Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif), the lone survivor of Curse of Chucky, is bound to a mental institution, brainwashed into thinking that Chucky’s most recent victims were all her doing. But, when she’s downgraded to a medium security facility, this new chink in the armor is no match for everyone’s favorite killer doll and, as he reacquaints himself with Nica, her new inmates’ fragile minds provide a dangerous way in for the always maniacal Chucky (Brad Dourif). I mean, who’s going to believe the ramblings of a bunch of disturbed patients?
Writer-director, and all-around franchise mastermind, Don Mancini makes full use of his setting. Split diopter shots, fades to black, split screens and distorted dream sequence get inside these characters heads just like a 1970s-era paranoia thriller. And that’s hardly the safest place to be, as the line between fantasy and reality is blurred and viewers are thrown off and on the trail of keeping track of which new rules are being written and which are merely spinning around the dreamscape.
Harrogate Psychiatric Hospital also provides a beautiful visual backdrop and the clinical, almost THX 1138-like, white walls are the perfect canvas for scarlet splatter. And, boy does the blood fly. Stunning kills are captured with the mesmerizing visual beauty of Bryan Fuller’s recent television work (“Hannibal” and “American Gods”, in particular – the former of which Mancini worked on and he manages to shimmy in a fun gag about the show’s infamous cancellation). These sequences channel the same kind of beautiful nightmare Fuller has explored on the small screen. When death looks this good, it’s hard not to share in the delight of the kill, as Chucky extends his psychological reach beyond the Harrogate fences and deep into the cinema.
Cult goes bigger than any of the previous six films by bringing together plot threads from across the franchise. Not only is Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly) back, but, as teased in the post-credits scene at the end of Curse, Chucky’s original nemesis, Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent, returning to the role he played in Child’s Play and its immediate sequel), finds himself reeled into this new clusterfuck.
But, for all the memorable characters, Chucky has always been the star of these films and Brad Dourif once again proves this was the role he was born to play. Also superb is Fiona Dourif, Brad’s daughter, who thrives from being put toe-to-toe with her father’s longest-running role. This loyalty to character, as opposed to plucking up a fresh batch of victims each time out, instills this remarkable franchise with an emotional resonance any of the other long-running horror series would kill for, and the family ties behind the scenes only strengthen that.
Seventh films have no right to be this good or break this much new ground. Cult of Chucky takes this wild story in a whole host of new directions that franchise fans are sure to get a kick out of. There are so many batshit delights, especially as things escalate towards the finale, but to spoil them would be to ruin Mancini and co.’s grand carnival. Without a doubt, Child’s Play is a horror franchise worth treasuring. In a world where most of the other heavy-hitting horror icons are struggling to even get new films off the ground, Chucky keeps delivering the goods. He also manages to steal the end-credits stinger crown from any of those pesky superheroes with another post-credits bombshell that proves this ghost train isn’t stopping anytime soon.
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