Cult of Chucky may be the best Chucky movie ever. It’s at least the best since Bride of Chucky. Cult expands the mythology more than any entry and that’s counting the one where doll sex created an offspring and the one where Tiffany successfully possessed an A-list movie star. There’s so much good stuff in Cult of Chucky I don’t want to spoil so I’ll be vague. It’ll surprise even the biggest Chucky fans. And that’s me. I’m the biggest Chucky fan and it surprised me. Certainly this is the most ambitious Chucky.
Nica (Fiona Dourif) is transferred to a minimum security hospital for showing improvement. Other group therapy patients know about her and Chucky, so Dr. Foley (Michael Therriault) introduces a Good Guy doll to the group. He even goes to the trouble of finding another one programmed to be Chucky. Yet Alice (the little girl from Curse of Chucky)’s caretaker Miss Valentine (Jennifer Tilly) brings Nica another Chucky programmed Good Guy doll too.
How is this the first Chucky movie to explore having multiple dolls? I guess they played with the doll factory in Child’s Play 2, but it’s right there in the premise. The Good Guys were the hot toy of the ‘80s in an homage to Cabbage Patch Kids. If one of them is murdering babysitters, the next logical step is a switcheroo with an identical doll. Which one’s the killer, or are both of them?
Cult of Chucky does not take the “hidden Chucky” approach from Child’s Play 1, applied in Curse too. Chucky is active from the beginning. He still picks his moments, but they’re brutal moments. What Andy (Alex Vincent) has been doing since we saw him in Curse is highly satisfying too. It’s a lot of Chucky activity up front, yet still steadily built to the climax.
Nica is smart in this crazy situation. She entertains the possibility that still could be delusional and responding badly to this Chucky therapy. But just in case she’s not, she knows how to deal with Chucky and she knows that none of the hospital staff are going to believe her, so here’s how she’s gotta behave.
Since Dr. Foley bought a new Good Guy, Chucky is back to the original design, although it can’t help but look like what a 2017 reconstruction of the 1988 design would look like. That works in the world of the film. This could be a new build to cash in on nostalgia, doing their best to mimic the original but that factory is long dead. It can’t be 100%. Sometimes it looks like Chucky is still getting used to his new body which makes for some captivating posture.
Because of the hospital setting and Nica is still in therapy, Cult of Chucky has some surreal interludes. The surreal moments are actually the scariest imagery in the series. A De Palma moment works where the split screen plays well with parallel action. The hospital itself looks like THX-1138 and the snow makes it haunting, even when it’s CGI snow to match a kill shot. Not to mention, Chucky executes some of the most horrific practical kills he’s ever come up with. Writer/director Don Mancini only uses each trick once. He’s not overindulging. It’s just the scenario lends itself to having some fun with these tropes and he does.
You can also imagine Chucky’s not the only predator at the hospital. Each of Nica’s group patients gets a solid introduction that has a lot of compassion for their characters, neither treating them like Chucky fodder nor tipping the hat as to who’s gonna die first.
Perhaps most amazing of all is how Cult of Chucky keeps all six previous movies canon. This series has spanned all out comedy and meta logic, yet Mancini references popular catch phrases and has an answer for questions like: Do both Tiffany and Jennifer Tilly exist now? Visual callbacks to angles from classic Chucky make the series feel of a piece, yet evolving with new looks through the decades of cinema.
Chucky is the first franchise I got in on the ground floor, and here we are almost 30 years later. Everything matters to Mancini, even the sequels you may not have liked, and because they matter here, you can like them more now. That makes Cult of Chucky the Fast Five of Child’s Play movies. I think that makes Andy the Han of the Chucky franchise, only he wasn’t killed off. He just took a break from acting but now it can be retconned. Franchise Fred feels like a proud father. Cult of Chucky is my son’s graduation, yet still leaves room for its wedding day so I’m even more excited. Cult of Chucky is available October 3.