After a nine year slumber, Chucky originator Don Mancini takes his monster creation back to basics in this sixth and latest installment to the franchise — marking the first non-theatrical release in the series. Returning as writer and director, Mancini has Chucky revert to his original plan of action as a straightforward horror-action thriller, eliminating much of the dark humor seen in the previous movies, although there are a few moments here and there that are pretty comical. Audiences are reminded once more that an otherwise innocent-looking doll is in fact possessed by the soul of the viciously diabolical serial killer Charles Lee Ray, and he's ready to play "Kill All the Adults."
With excellent cinematography by Michael Marshall, Mancini also brings back that dark, sinister air of mystery and suspense long missing in the series since the first sequel went in the offbeat cartoon-like direction. Looking like he's gained a few pounds around the face, Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif) arrives wrapped in a large box at the creepy Victorian house of paraplegic Nica (Fiona Dourif) and her mother, Sarah (Chantal Quesnelle). The original sender of the package quickly becomes a guessing game of sorts as viewers try to determine who and why, especially after her over-protective mom is stabbed in the chest later that night. Answers are, of course, withheld until close to the end, and while not exactly mind-blowing, they do provide a nice twist that connects the movie to events in the original 'Child's Play.'
Set after the last film, Chucky's return has him back to his usual naughtiness of wanting to possess the body of a child, which in this case is Nica's little niece Alice (Summer H. Howell). She's at the house for grandma's funeral with her overbearing mom Barb (Danielle Bisutti), her dad (Brennan Elliott) and her live-in nanny Jill (Maitland McConnell). As our devilish plastic hero begins dispatching this unlikeable lot, which doesn't include Nica or Alice, Mancini nicely paces the killing spree with a patient, scary malice, having the doll run from out of the shadows, the pitter-patter of his feet scurrying across the wood floor with hair-raising echoes. This latest chapter may have been relegated to a direct-to-video release, but 'Curse' marks Chucky's gleeful return to the macabre and twisted.
Although Mancini has largely done without the satire and silliness seen in the other movies, that doesn't mean he removes it completely from this dark tale of revenge and meeting old acquaintances. Chucky still can't help himself from uttering over-the-top, inappropriate one-liners, and a few of them actually manage to hit their mark. Fans with a darkly weird sense of humor may even find their funny bone tickled by the exaggerated death scenes and some of the action. If Jill's final demise during a live chat doesn't produce laughs, then Chucky's perversely cruel battle with Nica should have eyes rolling from the insanity. However, the beat-cop suddenly turning detective after the death of a priest feels somewhat awkward and out-of-place, though he does serve a bigger, tongue-in-cheek purpose in the closing moments.
Another nice touch showing Mancini can't completely detach his creation from some satire and a bit of fun is in the music of Joseph LoDuca. While the visual design creates a horror funhouse feel drenched in shadows, flickering lights and the crackling boom of thunder overhead, LoDuca's score carries subtle undertones of Goblin's screeching, frenzied sounds, working almost to the point of giving homage to Dario Argento's classic 'Suspiria.' Not really sure if this is the intent of the filmmakers, but it provides this low-budget horror entry with a great deal of energy and fun, never fully committing to taking itself too seriously. 'Curse of Chucky' makes an awesome installment to the franchise, leaving fans hopeful of where the series will go next, especially after an end-credits surprise.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings 'Curse of Chucky' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy. The Region Free, BD50 disc sits comfortably on a panel opposite a DVD-9 copy inside a standard blue keepcase with a shiny slipcover.
The unrated, 97-minute version of the movie is accompanied by an R-rated, 95-minute version on the same disc. The difference between them is some added footage of gore, blood and language — nothing really significant. Viewers can skip over several internet-based previews before switching to a menu screen with full-motion clips and music.
'Curse of Chucky' debuts to Blu-ray with an excellent 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. Shot with the use of HD cameras, the video unfortunately comes with that sterile, digital and very unfilm-like quality which lacks character and doesn't feel very organic. Nonetheless, the 1.78:1 image is highly detailed, exposing every nook and cranny of the beautiful Victorian house and showing clean, distinct lines in background information. We can make out every pore and wrinkle on the cast, and each stitch on the clothing and face of Chucky is very well-defined.
Black levels are true and accurate with strong shadow delineation throughout, and contrast is spot-on with crisp, bright whites. However, there is a smidge of banding in the darker portions, which may not be blatant to most viewers but is there nonetheless. The color palette is accurate and bold, but being a movie that mostly takes place indoors at night, they are also somewhat limited. In either case, 'Curse' arrives with a great high-def presentation, in spite of its rather unattractive digital appearance.
The sixth installment in the Chucky franchise jinxes Blu-ray with a highly entertaining and surprisingly good DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Although this is really more of a front-heavy presentation, the design does allow for several great moments of discrete effects in the surrounds. It's not always consistent, but the crashing of thunder and the sounds of pouring rain in the distance fill the room on various occasions, generating an amusingly dark and creepy atmosphere. Other times, the pitter-patter of Chucky running across the floor is distinctly heard moving from one side of the room to the other with flawless panning.
The music of Joseph LoDuca bleeds into the rears and satisfyingly envelops the listener while also broadening the fronts with an engaging and welcoming soundstage. Dynamics and acoustics never really extend in the upper ranges, but the lossless mix maintains good clarity and is fairly detailed. Low bass delivers some powerful impact and weight to various action sequences. Separation between channels is well-balanced with plenty of fidelity and warmth while vocals are precise and intelligible in the center.
Chucky is back to his old deadly tricks with a sinister glee and a macabre, menacing twinkle in his smile. Written and directed by Don Mancini, 'Curse of Chucky' may be the first in the franchise not released theatrically and going straight to home video, but thankfully, that's not a sign of its quality and ability to deliver some delightfully fun and twisted horror, making it a great sixth installment to the series. The Blu-ray arrives with an excellent audio and video presentation that will entertain fans, along with a nice assortment of bonus features. The overall package is a good addition to the franchise which devoted Chucky followers will want to add to their collection.