Thoughts on “Cult of Chucky”

This is an example of a movie that I know mostly through its influence on popular culture, because I know a fair bit about the series even though I might have watched parts of one or two here and there.  Yes, this is indeed a “Child’s Play” movie, starring Chucky, and it seems to be a movie that is trying to reference lots of things in the previous movies, which risks it alienating someone like me who doesn’t get the references.  I’ll talk more about that later.

Anyway, the basic idea is that a woman who was blamed for Chucky’s last murderous run has been seemingly doing really well in therapy and so gets moved to a less secure insane asylum to continue her treatment.  She’s also paralyzed from the waist down, and from what the movie says about her she was that way from birth, so it wasn’t done by Chucky (although how she could have been the murderer while paralyzed is something that I am mildly curious about).  Anyway, as part of the therapy the doctor brings out a Chucky doll to prove to her that it’s just a doll, and then another one is mailed to him, and at that point murders start happening again and we know — although they don’t — that Chucky is responsible.  At the same time, Chucky’s girlfriend Tiffany is back as a human — they lampshade a joke about not being able to tell her apart from Jennifer Tilly, who plays her — to torment the main heroine and enact some plan of Chucky’s.  It is eventually revealed that he learned the ability to bring other Chucky dolls to life and so any time he sees one we end up with another murderous doll on the loose.  At the same time, someone else who was associated with Chucky’s rampages starts from having trouble getting a date, through torturing a disembodied Chucky head, to rushing to the asylum to save the day.  At the end, though, Chucky’s plan succeeds and he puts himself in the heroine’s body — to make out with Jennifer Tilly at one point — that he heals up, and they drive off into the snow.

I have an odd criticism about this movie:  it seemed to me to lack substance.  Now, I can imagine you all rolling your eyes at that and asking “What’s he going to complain about next:  that Jason from Friday the 13th isn’t expressive enough?”.  And yeah, the “Child’s Play” movies are typical 80s and 90s slasher movies where the main point is to watch a strange child’s doll kill people in bloody and hopefully creative way, and so you can’t really expect complicated plots and social commentary and the like.  I get that.  But I don’t mean that it lacks substance in that way.  I mean that it lacks substance in a way similar to the old joke about Chinese food, where you feel full right after you eat it but an hour after eating you want to eat again.  At the end of the movie, as they planned to ride off into the snow, I realized that there was nothing at all to this movie.  Chucky had a plan that he supposedly completed, but that plan wasn’t really a key component of the rest of the movie.  It just kinda happened at the end.  The guy rushing in to save the day fails, but there’s nothing to that failure.  He shows up, does something that does little, and fails at the end just ’cause.  The heroine loses and ends up locked inside her own head, crowded out by Chucky, but it’s not any kind of culmination of what happened earlier in the movie.  She just loses.  Things just happen, it seems, to happen and not as part of any kind of whole.

Okay, this is comedic horror and again maybe I’m asking too much from it (although the best Freddy or Jason movies manage to at least seem cohesive).  But even the killings aren’t all that creative or all that gory.  One of the first ones is Chucky redirecting a suicide attempt as a warning that he’s back, but that doesn’t really matter to, well, anything and on its own isn’t all that creative.  The most creative one is using an oxygen canister to break a skylight to decapitate someone, and my reaction to that was pretty much literally “Meh, it’s all right, I guess”.  Chucky fires off the one liners but again while they are in character they aren’t really funny and don’t build on or lead to anything.  All the jokes and all the scenes, at the end of the movie, are things that happened to happen, and that’s it.

This leaves this movie as basically a movie of references.  It strikes me as being a movie where they wanted to cram in as many references to the rest of the series as they possibly could.  This isn’t a bad thing and could have worked, and they are actually pretty good at structuring things that even if you don’t get the references you understand what’s going on.  The problem is that it’s all references and nothing else.  That’s why on the surface it seems good — and may even be good for “Child’s Play” fans — but at the end it left me with a hollow feeling, like I had watched a movie for about an hour and a half and now that it was done it left no impression on me.  It was like watching a movie made up entirely of the highlights from the rest of the series:  the references themselves had their moments, but at the end of it all the movie itself seemed to, well, have no substance to it.

Then again, the fact that the references and the things that just happen are themselves entertaining puts it ahead of a lot of the other horror movies I’ve watched.  Still, it has to go into the box of movies to maybe rewatch at some point.  The Chucky parts are well done and generally entertaining, but that there’s nothing else to the movie other than those specific and mostly disconnected scenes hurts my desire to watch it again.

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