When he came up wth the story for Tom Holland’s Child’s Play way back in 1988, Don Mancini was in fact laying the groundwork for a decades-spanning series of films featuring Chucky, the iconic Good Guy doll possessed by the spirit of serial killer Charles Lee Ray. This franchise has lasted so long in part by changing and evolving with the times, in a steady transition from (semi-)serious horror to camp farce – and it has now, as the title of the latest instalment implies, achieved its own reflexively self-idolising cult status.
Cult Of Chucky brings the whole franchise family back together again: Chucky himself, as well as his long-time girlfriend Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly); Chucky’s first playmate little Andy (Alex Vincent), now all grown up into a driven, if somewhat unstable, vigilante against any Chucky activities; and Chucky’s most recent target Nica, against whom Chucky is waging a blood feud because her mother Sarah, while still pregnant with Nica, had caused Charles to be killed by the police in the first place.
If all this sounds a bit incestuous, there is the added frisson that Chucky is voiced, as ever, by Brad Dourif, while his nemesis Nica is played by Dourif’s own daughter Fiona – leading to some very perverse Freudian play in the final scenes. What is more, the principal setting of the film is the snowbound psychiatric institution where Nica is being held while she recovers from the obviously deluded conviction that her family was slain by a killer doll rather than by her own hand – and when Chuck expressly refers to the asylum as a “fucking cuckoo’s nest”, he is also alluding to the 1975 film that gave Brad Dourif his breakout rôle. Meanwhile, Tiffany keeps being told that she looks “exactly like Jennifer Tilly.”
Cult Of Chucky represents a postmodern reopening of The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari, as characters with schizophrenia or dissociative identity disorder project their own guilty fantasies onto the therapeutic Good Guy dolls, here multiple to match the competing personalities within the individual patients. The question repeatedly being raised here concerns whether there genuinely is a Chucky (or even several of them) terrorising and murdering the inmates, or indeed whether these incursions are all in the deranged minds of vulnerable, ‘receptive’ Nica and her fellow patients. It goes without saying that all this franchise’s previous instalments weigh heavily against the latter being true, but then again, in this entry more than in any other, madness comes out to play, and Chucky really does seem to be a part of Nica’s (and the rest’s) psychic makeup. The results are suitably nuts, as in their different ways Andy, Nica and the others all seem to have a bit of Chucky locked away deep inside. Gory, grotesque and hilariously unhinged, this is a cult you will want to join.