Curse of Chucky: Film Review

Series woos fans by returning to its straight-horror roots.

Don Mancini once again revives a doll possessed by the spirit of a foul-mouthed serial killer.

Having long outlived the Cabbage Patch Kid phenomenon it originally mocked, the Child's Play series is back -- nine years after its last installment -- with Curse of Chucky. Director Don Mancini appears to have made this franchise his life's work, having written or co-written each episode and directed the last two. Here, he pulls back from the series' increasingly comic pitch to deliver a horror film as straight as one can be about a doll possessed by a serial killer's spirit. Universal plans to release the film to home video markets this fall, but fest bookings will do well with genre buffs in the market for a sixth killer-doll flick. Judging from the packed whooping crowd at the premiere, there are more such viewers than one might expect.

The picture opens in an ornate Gothic house inhabited by the paraplegic Nica (Fiona Dourif) and her mother (Chantal Quesnelle), who one day receives a package she wasn't expecting: a large, redheaded doll whose prerecorded voice spouts innocuous stuff like "Let's play!" The toy's smooth plastic face looks nothing like the Frankensteined visage Chucky has sported in recent films, but the doll has an unsettling habit of disappearing when one's back is turned. Soon, Nica's mom is dead, with only the audience knowing it wasn't a suicide.

After the killing, Nica's sister, Barb (Danielle Bisutti), arrives with her family, hoping to convince sis to sell this big, valuable house -- too much for a single woman in a wheelchair, Barb frets -- and go into an assisted-living facility. But Chucky has other plans, and in good-doll mode sets out to ingratiate himself with Barb's daughter, Alice (Summer H. Howell).

Mancini, eager to reestablish the franchise's horror cred in the eyes of fans, takes his time setting the stage, waiting a full 50 minutes before letting his pint-sized psychopath misbehave in front of the camera. The action is straightforward but satisfying from there out, as the famously foul-mouthed killer works his way up through minor characters to Nica. Dourif -- whose father, Brad, has voiced the killer doll from the start, and who appears onscreen in flashbacks -- makes an appealing protagonist, particularly given the cookie-cutter characters surrounding her. Fans of the series should appreciate the way her character fits into the lore of Chucky's origin, revealed late in the picture. A coda does more to tie this episode to both the first film and the latest installments -- wrapping the saga up nicely, should producers not decide to put this oft-destroyed villain back together again.

Production Company: Universal 1440 Entertainment

Cast: Brad Dourif, Fiona Dourif, Danielle Bisutti, Summer H. Howell, Maitland McConnell, Brennan Elliott, A Martinez, Chantal Quesnelle

Director-Screenwriter: Don Mancini

Producers: David Kirschner, Don Mancini

Director of photography: Michael Marshall

Production designer: Craig Sandells

Music: Joseph LoDuca

Costume designer: Patricia J. Henderson

Editor: James Coblentz

Rated R, 96 minutes.