‘The Chucky Collection’ (1988-2017)
All seven films in the Child's Play / Chucky franchise from Arrow Video.
“I always come back!” These words, first uttered by Chucky in Bride of Chucky (1998), came only 10 years after his first demise in Child’s Play (1988). At that point, Chucky was on his fifth death as the once living Lakeshore Strangler turned possessed Good Guy doll. For all his success as a serial killer, he sure gets killed a lot himself. It’s been another quarter-century since Bride and, true to his word, Chucky’s come back many times since. We’ve actually had more Chucky in the past three years than the entire 35 years since his creation, thanks to the Chucky TV series on Syfy. But as popular as he’s always been, some deaths have stuck harder than others.
Following the commercial disappointments of Child’s Play 3 (1991) and Seed of Chucky (2004), the franchise fell dormant for eight years each time. During those two periods, long-time Chucky fans all but accepted those films as his final ends. Chucky wasn’t going to come back. But of course… he actually was. Cooler heads always prevailed, with studios looking back at past successes, and hoping to make another hit after a long hiatus helped generate demand.
Who believed more than anyone else in Chucky’s defiant quote? The man who wrote it, as well as every mainline Chucky entry to date: Don Mancini. Like Chucky, Mancini didn’t just come back with a vengeance but a fresh vision. After the initial burnout of the Child’s Play trilogy, each and every sequel has stood as its own artistic endeavour. There’s the rock n’ roll road trip of Bride, the domestic melodrama of Seed, the classic Universal haunted house of Curse of Chucky (2013), and the psyche ward head trip of Cult of Chucky (2017). More so than any other slasher, if Chucky was coming back… it was going to be with something fresh and original.
It’s hard to believe Mancini wrote Child’s Play on-spec right out of UCLA and has now been working on Chucky for over half his entire life. Now aged 60 with his main star Brad Dourif in his early-seventies, the third season of Syfy’s Chucky has been placing greater emphasis on the maniacal spirit contemplating his life. He may not be considering retirement from killing any time soon, but Dourif and co-star Jennifer Tilly are all but retired themselves. They only keep doing Chucky because it’s so much fun. But the franchise evolves and expands, so Chucky had his own kid and Dourif’s real-life daughter Fiona joined in the fun almost a decade ago. Chucky stars a trio of new teenagers, marking three generations of the ‘found family’ cast and crew. With a team of writers and directors aiding Mancini in creating the TV series, does this suggest that Chucky could always come back? The question people have asked before and after the 2019 remake is: ‘would Chucky still be the same without the key talents that started it?’
Whatever the future may bring, we can thank companies like Arrow Video for bringing together the history of Chucky in this latest 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray boxset. As with any horror franchise, there have been many DVD collections in the past, but the best quality set until recently had been the 7-Disc collection put out by Universal themselves. Though nicely packaged, it was pretty bare bones in special features. Thankfully, Shout Factory put out each movie in 4K with a bevy of new interviews, and these have all been ported over into Arrow’s new release for the UK. Without a direct comparison, it’s hard to discern which discs are superior, but financially Arrow’s set is the preferred choice, especially as an upgrade from the Universal set if you already own it.
‘The Lakeshore Strangler’ Charles Lee Ray is shot dead in a toy store. But when Karen Barclay buys her son, Andy, a back-alley birthday gift, his doll starts calling himself Chucky…
Modern approaches like The Boy (2016) and M3GAN (2022) are still competing with the bar Chucky set 35 years ago, let alone the Chucky TV series that’s on right now. There really is nothing quite like Child’s Play. Like a certain serial killer and voodoo incantation, a combination of creative voices came together to birth one extraordinary and enduring S.O.B.
Karen and Andy’s saccharine-sweet family image is juxtaposed with the resounding strength of the actor’s performances, propelling the story forward. Hicks is tremendous as the first film’s true protagonist, sharing the assertive responsibility of Ripley from Alien (1979). Though shoehorned in as the macho cop who “killed” Ray, Detective Norris (Chris Sarandon) can hardly keep up with Karen’s spirited determination to keep her child safe. From provoking Norris with her suspicions to challenging the back-alley peddler, Karen’s resolve culminates in the iconic reveal of Chucky in all his foul-mouthed glory. Karen’s defiant demand “I said talk to me, damn it!” while holding him over the fireplace is met biting, clawing, and screams of bloody murder, and yet she still chases him out the apartment. Like Ripley, Karen can’t avoid or ignore the threat; she must confront it.
Don Mancini was influenced by Freddy Krueger, and just as Robert Englund became synonymous with that role, Brad Dourif perfected Chucky. Child’s Play holds off on revealing Chucky’s true monstrous nature, but we’re treated to a preview of Dourif’s enormous performance in the prologue as Ray dies. What makes Chucky so pitch-perfect is that it’s the total opposite of Freddy’s smug satisfaction in death. Lacking the sequels’ revelry in settling as a killer doll, here Chucky is desperate to get back to flesh and blood. His full-throated rage exposes a blustering indignity, his voice cracking and peaking through relentless threats. It’s remarkable that Dourif almost missed out on this career-making role…
But for that story, head on over to our full Child’s Play retrospective.
USA | 1988 | 87 MINUTES | 1.85:1 | COLOUR | ENGLISH
Andy is sent to a foster home but a newly resurrected Chucky has other plans in continuing to ruin the poor kid’s life…
Child’s Play 2 doesn’t fuck around with its 84-minute runtime. Mancini gutted his own screenplay by jettisoning the two adult stars of the original, Chris Sarandon and Catherine Hicks. A planned court room opening with Andy’s mother (Hicks) accusing a doll of murder was abandoned, in exchange for a one-minute catch-up on unseen events: Andy’s mom has been committed, Sarandon’s cop has denied all knowledge of a possessed doll, and little Andy’s (Alex Vincent) now living foster parents Phil (Gerrit Graham) and Joanne (Jenny Agutter).
The little doll is also more impressive in Child’s Play 2, as SFX artist Kevin Yagher stopped using children and small actors as body-doubles and instead built a fully animatronic Chucky. With killer dolls it’s hard not to picture an arm up their backside, but when Chucky emerges from a closet walking on his own two legs, brandishing a weapon in moving arms, and dishing out threats with a fully expressive face, the effect is astonishing! Also, the tiny detail of giving him a sense of life when wrestling people as his tiny legs kick like a paddling dog is adorable.
A therapist dubs Andy’s experiences a fairy tale and Stefan Czapsky’s excellent cinematography plays on that, as he films things using a wide-angle lens that slightly warps the scope of Andy’s environment. In a strange new house with a strange new family, the walls appear spaciously pushed out and the furnishings seem to loom over him. It’s clear Andy has lost the comfort of his mother and is now alone in the big wide world.
Find out if Andy is all alone to fight Chucky or he gets some new help in our full Child’s Play 2 retrospective.
USA | 1990 | 84 MINUTES • 90 MINUTES (EXTENDED CUT) | 1.85:1 | COLOUR | ENGLISH
Andy is sent to military school where once again Chucky finds him, but this time he’s after another kid who Andy has to protect…
A midlife crisis can affect anyone, particularly those who transferred their soul into a popular children’s doll and then promptly ‘died’ twice over in plastic form. Franchises can suffer the same confidence and identity issues in their middles. At seven features, plus an upcoming television series, that middle-age of the Child’s Play saga could be the fantastic injection of camp sensibilities and meta-awareness that Bride of Chucky (1998) so amply provided… or it could be the near early demise of the franchise, Child’s Play 3.
Despite Andy not actually being Chucky’s primary target this time, everything else feels painfully familiar, which is what horror fans generally want, just better. Chucky is back in almost the same way as the first (or second?) time, being remade in a doll factory, and this leads to an admittedly promising prologue in which the Play Pals CEO is gifted the first doll off the production line… who then murders him with a range of his own toys. Sadly, a quick computer search leads Chucky to military school, which is one of the dullest locations for a fun horror film. The boredom spent here is especially disappointing knowing that series creator Don Mancini only had nine months to write this sequel. I don’t mean months until production started, I mean nine months since the release of Child’s Play 2 (1990).
However, as the later sequels would learn, the audience is here for Chucky. Dourif delivers the same great performance as always, but he’s a little more laid back as it feels like the doll has nothing better to do than kill. He’s good at what he does, of course, and there are some entertaining enough murders to see us through yet another svelte runtime. The dump-truck sequence shows how someone of his stature can use his environment to his advantage, while the heart attack gag reveals that Mancini still has a finger on the horror-comedy pulse. The third act event of Chucky manipulating a friendly paintball game into actual warfare really shows an element of creativity and difference from other slashers.
Read all the highs and lows of Child’s Play 3 in our full retrospective to fully gauge if this sequel is fairly maligned.
USA • UK | 1991 | 90 MINUTES | 1.85:1 | COLOUR | ENGLISH
Chucky is brought back by girlfriend Tiffany Valentine, who’s promptly killed and her soul transferred into another doll. So they hitch a ride with two teen elopers, planning to steal their bodies…
“Chucky? He’s so… ’80s.” By the time of Chucky’s first outing in Child’s Play, the other horror icons were already well into their sequels. Friday the 13th (1980), Halloween (1978), and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) were still in the zeitgeist but the box office returns were drying up by the 1990s. Chucky would burn brighter and faster than any of them. Three years and one disappointment meant Child’s Play 3 marked the last ’80s slasher to end first.
That same year also saw Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991). Though franchise creator Wes Craven would say his own farewell in the avant-garde New Nightmare (1994). A testbed for the meta blurring of fiction and reality, Craven would soon reinvigorate the entire horror genre with Scream (1996). Child’s Play writer Don Mancini knew “it was just a matter of time before we’d be bringing Chucky back.” First inspired by Craven in 1988, Mancini was once more given a fresh perspective on reviving the infamous killer doll. Out was the title Child’s Play 4: The Return of Chucky, out was trilogy protagonist Andy Barclay, and out was every expectation audiences could have.
But what was in? Something that none of the other slashers would ever have: a girlfriend. Two people resurrected Chucky: homicidal past lover Tiffany Valentine (Jennifer Tilly) and producer David Kirschner after seeing Bride of Frankenstein (1935) in a video store. Much like Child’s Play, the creative process of Bride of Chucky was a collaborative one. Kirschner conceived the idea and her design while Mancini fleshed out their romantic pairing and the story. Mancini knew that “two dolls running around the country together and killing people a la ‘Natural Born Killer Dolls’ or ‘Barbie & Clyde’ is really pretty funny.”
Bride of Chucky may revisit a few familiar beats like possessing and killing, but Tiffany changes everything. The Bride of Frankenstein (Elsa Lanchester) is an icon with only three minutes of screen time in the movie that bares her name, whereas The Bride of Chucky comes first in every regard. A powerhouse first impression as the trailer-trash princess in a black vinyl mini dress slices a cop’s neck to Rob Zombie. Reversing the power play of the original Bride, this girl is stitching together the boyfriend. A hopeless romantic with a wicked cruelty streak, Mancini was right on asking, “who besides Jennifer Tilly would be the perfect person to do that?”
Mancini was lucky to find Brad Dourif as Chucky but wrote Tiffany with one star in mind. “I never in a million years dreamed she would say yes, but she did, which was like a dream come true,” a relieved Mancini recalls. She almost didn’t. “I felt like a horror film is something you did at the beginning of your career or at the end of your career,” Tilly revealed in 2021. Her Bound co-star and good friend Gina Gershon intervened, saying “my God, you will have a franchise! I would love a franchise.” Gershon’s eventual reward would be gracing the franchise in a peak camp episode of the Chucky TV series.
The Bride of Chucky does come first in every regard. When Mancini devised the turning human element of Chucky back in 1988, nobody could’ve anticipated the anatomically correct sex scene. Tilly and Dourif had the benefit of a three-day voice recording session together where Tilly suggested the initially silent lovemaking have appropriate noises. This led to the greatest improvised exchange of “have I got a rubber? Tiff, look at me, I’m all rubber!”
Mancini’s writing relishes in the irreverent horror-comedy popularised by Scream. After scorning Chucky for his old-fashioned butcher knife, Tiff espouses the virtues of Martha Stewart by turning John Ritter into Pinhead with an airbag and nails. Chucky can’t help but ask why he looks so familiar. Never a fan of the Damballa magic added to Child’s Play, Mancini encapsulates exposition and tone in one perfect gag: ‘Voodoo for Dummies’. Anyone worrying about why the Heart of Damballa MacGuffin only ever appears here? Take the advice of Basil Exposition from the Austin Powers films, “I suggest you don’t worry about those things and just enjoy yourself.”
Bride of Chucky received mixed reviews because it has faults conventional critics noticed. Contrast with Chucky films before and after, the leads of Jesse (Nick Stabile) and Jade (Katherine Heigl) are forgettable. Mancini’s screwball plot is funny with them thinking the other is guilty of murder right after eloping, but a smidge too irreverent. But every horror protagonist plays second fiddle to the slasher, and Mancini was ahead of his time playing into that. Chucky and Tiffany are the genuine stars and yet his motives for killing and putting Tiffany in her own doll amount to little more than spite. It may all seem pointless to those critics but in comparison very few slashers express such deliberate joy in embracing chaos.
Chucky has only ever had one motive and it went beyond possession: he loves killing. The film itself has shifted to his perspective and we’re onboard for murder and mayhem. Director Ronny Yu brings a frenetic Hong Kong style with a heightened reality. Chucky walking and talking in prior films were suspenseful moments. The real prolonged focus on him here evokes real laughs or grimaces depending on how grotesque you find his new Frankenstein look.
Mancini petitioned to direct but needed more experience, getting to lead the second unit. The $25M Bride of Chucky was a major success with a box office gross of over $50M. With writing and a touch of directing, this was very much Mancini’s success. His reward was the director’s chair for the next sequel Seed of Chucky (2004). As Wes had proven with his ’90s achievements, the key to any franchise is a distinct authorial voice. Mancini had found his… with someone else’s voice. “Once we introduced Jennifer Tilly’s character, that brought a certain comedic camp vibe which I think is kind of historically a hallmark of gay culture,” Mancini admired. Mancini did something that Wes hadn’t; creating two iconic killers in the same franchise.
The Chucky universe was evolving and expanding beyond Charles Lee Ray. Chucky bemuses “if this were a movie, it would take three or four sequels to do it justice,” but neither he nor Mancini could imagine they’d still be at it 25 years later.
USA | 1998 | 89 MINUTES | 1.85:1 | COLOUR | ENGLISH
Chucky and Tiffany find themselves brought back in Hollywood by their estranged child Glen/da, and knock up actress Jennifer Tilly to give them a human body…
Son of Chucky began production on 18 October 1998, two days after the opening weekend of Bride of Chucky. Universal Pictures had produced all three sequels, expecting more Chucky and Tiffany with their murderous offspring. Don Mancini was generally praised for his seizing the meta-horror zeitgeist in the wake of Scream but “didn’t want to make the same movie as Bride of Chucky, so [he] thought, make it crazier.” If Chucky the homicidal plastic doll had to endure a domineering wife, “what if Chucky had a gay kid? To me, that’s hilarious.” Universal Pictures responded, “this is too gay.” It took six years until Focus Features greenlit his idea.
With Ronny Yu unable to return, Mancini finally got the chance to write and direct his own Chucky movie. And is it gay? Well, it’s camp. The two are often synonymous vocabulary but there’s very little story about being gay in Seed for Chucky. Inspired by Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda (1953), Chuck and Tiff’s estranged doll child from the end of Bride of Chucky is Ziggy Stardust meets Oliver Twist suffering from gender dysphoria. Their androgyny on full display as the parents casually remove Glen/da’s pants to find a smooth nothingness. A portent of genital inspections in real schools today, as well as beating Barbie (2023) to the punch by nearly two decades. Of course Chucky has genitals; not only does he conceive a child but he’s filmed masturbating to Fangoria by John Waters in a bush. That’s camp.
The other great catalyst for Seed of Chucky‘s camp: “my biggest mandate is that I wanted to bring Jennifer back in an even bigger way, we’ll set it in Hollywood and have Tiffany come and visit Jennifer Tilly, her favourite actress, and try to impregnate her.” Mancini struck gold with the casting of Tiffany Valentine; the goth mommy of the ’90s. Sexy, dangerous, and funny, she had it all. Mancini pays her back by making ‘Jennifer Tilly’ a spoiled, obnoxious washout who even Tiffany relents “fuck! She’s fat.” The real Tilly is in on it and encouraged her close friend to write herself even more unlikeable. Rapper, actor, now director Redman (as himself) is producing a Virgin Mary epic, so naturally Tilly tries to sleep with him for the role.
The overarching narrative for the pregnancy to give Glen/da a human body does side-line Chucky for many critics and fans. Relegated to a supporting role where his seed is more important than he is. Dream kills, fictional movie kills, and real kills shared between the family leave Chucky light on the body count. He does off Britney Spears, doubled by Nadia Dina Ariqat, while Tiffany gets to disembowel the genuine Redman. Glen/da also melts John Waters with acid and Martha Stewart is executed by the state. Did I mention camp?
“It was scary in a lot of ways. You’re talking about having three puppets who are the leads, so shooting what may seem like a simple dialogue scene is way, way more complicated than it might appear on paper.” Bride mixed the suspense of typical horror with an irreverent comedy. Mancini in Seed opts to tell a Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) domestic which each doll has an introspective journey of self-discovery. At the very least, Mancini was brimming with enough ideas that television would make the perfect medium.
Embracing the incredulous nature of Seed is easier having seen Ed Wood’s incredulous docudrama Glen or Glenda. Assigned to cover the real-life transition of Christine Jorgenson, Wood pivoted to a semi-biographical exploration of his own closeted transvestism. Both endearing and stigmatizing every other letter in the LGBTQIA+ rainbow. The patchwork representation of Seed similarly leaves more questions than answers. Is Glend/da trans, non-binary, or a literal two-spirit that co-opts pan-Indian concepts into the Haitian Voodoo mythology?
“I think why gay men are drawn to horror is that outside identification, with figures ranging from Frankenstein’s monster to Carrie. You have the lonely, misunderstood monster, or what the world perceives as a monster, but we, the audience, are inside them with their hearts and we know that they’re beautiful but misunderstood and corrupted by the evil world.”Don Mancini
Like father like son, Chucky holds together the disparate threads and drives the plot forward with his own journey. Incensed in keeping the patriarchal reins of his family, this sequel peaks with a crucial turn in the developing franchise saga. Chucky resolves his identity crisis over five movies when his pursuits to become human run contrast with his joie de vivre of killing. He doesn’t want to go back anymore: he is Chucky the killer doll.
While Mancini finally distilled Chucky into his purest essence, Seed of Chucky was a misunderstood monster. A cult classic in retrospect still reviled by many. After a $24.8M box-office disappointment, this is the last Child’s Play sequel released in theatres. Worse, the reputation immediately limited Mancini in exploring the world he had just expanded. “When we did Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky, even though I wanted to allude to those characters, I was forbidden from doing so by the people we were working with at the time.”
Seed of Chucky is wonderful in its beautiful imperfections, but Mancini would finally have his closure. A satisfying epilogue in Chucky season 2 casts the non-binary Lachlan Watson playing double as both Glen and Glenda reconnecting with her parents. Even without the success of the series, Mancini reminisces on Seed fondly, “sometimes to this day, Jennifer and I will talk about it and go, ‘I can’t believe they gave us $10M to do that.'”
USA • UK • ROMANIA | 2004 | 87 MINUTES | 1.85:1 | COLOUR | ENGLISH • JAPANESE
Paraplegic Nica Pierce becomes the latest target of Chucky, along with her family, as he has unfinished business from his past…
“The biggest challenge was how can we actually make it scary again?” said Mancini. The scariest idea for most Chucky fans was a reboot, and that’s precisely what he and Kirschner floated in 2008. In their opinion the fans were getting what they asked for, “to go back to the straightforward horror rather than the horror comedy.” A darker, scarier retelling of Child’s Play with new twists and turns that wouldn’t stray too far from the original blueprint. Curse of Chucky would thankfully be helmed by Mancini with Dourif returning once more as Chucky.
Entering production in 2012, the direct-to-video Curse of Chucky would not be so straightforward. As Mancini teased, “the 25th anniversary of the franchise, we thought it would be fun to make it kind of a love letter to the fans and have it wind around onto itself and kind of take into account its origins.” After the gaudy domestic farce that was Seed of Chucky, this sequel plays out as a beautifully tense and sombre chamber piece. If Mancini had parodied Bride of Frankenstein (1935) then this is his sincere homage to The Old Dark House (1932).
Chucky arrives at the estate of paraplegic Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif) and, moments later, her carer and mother dies in a violent ‘suicide’. Yes, there’s no Andy or Karen Barclay but there’s also no Charles Lee Ray being killed at the start. Chucky is already a doll which lays out several mysteries throughout the film, chiefly: if Curse of Chucky is a reboot, then it’s definitely not a remake.
One element it shares with Child’s Play is the presence of Chucky himself. Curse exceeds the original for the longest time before Brad Dourif speaks one word: 44 entire minutes. Mancini appears to have greatly matured in his writing and directing and let Chucky mature along with him. The manic ’til the wheels fall off energy of Seed has gone in favour of a measured and taut pace harkening back to the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.
Nica’s sister and her family have come to mourn though try to pry the house deed from her, making for prime targets. Some find this slasher outing a little light on the slashing, and sure, Chucky isn’t nipping at people’s heels, but he’s making the most out his situation. In Bride and Seed, Chucky was a different uglier beast who couldn’t sneak up on anyone. Now back to his Good Guy glory, he can sit right in the room of his latest kill and watch the aftermath play out. Chucky, and Mancini, enjoy the ensuing chaos more than the spectacle itself. One such revelatory sequence has Chucky pour rat poison into a bowl of chilli, and throughout the ‘Russian roulette’ dinner, we try to predict who eats their last meal. And to satiate those horror critics, the unlucky dinner guest still goes out in gory fashion.
This works because we actually get fleshed out real people once more in a Chucky film. As we figure out this ‘new’ Chucky, we get to know our new protagonist Nica, played by Brad Dourif’s real-life daughter. Fiona brings a genuine empathy to the film, never defined by her disability, but her emotional obstacles. Before the insanity and paranoia even kicks in, Nica feels ostracized and misunderstood for sticking with her ailing mother. Nica holds firm on staying put which seems unwise to withdraw into a cavernous house alone in her wheelchair. But Nica is far from helpless and goes through the trenches in the climactic confrontation.
“A lot of people immediately think Fiona got the role because of who her dad is, but that wasn’t the case at all. When she originally read for the role, it was actually for the role of the sister and while I was watching her read I thought that she would actually be a great Nica. I almost resisted casting her at first just because I was worried but she was just far too talented to overlook because of people’s perceptions. This character demanded so much of her both physically and emotionally and she just nailed it. Fiona also has this presence to her where it seems like she could be someone who has been affected by supernatural forces so there’s a naturalness there; almost like she’s haunted in a way.”Don Mancini
Now what I said about no Charles Lee Ray, Curse does something nobody expected and brought Brad Dourif back onscreen. Heavy lighting and heavier makeup doesn’t quite reverse aging 25 years. The flashbacks are nevertheless spectacular for any die-hard fan of the series canon. His presence creeping into old home movies of Nica’s mother expands on Chucky’s opportunist spree killings and reveals a far more sinister malice.
Reduced back to one killer doll and a single location, Mancini was afforded only $5M, and “there was that feeling at first of being demoted to the minor leagues, but on the other hand, we get to make another movie.” Mancini made a sequel worth the wait. I usually avoid referencing aggregate scores, but Dourif’s own personal favourite the cult hit Bride of Chucky only received a mixed bag with 48% at Rotten Tomatoes. Whereas the unassuming Curse of Chucky stands taller at 78%, which is even better than the original Child’s Play. Grossing $3.8M in DVD sales may not appear high, but Mancini was able to follow up with Cult of Chucky (2017) and three seasons of Chucky on TV. With his series holding the highest Rotten Tomatoes score yet, Mancini may have finally beaten his own curse of hindered sequels.
USA • CANADA | 2013 | 97 MINUTES | 1.85:1 | COLOUR | ENGLISH
Trapped in a mental institution, Nica is tormented by three Good Guy dolls and any one could be Chucky. Meanwhile, Andy and Tiffany return to settle old scores…
“You can’t please everybody anyway, and I would rather do something bold and interesting that’s maybe going to alienate some people.” Even when Mancini scored a win with his successful “tonal reboot” Curse of Chucky, he had no desire to repeat himself. Curse plays a clever trick appearing as a straightforward relaunch before revealing Chucky still carries the extensive 25-year history intending to kill any loose ends. That cat can’t go back in the bag and so Cult of Chucky marches on into crazier territory once more. Cult isn’t a complicated film to follow but weaves a multi-generational narrative rewarding long-time fans for following Mancini on every outrageous chapter of the Chucky saga. We are the cult of Chucky.
Chucky is one of the cruellest slashers around. You fight Michael Myers and people know he exists. Jason Voorhees is an urban legend but you can leave Crystal Lake. Freddy Krueger comes close, but you can also ditch Elm Street. Not only is Nica (Fiona Dourif) sent to a mental institution declared guilty of murdering her family, not only does she begin to believe this after four years of psychiatrist guilt, but then Chucky turns up again. Yes, all three other slashers did feature psyche ward sequels. But two out of three are pretty bad, and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) kept their patients in the same town which is asking for trouble.
The One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) setting is at least a clever wink to Brad Dourif’s Academy Award-nominated role. More significant, Mancini utilises his experience from writing episodes of Hannibal (2013-15) for a renewed focus on the surviving protagonists. “This is a mindfuck movie, and we’ve never done that before, I wanted to make the audience feel like they were crazy,” and Mancini succeeds. This is what life after Chucky looks like.
With shades of Laurie Strode in Halloween (2018) only a year later, Nica hasn’t recovered at all since her last encounter with Chucky. In fact, she couldn’t be in a worse place. Mancini has learnt to enthuse his limited locales with such character; contrasting the haunted house of Curse with a blinding white asylum. Hell with the aesthetic of Heaven. Each Good Guy doll dazzles in their rainbow sweater and fiery red hair. The fact he stands out so much only makes his childlike smile all the more unnerving. Nica refuses to fade into the light and Fiona’s tragic resilience in the performance continues to bring out Chucky’s A-game. As Chucky promises “believe me, there’s worse things than death.”
There’s still fun to be found as Chucky stalks an eclectic bunch of fellow patients. ‘Multiple’ Malcolm (Adam Hurtig) the DID sufferer ‘becoming’ Charles Lee Ray after one too many chats with Nica. Madeline (Elisabeth Rosen) the child-smotherer in denial adopting and nursing Chucky as her infant son. Nurse Carlos (Zak Santiago) the sympathetic carer who may need to betray Nica for his ailing husband. And then Dr. Foley (Michael Therriault) bringing a twisted edge to the events that Chucky puts succinctly, “I don’t know whether to kill him or just take notes!”
This quirky cast is just the beginning of Mancini taking another precision stab at the eccentricity of Seed of Chucky, “particularly now in this era of Annabelle, it’s all the more important for Chucky to hold onto his identity. And part of what makes Chucky distinct is that he’s a funny character.” From power drills to falling glass, Mancini has never revelled so clearly in accentuating the beauty in carnage. With 74 kills to his name thus far, a pair of red wedge heels delivers one of Chucky’s all-time cheer moments.
This film doesn’t open with Nica, or Chucky, but Andy. Child actor Alex Vincent returns from an after-credits cameo in Curse to the actual story once more, 27-years since appearing in Child’s Play 2. No longer a child, Andy returns home from another date where the modern woman has Googled his name and found a trilogy-worth of mass murders all around him. He vents his dejection onto his friend ‘til the end, a severed Chucky head that resembles a dog’s chew toy. Learning Nica is still in danger, Andy travels to help but is taunted by one more returning icon.
Jennifer Tilly is back as Tiffany Valentine in the body of Jennifer Tilly. Mancini relished the possibilities, “to put Jennifer Tilly and Fiona Dourif in scenes together because they represent completely disparate tonalities of the franchise. How do we make that work?” Aiding their wicked games by delivering even more Good Guys to the asylum, Tilly exhibits a sophistication only Family Guy money can buy. “I think he’s going to put me in every Chucky movie until the end of time, and I honestly feel like there are going to be Chucky movies until the end of time,” Tilly half-correctly predicts.
With the same $5M budget as Curse, Mancini has achieved an even grander looking film, and the $2M home video weren’t a clean-cut indicator for success. Universal themselves put out a seven-disc boxset in 2017 including Cult. Grown used to waits between entries, the Chucky fandom received the most unexpected news in 2019 that Mancini would be writing and directing more homicidal doll action, only on TV. Chucky would premiere for Syfy in 2021 and continue every loose thread left at the end of Cult of Chucky’s shocking climax.
USA • CANADA | 2017 | 97 MINUTES | 1.85:1 | COLOUR | ENGLISH
There’s been a minor upset with this new Arrow Video release as it doesn’t deliver the definitive Chucky collection many fans hoped for. Child’s Play and Living with Chucky, due to license restrictions, are left untouched as 1080p Blu-ray instead of being upgraded to 4K Ultra HD. The other thing to notice is that, while each disc opens with Arrow Video’s logo, every recent special feature has been produced by Shout Factory for their own 4K releases.
Shout Factory produced a 4K Ultra HD version of Child’s Play, as well as its six sequels, but their deluxe box-set (and the separate movies combined) are far more expensive than what Arrow’s offering here. The Shout Factory 3-disc edition of Child’s Play also provides the most special features, as some are absent here, although the sequels contain every new interview from the Shout Factory set. At the very least, this Arrow Video box-set is a marked improvement over Universal’s Blu-ray set from 2017, which contained absolutely no special features for Childs Play 2 and 3.
Individual interviews paint a vivid and entertaining picture of the fun and energy making the movie. Alex Vincent recalls Mancini taking him behind-the-scenes of Back to the Future Part III (1989) to have lunch with Michael J Fox. Christine Elise gives a detailed play by play of how involved acting with the Chucky animatronic is.
As per the quality of the movie, most of the interviews are the crew apologising for the quality of the movie. Don and Kirschner act polite without offending the studio and take the sacrificial sword. Perrey Reeves is happy to have been in the movie, which is nice.
Bride strangely lacks any modern interviews and relies on promotional featurettes filmed back in 1998. These are available on even the 2017 boxset, and so it’s a shame that the big movie that reinvented the franchise doesn’t have anything new covering it.
Possibly the best mix of modern and old special features. A great in-depth interview with lead puppeteer Tony Gardner on joining the franchise, bringing John Waters into the fun, and the unique difficulty of having a death scene of yourself acting, puppeteering your dead body, and puppeteering the two dolls killing you.
The main featurette has the highlight of Brad Dourif’s first time on set and he is delightfully engaged with watching other actors Alex Vincent and Fiona Dourif shoot their scenes.
Decent interviews, and the early short version of Living with Chucky.
An impressive documentary from someone so young, their original short doc was still a student project. Though it serves as a fantastic retrospective offering cast and crew insight on the history of the franchise, it is surprisingly light on the selling point. Growing up around the Chucky franchise as her father worked as lead puppeteer, the documentary shines a personal light on the highs and lows of raising a family while working on movies. Fiona Dourif reflects on her own upbringing with Chucky himself, Brad Dourif, as her father, and how Don Mancini and the crew became her found family.
Unfortunately, this effecting segment is right at the end and over just as it gets into the real emotions. For any Chucky fan, this is still a rewarding watch; not just for production stories but for getting a glimpse into the lives of the cast and crew behind your favourite movies.
directors: Tom Holland (Child’s Play) • John Lafia (Child’s Play 2) • Jack Bender (Child’s Play 3) • Ronny Yu (Bride) • Don Mancini (Seed, Curse & Cult)
writers: Don Mancini, John Lafia & Tom Holland (Child’s Play) • Don Mancini (Child’s Play 2–3, Bride, Seed, Curse & Cult).
starring: Brad Dourif • Alex Vincent (Child’s Play 1–2, Curse & Cult) • Jennifer Tilley (Bride, Seed & Cult) • Fiona Dourif (Curse & Cult) • Catherine Hicks & Chris Sarandon (Child’s Play) • Jenny Agutter, Gerrit Graham & Grace Zabriskie (Child’s Play 2) • Justin Whalin, Perrey Reeves & Andrew Robinson (Child’s Play 3) • Katherine Heigl, Nick Stabile & John Ritter (Bride) • Redman, Hannah Spearritt, John Waters & Billy Boyd (Seed) • Danielle Bisutti, Brennan Elliott & Chantal Quesnelle (Curse) • Michael Therriault & Adam Hurtig (Cult).