Saturday, October 21, 2017

Halloween Horrorfest: The Babysitter

It's funny that The Babysitter, newly released on Netflix, comes out a week or so after Better Watch Out as the two feel thematically similar in the context of a babysitting job gone horribly wrong. There are drastic differences in the plot and how it plays out, but both have a similarly dark and twisted sense of humor that runs through both films.  

Twelve year old Cole (played by Judah Lewis) has been left in the care of his beloved babysitter Bee (played by Samara Weaving) for the weekend while his parents (played by Ken Marino and Leslie Bibb) are off on trip. Cole and Bee always have a great time together as the two seem to get one another, which has led Cole to develop a bit of a crush on Bee. This all changes one night as he decides to stay up and sneak out to see what she gets up to after he is sent to bed. He witnesses Bee sitting around in a circle in the living room with a group of her friends, including Max (played by Robbie Amell), Allison (played by Bella Thorne), Sonya (played by Hana Mae Lee), John (played by Andrew Bachelor), and Samuel (played by Doug Haley). What at first seems like an innocent game of spin the bottle takes a dark turn when he witnesses Bee murder Samuel in ritualistic murder. Realizing that his beloved babysitter and her friends are in fact psychotic Satanic cultists leaves Cole reeling. He also realizes that Bee and her friends know he saw what they did, beginning a long night of Cole trying to escape and defeat the crazy cultists that have invaded his home. 

The film was directed by McG from a script by Brian Duffield and I can say this definitely feels like a McG film. It is wonderfully and ridiculously over the top mix of horror and comedy that only a director that totally embraces that kind of lunacy could pull off. I also appreciated how intricately the film plotted itself out, setting up certain elements that were going to pay off in the ways the audience expects until the film pulls the rug out from under the viewer and subverts it in a memorably funny way. The filmmakers do a great job of messing with the viewer's expectations of what is going to happen at any turn in the film, which is certainly something I appreciated and enriched the viewing experience for me. Any time a movie can make me stop and go, "wait, what?" is a memorable one for me (there are of course exceptions to this rule, such as when I say it to something incredibly stupid or not well thought out from the filmmaker, but in this case the film did it in a unique and fun way). The filmmakers manage to pull this off a couple times in the film to nice effect. 

The acting in the film was good, with Judah Lewis making for a good pint size hero that grows up alot over the course of one night as he defends himself from the various cult members, but does well showing how clever and cunning his character can be as well. Samara Weaving was good as Bee, who despite her Satanic leanings, still really cares about Cole and as the film goes on I was never really quite sure where her allegiances really were. Robbie Amell has an amusing turn as bad boy Max, of of Bee's friends. 

The Babysitter premiered on Netflix last weekend and was a suitably fun horror comedy. It has a certain "heightened reality" mentality to it that may turn some viewers off of it and is very tongue in cheek throughout. It also was very stylish and has a wickedly fun sense of humor to it as well.  It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I certainly dug it. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Halloween Horrorfest: Better Watch Out

I enjoy a good Christmas movie as much as the next person. Filled with snowy landscapes, heartwarming cheer and some good hearty laughs. But, if I'm not quite feeling in the holiday mood, often brought on by holiday shopping and the madness it brings, I find myself reaching for something darker or a little more twisted. Something like Bad Santa, Gremlins or, if I'm really feeling the Bah Humbug, Black Christmas. The newly released Better Watch Out will fit in nicely with those two films. 

Luke (played by Levi Miller) is being left at home with babysitter Ashley (played by Olivia DeJonge) while his parents (Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton) attend a Christmas Party. Luke is thrilled to get to spend the evening with Ashley alone as he has been nursing a crush on her for awhile, which she continually brushes off stating he is too young for her. But Luke has a plan involving a quiet night, a scary movie, a pizza and a bottle of wine, as he explains to his best friend Garrett (played by Ed Oxenbould). With the right mood, he's sure she will see him in a new light. The plans get derailed when someone breaks tries to break into the house, setting off a night the three kids will never forget.  

To reveal more would ruin the many wonderful surprises this film holds. I will only say this is not your standard home invasion horror film. Director Chris Peckover co-wrote the film with Zach Kahn and the two manage to have some twisted fun with the prototypical home invasion horror movie while finding ways to subvert expectations. I'm dancing a fine line here because I want to make sure I don't give anything away as the surprises of the film are the best part. The film does have a wicked and dark sense of humor to it as well as working in a reference to the definitive holiday home invasion film, Home Alone, with unexpected (or completely expected, depending on your point of view) results. 

The acting for the film was good. Olivia DeJonge gave a good performance as Ashley, who starts off the evening thinking she will just have to get through the night fending off the cheesy romantic ploys of Luke until she can put him to bed, only to have the evening spin out of control in ways she never could have anticipated. Levi Miller is entertaining as Luke, a twelve year old kid with some very surprising and dark layers to his personality and Miller pulls it off with a devilish glee. Likewise, Ed Oxenbould makes a good compatriot for Luke as the two play off with one another, even if his character is more often than not the voice of reason of the two. Likewise, Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton have amusing supporting roles as Luke's parents.  

Better Watch Out is a difficult film to review in the sense that there are a number of big plot twists throughout the film that I really don't want to spoil for potential viewers. I can confidently say it is a film that people will either love or hate on account of the film's twisted sense of humor, especially with the holiday backdrop. Still, the film does a good job evoking Middle-America suburbia, snarky, raunchy humor and the dangers of toxic masculinity. I loved it, but then again I am pretty twisted myself. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Halloween Horrorfest: Stir of Echoes

Stir of Echoes is a great ghost story mystery that came out at absolutely the worst possible time...a month after The Sixth Sense was released. Aside from some surface similarities, the two movies couldn't be more different. Thankfully, Stir of Echoes went on to find a healthy life on home video and cable, where most people discovered it.

Tom (played by Kevin Bacon) lives a quiet life in their rented townhome with his wife Maggie (played by Kathryn Erbe) and young son Jake (played by Zachary David Cope). While at a party one evening, Tom agrees to be hypnotized by Maggie's older sister Lisa (played by Illeana Douglas) to prove it isn't real. Not only is he successfully hypnotized but when he comes out of it he finds himself having visions of the ghost of a young woman, Samantha (played by Jennifer Morrison), who went missing from the neighborhood many years back. As the visions intensify, Tom becomes increasingly obsessed with finding out what happened to Jennifer as well as what is happening to himself and these new found psychic powers that have been unlocked, risking his family, his job and ultimately his life in the process. 

David Koepp adapted the film from the novel from Richard Matheson. Now, I've never read the original novel the film was based on but I've always felt the film was a rather unique and intriguing ghost story. At it's core, it has a real relatable blue collar sensibility to its characters. Because of this, it makes the story more engrossing and pulled me into it's narrative. Koepp, along with his actors do a nice job of grounding the story and makes the more fantastical elements work because of it. He also does a good job of slowly revealing the mystery central to the story. What does the ghost want from Tom and what happened to her? I have to say I genuinely did not see the ending coming from the film and that's a positive to how well the film was written and directed. 

Kevin Bacon is front and center in this movie and gives a fantastic performance as Tom. He really does a great job capturing the character as an ordinary man caught in some pretty extraordinary circumstances whose life slowly begins to unravel the more he digs into Samantha's disappearance and death. Kathryn Erbe does well as his wife, Maggie, who is trying her best to help Tom in his recently developed troubles the best she can, even as things start getting decidedly creepy and strange. I appreciated that while she functioned as the voice of reason in the relationship, she at least believed what her husband was telling her was true and tried to be supportive. Illeana Douglas has a fun supporting role as the one who gets Tom into this mess in the beginning by unwittingly unlocking his psychic abilities by asking him to be more open minded while she had him under hypnosis. She plays the comic relief of sorts in the film, but does a good job of it and adds a unique element to the film. 

Overall, I feel like over the years this film has grown and found it's audience. It was unfairly overlooked when it was released back in 1999. It's one I've always enjoyed and had still really like revisiting it all these years later for this review. It's certainly one of the more unique and intriguing ghost story films I've seen.    

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Halloween Horrorfest: Flatliners

The question of what happens when we die is something that people have speculated on in one form or another for eons. Flatliners tells the story of five ambitious med students who decide to conduct highly risky experiments in an effort to find out if there is life after death. With the reportedly terrible remake having come out last month, I felt the desire to rewatch the original film as I remembered really liking it.

Nelson (played by Kiefer Sutherland) proposes an experiment to a select group of his classmates, David (played by Kevin Bacon), Rachel (played by Julia Roberts), Joe (played by William Baldwin), and Steckle (played by Oliver Platt). He intends to carefully kill himself to experience death and needs them to bring him back after a minute. Despite initially turning him down, each classmate shows up to help out of their own morbid curiosity. In particular, Rachel has an interest in near-death experiences and shares Nelson's interest in seeing if there is anything else out there. The experiment turns out to be a success and Nelson comes back describing what he experienced. The others decide they want to try it and start betting between one another who should be next, using the time they remain deceased as the betting chip. David argues he should go next as a control for the experiment since he is an atheist and does not expect there to be an afterlife. However, there is an unforseen side effect from the experiment. Each person who does it finds themselves haunted by the sins of their pasts, and they find themselves struggling to find a way to escape it.

The film was directed by Joel Schumacher from a script by Peter Filardi. Joel Schumacher is a director that has had his reputation sullied a bit over the years due to his two Batman films (Batman Forever and Batman & Robin), but I promise you all that with the right material he really is a great director. Flatliners is definitely a film that was within his wheelhouse. He fills the film with a nice gothic feeling in the setting, with the students committing their experiments at night in a campus building being rehabbed to ensure they are not disturbed. The production design of the film is certainly memorable and evocative as well, adding a nice visual element to Filardi's compelling story. Of course, it's not all successful. The film has the main character, Nelson, living in this huge, loft apartment in downtown Chicago. Either Nelson's family is extremely well off or Nelson is going to have one hell of a Student Loan debt when he's done. There is also an early scene in a hospital that doesn't look anything like any hospital I have ever seen, with neon and deep shadows. So, clearly it's style over realism for the film. But at least the film remains visually interesting which helps set the creepy mood for the film. Jan de Bont, who would go on to an uneven directing career of his own, imbues the film with some beautiful imagery as the Director of Photography. James Newton Howard comes up with some memorably haunting themes for the film including a opening track that starts the film off wonderfully.

The film has a great cast with Kiefer Sutherland leading the group as the driven and reckless Nelson. Julia Roberts gives a good performance as well as Rachel, who has a genuine interest in any sort of afterlife and interviews patients who have died and come back about their experiences. Kevin Bacon gives a spirited performance as David, the gung-ho cowboy doctor who plays by his own rules, something that gets him suspended from the Med School program and an ideal participant in Nelson's experiment. Oliver Platt does what he has always done best, play the quick-witted comic relief does a great job here as well at breaking the tension at the best times.      

As far as films that needed to be remade go, I don't think Flatliners was one of them. The original film has a strong cast and an intriguing, original storyline. Add to that great direction from Joel Schumacher, memorable art direction and an evocative score. It may not be the scariest movie ever, but it is suitably creepy and does a good job telling the story of five med students who wanted to know if there was an afterlife so much they were willing to die for it, and did.   

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Halloween Horrorfest: The Child's Play Saga

There is something oddly unnerving about dolls. I'm not sure what it is about them that make people uneasy. Something about how they're shaped to be humanoid and somehow you expect them to move and yet they don't makes them hard to trust on a subconscious level. It has certainly made for great fodder for authors of scary stories and no other series has gotten more mileage out of the concept of the evil, killer doll that the Child's Play series. Chucky, the Good Guy doll possessed with the spirit of serial killer Charles Lee Ray as hacked and slashed his way across seven movies now with no end in sight. He's survived three decades without a remake, something his other 80's villains can't say. He's gone the way of meta humor parody and back again, continuing to bring thrills and chills with that iconic maniacal laugh. Old Chucky has been a doll I have long loved to hate, making me give a sideways glance to any My Buddy doll (the real life doll Chucky was based on) that crosses my path.

The film begins with a foot chase between notorious serial killer Charles Lee Ray (played by Brad Dourif) being chased by police detective Mike Norris (played by Chris Sarandon) through the streets of downtown Chicago. Wounded, Charles takes refuge in a toy store and realizing he's dying, transfers his soul into a nearby Good Guy doll using a voodoo chant. In the process, the toy store is destroyed and Charles is declared dead. The doll winds up in the hands of single mom Karen Barclay (played by Catherine Hicks), who buys the doll for her young son Andy (played by Alex Vincent). It isn't long before people start mysteriously dying and each time Andy and Chucky are there. At first no one believes the doll is alive but quickly discover the terrifying truth. Even worse, since Andy is the first person let in on Chucky's secret, Chucky is able to transfer his soul into the body of the little boy through the same Voodoo spell. 

The original film took an interesting route to becoming the film everyone knows, with the original script by Don Mancini being more of a psychological thriller, at least initially, and toying with the audience more with the truth about the doll revealed later on than the overt and upfront the doll is possessed movie we have now. I can only imagine it would make some scenes scarier, such as the scene where Andy's Mom discovers there are no batteries in the Chucky doll and then it comes to life right in her hands. Of course, with us being six sequels in at this point, it's probably moot as anyone coming to the film already knows damn well the doll is alive. Still, even with the cat out of the bag right from the start, director Tom Holland manages to craft a better than average horror film and capture a good deal of tension out of what is really an absurd premise. The three leads all do great in their roles, especially Catherine Hicks and Alex Vincent as mother and son. Brad Dourif is downright iconic in his voice work for Chucky, making it his most recognized work. Just through his voice work he brings so much personality to what is essentially a puppet. It's a role he would continue to reprise through all of the subsequent films. 

After the film was released to protests and controversy from parent groups over a horror film about a killer doll, MGM (the studio that produced the original film) sold the sequel rights to Universal Studios, who immediately put a sequel into production. With a new script from original film writer Don Mancini and Alex Vincent and Brad Dourif returning as Andy and Chucky respectively, Child's Play 2 was on it's way to being a solid follow-up to the original film. 

Some time has passed since the original film and Andy Barclay is now in foster care as his mother has been committed to a mental hospital for insisting her son's doll was indeed alive, something Andy also insists is true, but falls on the deaf ears of adults. Meanwhile, the Good Guy doll is put back into production as the burned, charred body of the original Chucky doll is rehabbed and, to no one's surprise, comes back to life. Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif) quickly discovers that Andy has been placed into the care of Phil and Joanne Simpson (played by Gerritt Graham and Jenny Agutter) and high tails it there for one last ditch attempt to use Andy to get out the doll body once and for all. Meanwhile, Andy is finding it tough to fit in at the new foster home, but warms up to fellow foster kid, the teenage Kyle (played by Christine Elise). Once Chucky shows up and starts taking out anyone who gets in his way, it's up to Andy and Kyle to take out Chucky themselves.

The second film is a solid follow-up with some very interesting stylistic choices. The foster home Andy goes to is decorated almost exclusively in pastel pink and blue colors, which is a bit of an eyesore for me personally. I struggle to think why anyone would paint their house almost exclusively in those two colors. It's such an obnoxious design choice. The film also has a unique shooting style with a favoring of low angle shots throughout much of the first half of the film, which is not something you see often in films. I'm sure the intention was to put us on the same level as Andy and Chucky and it gives the film a unique look, even if it's abandoned as the film goes on. 

Universal's response to Child's Play 2 was so positive, a third film was immediately put into production. Coming out a mere nine months after the second film, Child's Play 3 would wind up being a low point in the series. Series writer Don Mancini took some of the blame as he admitted he was low on ideas so soon after writing the second film. 

The third film jumps ahead eight years with Andy Barclay (played by Justin Whalin) going off to Military School after failing to settle into a series of foster homes. Meanwhile, the Good Guy doll has gone back into production with a prototype made from the remains of the Chucky Doll from the second film, with predictable results. In no time, Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif) is resurrected and tracks down Andy, shipping himself to the Military Academy. However, the package is intercepted by young cadet Tyler (played by Jeremy Sylvers) and he takes it as he wants a Good Guy doll for himself. At first Chucky is irritated until he realizes that since he has a new body, he can transfer his soul into Tyler rather than have to deal with Andy. However, before he can finish teaching Tyler the game "Hide the Soul", they're interrupted and Chucky is taken away from Tyler by the C.O of the school. This, of course, unleashes a whole new wave of terror from Chucky as he tries to get to Tyler while Andy once again tries to stop the killer possessed doll. 

Despite the setting of the Military Academy adding some novelty to the film and a few memorable moments, this entry does seem like it's going through the motions and recycling the same plot as before. Since it was rushed into production, it doesn't feel like the script was as well thought out either and preferring to go with broadly drawn characters and expected plot developments. Still, the new setting does give the Chuckster some new ways to unleash mayhem, including swapping out paint bullets with live ammo for the school's war games and some heavy artillery in the form of grenades. It also doesn't help that Andy is taking the main heroic role here but is largely ineffective as a hero, with fellow cadet DeSilva (played by Perrey Reeves) outshining him at every turn, demonstrating what a resourceful hero she is. I mean, Andy is dealing with Chucky for the third time and in the process dealt with countless amounts of death and mayhem yet he's a wimp for much of the film. The film is also really repetitious with Chucky tormenting Andy or working Tyler and then they're interrupted and Chucky is taken away. This happens three or four times in the movie and it is a bit annoying. In the positive column, this film has one of my favorite death scenes in the series where someone sees Chucky moving around on his own and dies of a heart attack before Chucky has a chance to kill him, which just pisses the little possessed doll off.  Despite it all, it's easy to see why the series went on a seven year hiatus.

After the horror genre got a nice shot in the arm from Wes Craven's Scream, horror was once again a hot property and signaled a comeback for the Chuckster. Arriving in October of 1998, Bride of Chucky was a fantastic breath of fresh air for the series. Series mainstay Don Mancini once again returned to write a new script, taking things in a new direction while introducing a bride for everyone's favorite killer doll. 

Tiffany (played by Jennifer Tilly) was the one time girlfriend of Charles Lee Ray and has tracked down the remains of the Chucky doll from the previous movie. She proceeds to stitch them together and resurrect Chucky with the same chant as before, as read from a Voodoo for Dummies book no less (still one of my best loved props, ever). Soon enough, the stitched up doll is back to life. However, when Tiffany finds out that despite her impression, Chucky (played by Brad Dourif) never intended to propose to her with a ring she found, she locks him away and gives him a brand new girl doll the same size as he to play with.
Enraged, Chucky kills Tiffany and transfers her soul into the other doll. In order to transfer their souls into another human body though, Chucky needs an amulet he was buried with in Hackensack, New Jersey. The two con one of Tiffany's neighbors, Jesse (played by Nick Stabile), to deliver the two dolls to the caretaker's office at the Hackensack cemetery. He takes his girlfriend Jade (played by Katherine Heigl), who is looking to escape an overly controlling and abusive home life with her uncle Sheriff Kincaid (played by John Ritter). Soon enough, the quartet hit the road as Chucky and Tiffany deal with any obstructions in the way of them getting to their destination, whether it be Kincaid, his lackey deputy, or a pair of larcenous con people, among others. 

What I loved about Bride of Chucky is that it has a wicked sense of humor. Whether it's Chucky and Tiffany arguing how to best off someone, Tiffany waxing poetic about her idol Martha Stewart or Chucky getting all meta and admitting that explaining how they wound up as dolls was a long story and if said story was a movie, "It'd take three or four sequels just to do it justice." The film finally embraces the absurdity of it's premise and leans into it while crafting some genuinely funny gags and never feeling burdened with actually being scary, because by this point Chucky really isn't. Another thing that impressed me was just how much the animatronics for Chucky and Tiffany had advanced since the previous film. They are so incredibly expressive in this film and feel that much more like real characters. They are even able to move around better and even smoke (for some reason, seeing Chucky smoking a big ol' doobie is one of the funnier things I've seen). Which fits as Chucky, along with his new bride, segue into becoming the main characters of the series starting with this entry. It's weird that Chucky and especially Tiffany become far more entertaining characters than the human ones, with Chucky as the sassiest killer doll ever that I couldn't help but love (his doll rendition in this one is even kinda cute) and Tiffany is the perfect partner in homicide for him as well. 

When Seed of Chucky was released, it took the change of tone with the previous film and continued running with it with a newly resurrected Chucky and Tiffany discovering to their shock that they have a son (who we saw being born in the cliffhanger ending of the previous film). This also marks the strangest entry in the series, with some real wild plot points that are both funny and a bit inspired. To illustrate, John Waters shows up playing a sleazy tabloid reporter and it's the most normal thing in the movie. 

Glen (voiced by Billy Boyd) is the offspring of Chucky and Tiffany living as the ventriloquist dummy of a rather unpleasant man when he spots a news report from the set of a new movie called "Chucky Goes Psycho." He recognizes the two puppets being used in the movie and figures they must be his parents due to all three having a "Made in Japan" imprint on their wrists (which of course has led Glen to presume he's Japanese). Glen travels to Hollywood and in short order resurrects Chucky and Tiffany into the movie prop dolls using the same amulet they were searching for in the previous movie. Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif) and Tiffany (played by Jennifer Tilly) are initially shocked to discover that Glen is their kid but decide they are going to be one happy family as soon as they transfer their souls into real people. They find the perfect targets, with Tiffany deciding she wants to transfer her soul into the body of the star of the movie, Jennifer Tilly while deciding Chucky should transfer his soul into Redman, who Jennifer Tilly is trying to get to cast her in his biblical epic. During this, they are also trying to determine if Glen is a girl or a boy (Glen is correct and says sometimes he feels like a boy and sometimes a girl). Chucky is firmly on the side of him being raised a boy and Tiffany wants him to be a girl named Glenda (the references to the Ed Wood film Glen/Glenda are pretty overt). Tiffany also thinks they should stop killing to set a good example for their new child, something neither one has much success with following (although Tiffany going through the 12 step program and trying to apply it to her homicidal compulsions was pretty funny).   

Seed of Chucky is without a doubt the weirdest of the series (and for a series about a possessed killer doll, that's saying something). This film is also the most self-aware of the series, with Jennifer Tilly playing both herself and Tiffany both in the movie and movie within the movie (which Tiffany, naturally, thinks is perfect casting). Tilly is also game for poking fun at herself all throughout the film as insecure and needy, as well as wondering why she keeps losing movie roles to Julia Roberts ("I could've played Erin Brockovich and I wouldn't have needed the Wonderbra," she remarks at one point). The fact that Tiffany appears to idolize Jennifer Tilly and want to be her is also amusing, having apparently moved on from idolizing Martha Stewart from the previous film (probably because she's being executed, as Tiffany observes while watching a news report). Meanwhile, Chucky is determined that his son is going to be part of the family business, despite Glen's protests that he doesn't want to kill people, causing his psyche to start to crack. 

Don Mancini graduated from screenwriter to director as well for this installment as for the first time in the series, Chucky and Tiffany (as well as Glen) take front and center as the main characters for the film. The writing, as weird and wild as it is does give the three puppets plenty of material to works with as the laughs keep coming from the dark and twisted places you would expect a film about a family of killer dolls would come from. 

After the disappointing returns from Seed of Chucky, it was quickly realized there needed to be a course correction for the series and Don Mancini went back to the drawing board and reigned in the more outlandish and satirical elements as he took things back to basics and crafted Curse of Chucky, a film more in line with the genuinely creepy original.   

Sarah (played by Chantal Quesnelle) lives in a large, isolated house with her daughter, Nica (played by Fiona Dourif), who has been confined to a wheelchair since birth. They are delivered a package and discover the contents are a Good Guy doll (guess who!) and wonder who it could be from. When Sarah winds up dead, Nica's family arrives for the funeral and to assist making preparations for what's next for Nica, since they feel she wouldn't be able to keep up the huge house on her own. Meanwhile, Nica begins to suspect there is more to the doll than appears, especially as more people start to die, and sets out to figure out where it came from. 

Don Mancini once again took up both writing and directing duties on this film. Despite being the sixth film in the series, he manages to take the Chuckster back to his more sinister roots and actually make him pretty scary again. Considering the joke machine Chucky (once again voiced by Brad Dourif) had become in the previous two films, this is no small feat. The overlying mystery to the film was a nice touch as well since the audience already knows Chucky is alive, the intriguing question was why he was and the film is really clever in how it's revealed as well as how the events in this film tie into the events of the previous five films. He also assembled a nice cast for the film, headlined by Chucky voice actor Brad Dourif's own daughter Fiona as Nica, who makes a worthwhile adversary to Chucky. The film also contains a couple of fun cameos from Jennifer Tilly as Tiffany and perhaps even cooler, Alex Vincent as a grown up Andy Barclay!  

And now we arrive at the most recent film in the saga, released last week came Cult of Chucky. The film takes place four years later and manages to bring in a lot of plot threads that have been weaved throughout the entire series into this film. 

Since having the murders of the previous film blamed on her, Nika (played by Fiona Dourif) has spent the past four years in a mental hospital. As her therapy has progressed, she has come to believe that Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif) was a hallucination brought on by her mental state to help her cope with the murders she supposedly committed. She is moved to a new medium security ward as part of her improvement in treatment. It's only when a Good Guy doll is introduced to group therapy and people start turning up dead that she once again begins to believe that the doll really was alive. Meanwhile, Andy Barclay (played by Alex Vincent) is living alone at an isolated cabin. Locked away he has the dismembered head of the Chucky doll that was sent to him at the end of the previous film and spends his nights slowly torturing the still very much alive head. When he hears news of what is happening in the hospital, he heads there with the hope he can help convince the people in charge that Nika's claims are real and stop Chucky once and for all.

Don Mancini once again returns as writer and director for this installment and brings an interesting style to this film, making it one of the more visually unique films in the series. Filled with stark whites against a snowy landscape lends the mental hospital setting a certain almost surreal quality. He populates the film with a number of colorful characters, including a guy with multiple personalities nicknamed Multiple Malcolm (played by Adam Hurtig), that takes on an interesting role in the film. I hesitate to discuss the plot of this one in too much detail as much of the fun comes in the surprises, which this one has a few. The film also does let a little more humor into the proceedings this time, including an amusing reference to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (which makes sense as Brad Dourif was in that film as well as the mental hospital setting). Chucky has also picked up a few new tricks this time out, courtesy of website, as he announces at one point.

In the realm of horror franchises, the Chucky saga is unique in the sense that it has had the same creative team behind almost every single entry in the series. Don Mancini has been the writer on each entry (although director Tom Holland significantly rewrote Mancini's script for the first film) and even took a bigger role on the last three films by stepping up as director as well. This is almost unheard of within the horror genre for the same creative force to be behind a series of films, especially one seven films deep. For the past 29 years, this little killer doll has kept coming back under the direction and writing of Don Mancini and the series has gone from genuinely terrifying to self parody and back again. It keeps some of the best continuity between films, with characters from the prior films returning for later films, including seeing little Alex Vincent all grown up as if this were Boyhood with significantly more decapitations.  

It is interesting how this series has grown and evolved over the years, with Chucky, as well as Tiffany, becoming more and more of a central role as the series progressed. The mythology has also continued to grow and develop which has opened new possibilites for the series. Due to the absurdity of the premise, this series is probably able to get away with more than others would. I can only speak in a general sense because the latest film very much plays into that aspect as well and I would hate to spoil it for my fellow fans of the homicidal Good Guy doll. Of course, the latest film once again left things wide open for another film in the series. Where it goes from here is anyone's guess. Don Mancini continues to manage to come up with fun new directions for the series to go in and I can only hope he once again can for Chucky's eighth go around. I remain confident it will be something entertainingly, dementedly oddball, as these films all seem to be.