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Cult of Chucky (Blu-ray Review)

With the success of the surprisingly pretty good Curse of Chucky back in 2013, writer/director Don Mancini has once again found a way to put together a film that displays the intrigue, entertainment, and horror that comes with the killer doll named Chucky. Cult of Chucky is the seventh entry in the now 29-year-old series and the second direct-to-video release. Given the current model of finding old properties and making them new again, I was surprised when ‘Curse’ was somehow not given a theatrical release, but with plenty of strong films finding an audience without that theatrical benefit these days, I’m pretty happy with getting ‘Cult’ as it is. It helps that ‘Cult’ is a pretty solid entry that will easily delight old fans as well as bring joy to those looking for some fresh ideas. Thanks to an unrated Blu-ray release that goes along with a same-day (R-rated) Netflix release, everyone has the chance to see what our favorite ‘Good Guy’ is up to.

Film:

This may be the first Child’s Play film where a concern for spoilers is necessary so I will tread lightly. That said, here comes a minor spoiler for ‘Curse’ as the sneaky realization of that film actually being a continuation of the series, as opposed to the presumed reboot, means a lot as far as the direction of this film. ‘Cult’ picks up a few years after the previous film with a focus on Nica Pierce (Fionna Dourif, daughter of Brad). She has been convinced by her psychiatrist (Michael Therriault) that she was responsible for the murders of her friends and family. As a result, Nica’s breakthrough allows her to be transferred to a minimum security mental institution. Problems arise when not one but two Good Guy dolls arrive, one having been brought by Jennifer Tilly’s Tiffany Valentine (who is playing Jennifer Tilly, possessed by Tiffany, but not really – it’s complicated). Low and behold, mysterious deaths start occurring, and Nica quickly moves back to knowing who is actually behind the violence.

This is one of the more plot-heavy Child’s Play films, but for a pretty neat reason. Mancini has had an odd history with this series, as the studio and the first film’s director, Tom Holland, were not happy with his original ideas and changed some concepts around. Still, Mancini has stuck with the series, scripting every entry, and found plenty of ways to maintain the series’ continuity, while also bringing plenty of the ideas and tone shifts he has wanted. Having directed the last few entries, including the rightfully maligned Seed of Chucky, the series has gone through some interesting shifts, but ‘Cult’ manages to be the film that brings many past characters together in one big reunion of a movie.

Fans will ideally smile, at the very least, as they see little references to past sequels and easter eggs in the production design, such as a Kent Military Academy sweatshirt. It also means getting a full return of Alex Vincent as Andy Barclay (following a small tease in the previous film). These touches don’t alienate newer viewers, but they do count for making this movie feel like a part of a whole, let alone work to set up a future sequel, along with other aspects of the plot.

As for the film itself, there is a lot of good stuff to be found in it. While not as tightly structured as the gothic haunted house-type of film found in ‘Curse,’ there is still a clear drive to make this entry fall more in line with a tense horror film, over a comedic one. ‘Cult’ is perhaps one of the more gonzo entries simply because of a few twists I will not get into and the energy provided by Brad Dourif’s vocal performance as Chucky, the younger Dourif’s work as Nica and Tilly. Still, the film does take a lot of time in between the maniacal laughs of the Chucky character to deliver a slow-burn thriller about people trapped with a lil’ monster in a mental institution.

Much like the previous film, Mancini has strived for a great visual look. I mentioned gothic tones with the previous movie and this film capitalizes on a stark, minimalist look that can’t help but feel inherently creepy. Lots of white walls and dark costumes make for a fun balance in colors that stand out against each other. The use of red (mainly with blood) upsets that balance and feels like something best suited for 70s/80s European horror. These films may not be getting the full theatrical treatment, but Mancini certainly isn’t settling for a cheap look in his movies either.

All that said, it is the eventual focus on Chucky and his latest antics that picks up the momentum. Once that hits in the second half, the film delights in the increasingly violent deaths and the darkly comedic pleasures that come from what Dourif brings to Chucky. This may be the goriest of the Child’s Play films yet, but there is still a grizzly enjoyment to be found in watching this iconic horror character do his thing in a new setting, with some fresh ideas going along with it.

If there is any problem I have, it’s how the film just sort of stops, right as it is gets going. Sure, this kind of release means another sequel is inevitable, and I look forward to it, but there’s a whole film here that almost feels incomplete in favor of a cliffhanger ending of sorts. Still, there is plenty of fun to be had, and Fiona Dourif is proving to be a strong addition to the franchise. But who are we kidding, this is Chucky’s show, and he seems to be back in prime form.

 

Video:

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail: Cult of Chucky is a fine example of seeing a film that’s the product of its modest budget. Digitally shot and full of cinematic ambition, there is plenty to admire, even with some very minor shortcomings for a video presentation. Given the stark surroundings, details standout impressively and there is never an instance where clarity suffers.

Depth: Good depth work here, as scenes featuring multiple characters, feel well-balanced, with no blurring.

Black Levels: Black levels are deep enough, though the heavy use of white means seeing areas where they are not quite as strong.

Color Reproduction: Color use is very deliberate, so the presence of Chucky, in particular, stands out given his clothes and design. The use of red also pops plenty when becoming a factor in the film.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones come across quite well, as facial textures allow for a good enough look at the details found in the characters.

Noise/Artifacts: Some noise is apparent, though nothing that sets the viewing experience back.

 

Audio:

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French and Spanish DTS 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Dynamics: This 5.1 lossless soundtrack does a fine job letting audiences hear the mayhem on display. The setting allows for some clever play with the auditory experience, as empty halls and minimal characters mean getting a nice emphasis on ambient effects and other details. When the horror does amp up, there is no shortage of wild sound elements either.

Low-Frequency Extension: The LFE channel gets some fun moments to shine, as the soundtrack can be pretty aggressive when delivering on the horror and adding some weather noise in the background.

Surround Sound Presentation: Once again, it is the minimalist nature of this film that helps the audio track shine. The surround presentation means getting little hints here and there from different sides of the room, and it makes this soundtrack play quite well in that regard.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone and every doll sounds loud and clear.

 

Extras:

First off, the film arrives in a pretty cool lenticular package, which is nice to look at for sure. Additionally, while each featurette is under 10 minutes, there is enough to enjoy for a release such as this, along with a solid commentary track to round it all out. Also notable, this Blu-ray contains both the R-rated and unrated version of the film. The unrated version adds about 50 seconds, which includes a stinger after the credits.

Features Include:

Audio Commentary with Director/Writer/Executive Producer Don Mancini and Head Puppeteer/Associate Producer Tony Gardner – While it seems like a missed opportunity to not have both Dourif’s features on this track as well, there is plenty to enjoy in listening to these two discuss the film and the series’ legacy.

Inside the Insanity of Cult of Chucky (HD, 6:43) – A look at the series and it’s enduring legacy, along with this new film and where things could be headed.

Good Guy Gone Bad: The Incarnations of Chucky (HD, 5:03) – A look at how the doll is made and operated.

The Dollhouse (HD, 7:37) – The cast and crew talk about the series.

Deleted Scenes (HD, 5:36) – Deleted scenes with optional commentary by Don Mancini

Trailers (HD)

DVD Copy of the Film

Digital HD Copy of the Film

 

Summary:

In addition to being a solid entry in the series, Cult of Chucky does have me excited for the continuation of this series. Not a bad place to be for a horror series that is seven entries in and shows no signs of slowing down. The Blu-ray presents a solid video and audio presentation as well, along with a nice collection of extras to round out the package. If you’re in need of another look at one of the more iconic horror villains in recent years, this will make for a good watch.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

1 Response to “Cult of Chucky (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Brian White

    I’m going to have to check this one out on Netflix first before blind buying on Blu.