chucky franchise undoubtedly had a notable apex, followed by a sharp (and immediate) decline that was momentarily remedied in the 1990s, only to fall into further deterioration shortly thereafter. For the Freddy mythos, 1987's Elm Street 3 was unquestionably the series' zenith, and everything after that - save, perhaps, for Wes Craven's New Nightmare in 1994 - was just various shades of disappointing. And in the case of one Charles Lee Ray, his saga plateaued in 1990 with Child's Play 2, before taking a swan dive into the shitter with Child's Play 3 just a year later. Sure, the series briefly took an upswing with 1998's Bride of Chucky, but the same self-parodying tone soon gave way to the terrible-beyond-comprehension sequel Seed of Chucky in '04 - a movie so bad, it kept the whole franchise out of action for almost a decade. 

Which brings us to 2013's Curse of Chucky, a straight-to-DVD sequel that at least tried to return to the franchise's pure horror roots. Of course, it wasn't 100 percent successful, but it was probably the best installment in the series since it's high point back in '90. And if you haven't seen that movie, it's pretty much a prerequisite heading into the recently released Cult of Chucky, which is a direct follow-up to the film from '13. Trust me, if you haven't seen that one, you're going to be lost as fuck, so don't even bother

I'll save my long-winded diatribe against the movie for the very end of this review, but I'll make it front and center early on: this movie sucks. I'm not quite sure if it's the worst movie in the franchise (I mean, Seed of Chucky was just all sorts of shit), but it's definitely a DRASTIC decline from its (somewhat) over-achieving predecessor. 

Be forewarned, the following scene-by-scene analysis is going to SPOIL the fuck out of the movie, so if you plan on catching it (even after I tell you how terrible it is), you might want to skip every other sentence. Hey - I gave you ample warning, so no complaints, capeesh?

The movie opens with a shot of a high rise building, very reminiscent of Andy's apartment in the first movie. We cut to an interior shot of a middle-aged man and woman eating atop a sky-top restaurant, arguing about gun control. Well, as it turns out, the dude is Andy, and we get a flashback to his babysitter getting murdered in the original Child's Play. His date gets creeped out after he recounts the 40 other murders Chucky's perpeatrated, and then he goes home to his log cabin in the wilderness, pops open a beer and ogles his gun collection. He opens up a safe and pulls out Chucky's head - which is still alive. Andy lights up a doob. Chucky asks for a hit, barks at him and makes fun of him for not getting laid tonight. And then Andy tortures Chucky's severed head with a blowtorch, which is just a little bit unnerving considering there was a real life incident in England in the early 1990s where a bunch of depraved psychos took turns torturing a teenager while a techno song with Chucky quotes blared in the background. Oh, you know you want to read more about that shit, and don't even pretend you don't.

During the credits we get a callback to Curse of Chucky. To catch you up to speed, it revolved around Nica, a wheelchair-bound woman who is canonically Chucky's illegitimate daughter (or something like that) who was charged with half a dozen of the murders Chucky committed in the last film. So anyway, she got sent to a mental hospital and the orderlies there take turns giving her electroshock therapy and poking her feet with hypodermic needles to prove she really is a paraplegic. And the funny thing is that she's played by Brad Dourif's real life daughter, and she looks so much like him it's both hilarious and terrifying.

So she talks to her shrink (this bearded wimpola who looks like Jon Stewart) and he says she's getting transferred to a medium-security facility. She gets there and the whole place is bright white and super sanitized looking - if nothing else, a pretty nice aesthetic. She immediately makes friends with a gay Hispanic orderly whose husband has MS, and he gives her some gum, probably a "thank you" for not killing him or something.

Time to meet the rest of the cast. We've got a woman who thinks she's a ghost, an Asian chick who burned her house down, and this one guy with split personalities, who thinks he's Michael Phelps and Mark Zuckerburg. Oh, and he fucks the main character in a stairwell about ten minutes after meeting her, thus giving us some rare onscreen hot and heavy handicapped hanky-panky action.

The psychiatrist from earlier holds a group counseling meeting and he introduces a Good Guy Doll as a therapeutic tool (he says he bought it at Hot Topic - wink, wink.) This one bitch thinks the doll is her dead son, so immediately she tries to adopt it. That ... becomes a pivotal plot point later on. Then Nica gets her first visitor, and it's Jennifer Tilly, who as fate would have it, is now the legal guardian of Nica's niece, the only other person to survive at the end of the last movie. But Tilly (in a dry breaking-the-fourth-wall-moment, Nica actually comments on how much she resembles the real actress Jennifer Tilly) lets her know that her niece actually died, but before she leaves she gives her a new gift, a second Good Guy Doll. So, for those of you trying to keep score, that makes it two Chucky dolls in the psych ward, plus that disembodied Chucky head back at Andy's place. I assure you, it's going to get a lot harder to keep count in just a few.

So one of the Chucky dolls steals a scalpel and argues with the woman who thinks she's a ghost about whether or not he exists (boy, that self-referential, self-deprecating humor is just the most hilarious shit in the world, ain't it?) So Chucky dices up a couple of random victims and writes "Chucky did it" in their blood, but he does it in such a way that it kinda sorta looks like a suicide. Meanwhile, Andy is still talking to the Chucky head back at his cabin ... so I take it that means Chucky has learned to remotely control other Good Guy dolls now?

I think we can all agree: there was far too little titty-sucking going on in the last six Child's Play movies.

The shrink burns one of the Chucky doll's fingers to prove to Nica that it isn't alive. She won't let him stop until its hand is practically melted off. But when the Asian bitch tries to drop the doll down a mail chute, it takes a huge chunk out of her arm. Then that one ho who thinks Chucky is her baby pushes the schizo dude into an open grave (how convenient that they just bury patients in the backyard the same day as their deaths without alerting their families, huh?) and Chucky uses a compressed oxygen bottle as a rocket projectile that shatters a glass ceiling and sends huge chunks of glass raining down on the Asian chick, who is promptly beheaded by one of the enormous shards.

And at this point in the movie we learn that it is indeed canonical that Chucky now has the power to possess other Good Guy Dolls. And just when you thought we didn't have enough fucking dolls in this movie, Andy pulls out a fourth Chucky from his personal collection. Fuckin' hell

So the shrink gives Nica some truth serum and hypnotizes her with a blinking spotlight. He tells her there are hidden cameras everywhere and they've recorded her killing all the other patients. But wait a minute, the shrink is actually hypnotizing her so he can rape her, so LOL. Of course, Chucky makes the save by bashing the psychiatrist with a bottle upside the head. Chucky gives Nica a piece of broken glass and ask her if she "wants to join the club." The screen fades to black, though, so we have no idea whether or not she finished the job.

But lucky us, we DO get a dream sequence of Nica crawling down a hall, briefly chatting with her dead niece and having a huge Chucky doll stand over her and vibrate in place, a'la Jacob's Ladder. Then she wakes up, and the schizo guy is saying his name is "Charles" now. You know, like Charles Lee Ray and shit? So Andy starts racing towards the hospital, while Jennifer Tilly taunts him on his phone.

Then we have this LONG sequence where that one psycho broad tries to breastfeed Chucky, then the shrink (who, apparently, didn't get killed off but thinks nothing of the fact a sentient My Buddy just bashed his head in with a bottle of champagne) and the psycho ho talk to Nica about the doll representing her past, and then there's another burial scene, and the hospital is so cheap they can only afford to give the deceased makeshift, wooded Evil Dead crosses and really, just fuck this movie already. 

So Andy finally sneaks into the facility and a nurse takes away Chucky's shoes from the bitch ho who thinks Chucky is her kid. Then the audio synching gets REALLY fucked up, and Chucky shoves his fist down the bitch's mouth and pulls out her tongue, Blood Feast style. The nurse investigates, and finds her corpse with Chucky's arm shoved halfway down her esophagus. Then the shrink tries to rape Nica again, and Chucky hits him with a broken bottle AGAIN, and Chucky gives Nica a glass shard and asks him to kill him AGAIN. Then two Chucky dolls enter the scene and start talking about random bullshit, with one of the dolls bemoaning the cancellation of the Hannibal TV show. Oh, boy, topical pop cultural humor - clearly, that won't sound dated as fuck just a year from now!

Then Chucky (well, one of the Chucky dolls, anyway) explains how he learned how to astral project his soul into other dolls (and people) through (don't bother - I already typed it in and all you get is a DNS error.) So we've got three Chuckies in the room, with the lead Chucky talking about possessing his niece, and then the gay orderly from earlier gets attacked with a power drill and Chucky rips his guts out with a glass bottle. Interestingly enough, one of the new Chucky dolls has short hair and bares an eerie resemblance to this one girl I dated my freshman year in college - talk about terrifying.

So Tilly slits a guard's throat and licks his blood, because she's kinky like that. Then Chucky possesses Nica, and she's able to walk again ... and she also has a super thick New Jersey accent now, but whatever. She puts on a pair of high heels and stomps the shrink's head to death. Then the nurse from earlier gets drilled to death by that one guy who SAID he was possessed by Chucky earlier, but then one of the Chucky dolls (reminder: we've got at least four of those little fuckers running around at this point) drills him through the back of his skull and out one of his eyeballs. 

We find Andy stuck in a padded cell. The short-haired Chucky enters and knifes Andy in the knee. Then Andy rips a gun out of the doll's chest, yells "this is the end, fucker" and wastes all his ammo shooting him in the chest about six times. Then Nica locks him back up, she walks out of the mental hospital and Jennifer Tilly is waiting for her. They make out a little and hop in the getaway car. They talk about the dead niece from earlier, and as they drive off, what do you know, apparently her soul has been placed inside the Tiffany doll from the fourth and fifth movies. They continue to drive off in the snow, the credits roll, and at the very ass-end of the movie, we see that chick who played Kyle in the second Child's Play movie just waltz on in to Andy's cabin, apparently ready to throw down with the Chuckster one more time.

No ... there's no real way to make any of this seem even halfway serious, I suppose.

Alright, now do you believe me that this movie is pure shit? A LOT of things had to go wrong for the movie to turn out the way it did, so I'll try to keep my complaints as succinct as possible (a trying task, I know.)

First off, the tone of the movie is way off. Thanks to the uneasy attempt at being a self-mocking comedy and a blood-soaked traditional slasher, there are parts of the flick that feel like entirely different films cobbled together at the last second. The lighting, the character mannerisms, even how the doll moves is annoyingly inconsistent, and the acting in general leaves a LOT to be desired. You never can tell if the actors are trying to be all hammy and self-reflexive on purpose, or if it's everybody trying to play it straight but can't because the direction is so off-kilter. It's a movie where practically everybody seems to be playing characters inside a movie instead of real flesh and blood characters; which, as we all know by now, is one of my biggest pet peeves about modern horror films.

And the self-reflexive shit just KILLS this movie. It's yet ANOTHER movie suffering from the Marvel-ization of the film industry - instead of feeling like a standalone, three-act story, the whole thing is just one big middle serving the sole purpose of setting the stage for another goddamn sequel. The writers of the script were clearly trying to pander to fanboys instead of making a legitimate movie, with more attention given to callbacks to the earlier movies than actually developing any of the characters in the film. And by golly, are the characterizations in this movie bad; Nica is pretty much the only multidimensional character in the movie, and relegating Andy's re-entry into the franchise as nothing more than a glorified subplot is a major fuck-up.

And don't even get me started about the multiple Chucky gimmick, or the fact that Chucky's spirit can apparently hop from host to host now like in The Hidden or some shit. That stuff just reeks of desperation - i.e., a total lack of original ideas. At this point, expect the sequel to take place 500 years in the future, aboard some sort of floating space-station.

But the thing that REALLY cripples this movie is that the makers of the movie - and remember, this is a movie directed by the guy who wrote the first four Chucky movies and directed the last three - have totally forgotten what the original movie was about. It wasn't some campy, Manson family slasher whodunit. It was a great mystery movie about a fatherless child being pursued by some sort of unstoppable evil force - i.e., a perfect metaphor for the trepidation of puberty and adulthood. Without the child-in-peril dynamic, it's just another formulaic Ten Little Indians clone, and one that can't even remotely be taken seriously anymore. In hindsight, the Child's Play motif is one of the rare ones in horror that would actually benefit from a total franchise reboot; I mean, how great would it be to see a modern, pure-horror Chucky update, with the killer doll representing the collective amorphism of the Internet itself?

The brain trust behind the Chucky brand can learn a thing or two from It. That was a great neo-slasher movie that nailed everything that made the first two Child's Play movies so fantastic - a fleshed out cast, a profound sense of mystery, a genuine sense of peril and a charismatic (and frightening) antagonist that literally works as a metaphor for adolescent fears. That's what the Chucky movies should be about, not this tongue-in-cheek, self-referential fanboy wankfest of a motion picture. 

I mean, if you're going to make an intentionally shitty Chucky movie, at least give us some shit of the spectacular variety, guys. Come to think of it, isn't that crossover with the Puppet Master series long overdue as it is?


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