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Don Mancini’s Seed of Chucky, the fourth sequel to the Mancini-penned, Tom Holland-directed Child’s Play, was one of this writer’s favorite films of 2004. Surely, horror fans expecting a more linear traditional movie full of Chucky kills and one-liners were aghast by this self-referential and blissfully smutty and perverse series sidebar, a film that turned the franchise on its head and brought gore, silly sex, shock, laughs and style galore on screen.
It was a cross-eyed Brian De Palma movie in some respects. Hell, Mancini even empowered De Palma’s right-hand man Pino Donaggio to deliver the elegant note. I adored Cult of Chucky film because I could see the fun Mancini was having sculpting a gleeful salute to the sort of cinema he adores and using the Chucky films he will forever be chained to to do so. But I understand why the film also served to isolate many fans.
And while I enjoyed the more somber, conventional direct-to-video Mancini-directed Curse of Chucky — which was a calculated bid to make something closer to the Hitchcockian original — I am happy as punch to claim that sequel to that movie, Cult of Chucky movie (releasing on October 3rd to Blu-ray, DVD and Digital) finds Mancini exploiting the success of Curse by shrewdly concocting yet another deeply eccentric and completely personal melting pot of influences, quoting everything from One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Samuel Fuller’s delirious Shock Corridor to Brian De Palma’s Raising Cain to David Cronenberg’s The Brood to Dario Argento’s Suspiria and even A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 while also providing the most giddily macabre and strangely disturbing and dream-like Chucky entry yet.
Fiona Dourif (daughter of Brad, who of course serves as the voice of Chucky) returns as Nica, the handicapped heroine who survived Chucky’s rebirth and rampage and is now locked in an antiseptic insane nut house, full of every class of fractured soul and lorded over by the patronizing Dr. Foley (Michael Therriault). As the good Doc attempts to convince Nica that her Chucky ravings are just that, he brings replica Good Guy dolls into the chamber for the other patients, using the dolls to dive into the fears and delusions of his patients. But when the dolls begin walking and talking and swearing and killing, it’s up to Nica to either convince her captors that Chucky is legit or claw her way out of the dream-like loony bin. Throw in Jennifer Tilly as a reputedly DIFFERENT character than either herself (who she portrayed in Seed) or her character Tiffany and Alex Vincent continuing his roles as Andy Barclay from the first two entries and you have a Chucky film that is obviously cannibalizing its own mythology, which kind of explains the word “Cult” in the title. Certainly, there’s more to that title than just self-reference and we surely won’t spoil that here…
While Curse was an “old dark house” film by way of women-in-peril classics like Lady in a Cage and Wait Until Dark, Cult of Chucky is a wildly chaotic free-fall into psyche-ward horror, like The Snake Pit, the 1962 remake of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Curtains, spiraling into head-trip zones the franchise has never before broached and giving Dourif a huge, stark-white canvas to convey a completely ballistic performance, literally channeling her dad and proving that she’s a force to be reckoned with. And damn, does Mancini know how to direct and stage scenes. Cult of Chucky full online is a modestly-budgeted movie, filmed in Winnipeg in the dead of skin-withering winter (it was colder than a Mother-in-law’s kiss. I know, I was there) and shot on practically-designed, simple and stunning sets, abstractly creating an impression of an asylum and using whites to make the look of Chucky — in his rainbow-striped outfit with that shock of orange hair — even more menacing. The wide, white spaces and snow-covered exteriors also come in handy when Mancini blasts blood and gore all over the joint, which he does often. Sure, we can add Lucio Fulci to the myriad maestros Mancini nods to here, since the carnage is completely over-the-top.
In fact, there are so many nods in the movie, I’m surprised it doesn’t have whiplash. There’s even a witty allusion to another Jennifer Tilly epic, 1996’s Bound, and a wink to Mancini’s friend Bryan Fuller’s dropped Hannibal series. There’s also a neat confessional aspect to the film, nowhere more obvious than in the opening scene where the adult Andy is on a date with a woman only to learn she’d googled him and wants to learn about his checkered and violent history. So Andy returns home alone and pulls out Chucky’s severed head and places it on his desk. After resigning himself to the fact that he and the murderous doll (or what’s left of it) were made for each other, he pulls out a blow torch to sadistically take out his frustration on the cursing Chucky. Could this be Mancini’s own sighs we seemingly hear in this sequence? Could he be saying that he’s tired of being tied to the Chucky franchise he created and yet has accepted the fact that he and the series are now one in the same? And could Andy’s fiery antics be Mancini’s mission statement that if he IS really irreversibly tied to Chucky-verse than, f**k it, he’s going to — as Al Pacino roars in Scent of a Woman — “Take a FLAME thrower to this place!” and dismantle conventions, reforming the mythos as he sees fit? I like to think so. Since the beauty of Cult of Chucky movie is that it actually has no rules save for the ones Mancini is making up as he carries on. It’s fun to see his genius tucked into the confines of a film that places itself as a direct-to-video horror sequel. Cult of Chucky is a funny — sometimes wickedly, sometimes broadly — gory and hopelessly deranged horror movie and as long as Mancini is stuck to the Chuck, I’m in, forever.