Monday, November 25, 2013

Curse Of Chucky (2013)

Just with the title of this entry, I can already hear some of you asking, what’s the deal with Linus not reviewing anything out of the 80’s lately? It’s not that I’ve stayed away and given up the whole reason why this blog exists, it’s just that I’ve been branching out myself a taking in some new styles and trying out new things. Though my eighties collection is very extensive, I’ve been talking to some horror fans within recent months and I’ve been exchanging stories with them about movies we love and one of them had some nice things to say about this blog. But the one thing that surprised me was that he told me that I needed to learn to experience more modern films – which everyone knows how I feel about that – and to sit through titles I would not normally take a gander at on my own. Needless to say, I took the chance and walked away from my comfort zone for a little while and I have to admit that I’ve been rather disappointed at some of the drivel I’ve been subjecting myself to so I stopped altogether.

So when I heard the news that there was going to be a new entry in the beloved Child’s Play series, without even thinking, I immediately dismissed the idea. Though I loved the original and its immediate sequel, I am not a fan of either Bride Of or Seed of Chucky for reasons we won’t get into right now. They just weren’t my style, plain and simple. So I did some research on this new entry and read that it was going to revert to the stylings of the first film and be more straight-forward horror than the dark humor that its two predecessors were known for. And even though that was enough to spark an interest in me, I’ve been very disillusioned with the recent trend of endless remakes and reboots that have been coming out of the Hollywood anus with none of them satisfying me in any way, shape, or form so why would this film tied to a beloved 80’s franchise be any different? (Evil Dead, anyone?)

Now if you grew up in the Regan era and can remember when the first Child’s Play was released you probably can recall the controversy it caused when it came out in theaters. If I remember correctly, I was a lad in the eighth grade and in the area I was living at the time, the film became an instant hit. I remember a teacher in our school going on about the movie stating that she was afraid that it was going to have kids ‘glamorize violence’ and that ‘it was sad that Hollywood was taking the childhoods of many with this film’. Of course, in my house there was no way that I was going to be able to go to the theater to see it, though many of my friends did as it was the talk of the playground for at least a month. There was the whole talk about the soon-to-be-iconic antagonist Chucky being a rip-off of the My Buddy dolls of that era and how many kids who owned one suddenly didn’t want them anymore and that Child’s Play was the sole reason the My Buddy (and Kid Sister) dolls faded into obscurity. Was that true? Probably not, but it was enough to keep the film on the tongues of everyone during the fall of 1988.

About a week before this new installment was released, I did some research on it and was happy to read that Don Mancini had written it (who’d done every single sequel to date) and that Brad Dourif would be reprising role as the titular character and that Dourif’s daughter Fiona would be starring as Nica, the main character. The more I read about the film, the more curious I became, especially since this one was staying away from the plots and styles of the previous two films. But the thing that was ultimately piquing my curiosity was that this chapter was going to be released direct-to-video. Now, with the huge success the franchise has had up to this point and the loyal cult following that it’s had since its inception, why would this not be allowed to have a theatrical run, especially with Dourif as Chucky? Clearly all of the installments of the franchise have gone on to be highly successful so why not let this one have that same chance?

I then went ahead and contacted a friend of mine who was able to send me an advance copy of the film as the curiosity was starting to really kill me. I had already seen the artwork for the film’s poster and loved the idea that the producers had taken Chucky and returned him to a more ‘toned-down’ and old-school look. I immediately fell in love with the cover and became even more excited. Which is why when I got it in the mail about a week before it’s official DVD release (it had already been released VOD) I took aside a huge part of the evening and sat down in front of it as I knew I was going to be watching something really good. At least, I was hoping that it would be. I popped into the DVD player and sat down with my popcorn, hoping for the best. (Beware, major spoilers follow. So if you haven’t seen this yet…)

The film opens up with a package being delivered to the home of the Pierce family and Nica, a paraplegic girl, signing for it. When she opens it up, she discovers a Good Guy doll to which she shows to her mother, Sarah. That night, Sarah is unexplainably killed and her death ruled a suicide. Nica’s older sister, Barb, husband Ian, their daughter Alice and Jill, the live-in nanny all come to the house for the funeral as with a priest named Father Frank. Immediately upon seeing the doll, Alice claims the doll as her own and keeps him. The first thing that I notice about the film is that it is being told in a linear fashion and is a bit darker and moodier than I’d expected. When Nica makes a chili dinner for everyone, Chucky sneaks into the kitchen and poisons one of the bowls. When Father Frank ingests the chili, he dismisses himself from the group and is then involved in a fatal car crash (with a great decapitation scene!). Back at the house, the group is sitting in front of some home movies and here we see Sarah at a young age (pregnant with Nica, in fact) and their now-deceased father. We find out here that Nica and Barb’s father drowned shortly after the film they are watching was taken and in the distance stands a long-haired man wearing sunglasses. When Nica questions who he is, Barb simply replies, “Probably an old neighbor from Chicago”. Alice comes into the room as she’s lost Chucky and can’t find him. As her mother and Jill begin looking for the doll, they both go into the kitchen and we are suddenly given a gratuitous shot of the two ladies kissing and discover that they are secret lovers with Ian being clueless to their relationship. Now, I’m going to stop here and utter the following because it’s got to be said: Did we really need that? Not that I have anything against that sort of thing but that part of the plot felt a bit tacked on as the rest of the story could have been told without it. But that’s just me. So when we return to Nica going back into the living room, we see that Chucky is now seated next to a sleeping Ian. When he grabs the doll, Nica asks him if he remembered the dolls in particular to which he cleverly utters, “We’re the 80’s great?”

Determined to find out exactly where the doll came from, Nica goes onto the internet and does some research only to discover that the doll is linked to murderer Charles Lee Ray and a slew of unsolved Chucky murders. While this is going on, a storm is rumbling outside as Barb puts Alice to bed. As Jill comes into the girl’s room a little later to sleep with her (here we get a ridiculous scene of Jill taking her clothes off and opening her laptop to give Barb a peep show while she’s in the next room), Chucky kills Jill, knocking over a bucket of rainwater that’s leaked from the ceiling onto the power outlets on the floor. Was I impressed with this? Of course not, as I predicted that would happen as soon as I saw the bucket. So this basically messes up the entire house and as Barb gets up to see what’s going on in the next room, a pissed off Ian confronts her about her affair with the nanny and threatens to have Alice taken away from her. Here, he dons some earplugs and puts them on in an attempt to drown out a now pissed off Barb and she storms out. As she goes into the hallway, she sees Chucky sitting at the foot of the stairs leading to the attic. Thinking Alice may be up there, she grabs the doll and climbs the stairs. As she looks for her daughter, Nica know knows that something is amiss with Chucky and tries to warn her sister to leave the doll alone. Barb comes out of the attic and the two sisters begin to fight and Barb becomes furious as Nica begins to tell her about the connection of Chucky to the unsolved murders yet Barb is thinking Nica knew about the cam conversation between her and Jill and she storms back upstairs to look for Alice. With the storm having knocked out the elevator, she climbs out of her wheelchair and pushes her way up the stairs in hopes of getting to Barb before something terrible happens. It is here where Barb discovers a knife by Chucky and foolishly puts him and the knife down as she continues to look for her daughter. When she turns around, she finds Chucky on a shelf behind her, but something is different. His face! She walks toward him slowly and reaches for a piece of loose plastic that’s coming off his lip. With this, the scars on his face are revealed (an obvious reference to Child’s Play 3) and when she goes back to put her finger in his mouth, he goes for it and kills Barb, stabbing her in the eye and gouging it out. As Nica struggles to make it to the top of the stairs, she hears a noise and looks up and watches as Barb’s eye comes bouncing down the staircase (If you ask me, this was a complete homage to The Changeling as it was done in almost the exact same manner). Barb emerges from the attic and collapses, dead.

Nica manages to grab the spare wheelchair in the closet and rushes to wake the sleeping Ian to let him know what’s happened. They rush to the garage to hide and as he leaves Nica to go and search for Alice, Chucky climbs into the parked car and turns it on in an attempt to kill her by means of carbon monoxide poisoning. Here is where Ian returns, and now after having seen the carnage upstairs, he is convinced that Nica is the murderer. As he confronts her, she begins to have what appears to be a heart attack and passes out, waking up later, her hands bound to her wheelchair as she pleads with Ian that the culprit is, indeed, Chucky himself. Claiming that he could prove it was her with the nanny-cam he’d planted on the doll earlier to capture the affair between Barb and Jill, he begins to watch the recorded footage only to see that Nica was telling the truth! Quickly switching to the ‘live footage’ option, he sees that Chucky has not only come into the room with them, but he is standing right behind Nica. He pushes the wheelchair onto Ian, knocking him to the floor. With one swift move, the doll takes the axe that was left in the garage and gets Ian right in the jaw, taking it right off. Nica and Chucky begin to struggle and taking the axe, he get Nica right in the knee and she slaps the shit out of him, knocking him off her. She pulls the blade out of her knee and gives the doll and good whack, knocking his head off his body. But, of course, you’d be silly to think that it’s all over, right? And you’d be even sillier to think that Chucky wouldn’t re-attach his own head back to his body, right? With that said, he takes his own head, attaches it back to his body and grabs the wheelchair, pushing it out the door and knocking her over the side of the stairs to the main floor below.

Now, this is where the film takes an interesting turn.

As Chucky meets her downstairs, the film takes a great twist. It is revealed here that Charles Lee Ray was a friend of the Pierce’s and we see that he was the stranger in the home movies that the girls had been watching at the beginning of the film. He confesses that he was in love with Sarah but since she was married and pregnant, he couldn’t have her. Taking it upon himself to drown and kill their father, he kidnaps Sarah a little while after the funeral and keeps her hostage secluded away from everyone. During a great flashback scene we see Charles Lee Ray hovering over Sarah, telling her he is about to go pick up Barb from school. As she resists, the two get into an argument and he threatens to kill her, pulling out a red knife with a white stripe! The knife from the very first film! We then find out that Sarah called the police and as they approach his hiding place, he stabs Sarah in the stomach injuring the unborn Nica, causing her to become born paraplegic. Now here’s what made me smile: As the cops come to take him into custody, Charles Lee Ray flees only to end up at the toy shop from the first film (using clips from the original Child’s Play) therefore having the entire franchise come full circle.  We get treated to a little reminder of how everything got its start. I loved how the backstory was seamlessly interwoven into the plot of the current film, technically setting off the chain of events that would begin the entire franchise! Very well done!

So then comes the final confrontation between Chucky and Nica that begins with a terrifying struggle and ending with a knife being plunged into Chucky’s back. But, to her own horror, she goes to look at the wound to only find fluff and she pulls it out of him…which means he’s still alive! As this is going on, the cop who was around when Father Frank was killed appears at the Pierce house and busts inside, looking around and seeing blood everywhere and Barb’s body atop the stairs. And to make matters worse, not only is Nica still holding the knife she ‘killed’ Chucky with, but the doll himself is perched once again in the chair he was in at the beginning of the film, leaving all the fingers pointing to poor Nica. She is taken into custody and declared insane in court as she’s tried for the murders of Ian, Barb and Jill and as she’s wheeled away, Chucky himself is Exhibit D and she chastises him, telling him that even though everything has happened and as hard as he tried to dispose of her, she is still alive. As she’s being wheeled away, we see the same cop who discovered the scene at the Pierce home staring at the doll perched on the table in front of him. Cut to the parking garage outside the courthouse, we see that he’s stolen the doll and placed it in an evidence bag and takes it out to his car. He pulls out his cell and makes a call, leaving a voice message from someone that he has the doll and ‘not to forget his money’. As he hangs up, he looks over at the bad and sees that something inside is breathing! And just as he tries to figure out what is going on, someone emerges from the back seat and violently slits his throat with what appears to be a nail file. It’s Tiffany (Bride of/Seed of Chucky)!  What the fuck?! We then see her asking Chucky (as she’s boxing him up), “Who’s next?”

Cut to Tiffany walking into a shipping/postal office with a boxed up Chucky ready to be sent. It is here we can deduce that she’s forgiven Chucky for the events that happened toward the end of Seed of Chucky. We then cut to an apartment and see that Alice is alive and well and living with her grandmother. We see an open package on the kitchen counter and when Alice comes in to the room she beams with delight as she sees the doll. “You found me, Chucky!” she exclaims. When she asks for the whereabouts of her grandmother, he tells her she’s in the cellar. Chucky then tells Alice that he wants to play “Hide the Soul” and begins to recite the chant that first transferred his soul into the Good Guy doll at the start of the first film. We then see the camera pan off and see Alice’s grandmother emerge from the bottom of the screen, plastic bag over her head…still alive.

Bottom line, I loved this film. I was so pissed off that this wasn’t given the chance to run in theaters as I think it would have done really, really well. The story was well-told (though I’ll admit that it was a bit slow at first) and there was simplicity to the way everything was set up that allowed the film to flow freely and without confusion. Maybe it was a bit too simple now that I think about it, but I think if it would have been even a little more complex than it was, it would have not had the same effect. The mood was set up well, the house the Pierce’s lived in was very gothic in some ways and I do like how all of the events in the film took place within the house itself. That allowed the viewer to be focused on the story without being distracted by change in locales. Brad Dourif’s performance as Chucky was superb as it always has been but this time I liked that his performance was more reminiscent of the first two films. I honestly ended up liking it more than I thought I would (being that as of this writing I’ve seen it four times) and I thought it was a brilliant and actually acceptable entry in the franchise. It’s a shame that this couldn’t be shown on the big screen as I think it would have done great box-office, especially with all the shit that has been released in recent memory.

But…everything that I’ve mentioned here couldn’t compare to what followed the end credits. Now, I do need to clear up here that the DVD version that I got does not have what I’m about to reveal here as it’s a shame as this was the best part of the entire film. Whether or not it’s included on the Unrated version isn’t known by me as I think I have the standard version. The only reason that I was even made aware of it was thank to Wikipedia as I was quickly re-reading the plot as preparation for this entry and read this tacked on at the very end. So, here goes: Apparently, as soon as the final credits end, we are treated to a wonderful post-credit sequence with a delivery truck at an apartment making a delivery to Andy Barclay, protagonist of the first film. He opens the door and signs for it and he takes it, putting it on the table as he answers a phone call. It’s his mother and from what we can derive, it’s Andy’s birthday. As he tells her not to make a fuss, or buy him anything (!!), we see a knife come out the top of the box as something slowly slices its way out. Chucky has come to finally get Andy!…or so we think. So as Chucky sits up in the box and looks around for his first owner, he gasps as he sees Andy holding a shotgun to his face! And as Andy wonderfully delivers the line, “Play with this!”, he pulls the trigger and the screen goes black implying that once and for all, Andy has finally done away with his arch-nemesis.

This was a fantastic attempt at a reboot and I hate to say, but some of the production companies who have made similar attempts in the past with no luck should take notes as this is how it should be done. Bring in new characters, yes, but place them in a story that can immediately remind us of the films that you’re trying to re-capture. These companies that are trying to market 80’s remakes to a brand new generation should think again and market them to us 40-somethings who were around when the original films were released as we would be the ones go see them versus these kids who wouldn’t know the first think about a horror film, much less one made during the time their parents were in grade school. This is one to sit in front of at least once, but take it from me having sat in front of it for the fourth time that it’s worth getting into your collection. You can quote me on this if you’d like but Linus says this is the first reboot in the form of a sequel that I stand behind all the way. I’m actually hoping that another will follow this one – even though that post credit sequence has possibly put a damper on that – and believe me, if it’s even remotely done in the same manner and fashion, I’ll be standing in line for it. Welcome back, Chucky! We missed ya!