The first thing I want to say is to the fans of the Child’s Play/Chucky franchise, I tried. I truly did. The second would also be a bit of a warning; I have not seen most of this series. I genuinely enjoyed the first movie and thought the second was silly fun. Since then I have only seen pieces of the follow-ups at various parties/events in my life. I get that watching Cult of Chucky without being a fan of the series might be a bit like jumping in with Jason Takes Manhattan, but it is what it is.
So with these warnings, ultimately I found myself… underwhelmed. Cult of Chucky picks up not long after Curse of Chucky (as I’ve read). Nica from the last movie is in an institution taking the blame for Chucky’s murders in the previous film. Andy (from the original films) is also struggling with having experienced Chucky hanging over his head. Nica eventually takes the blame for the murders, acknowledges that Chucky is just in her mind, and sent to a lower security mental health prison. There she meets various other inmates and workers. Not long after being moved Chucky manages to find his way into the mental health facility, and then as we’ve come to expect he goes on a killing spree.
This franchise remains a bit unique in the slasher sub-genre, simply because it’s forced to work around a possessed doll instead of an overpowered killer. There is a balancing act between brutal kills and needing to make it believable that a doll could pull them off. This movie does a fair job at that, but nothing that blew me away. It feels a touch lazy at points, and I never had an “Oh wow! That was a good one” moment. When a slasher film loses, it’s actual fear factor and becomes a jump scare gore fest it needs to be good at a jump scare gore fest… this movie is not.
In addition to less than impressive kills, I think another problem is this movie really wants to be artsy. There was clearly a lot of thought in shots, attempting to balance Nica’s tormented mind with reality, creepy set design, everything you want in a “something more” horror film. The problem is none of that succeeds. Instead of feeling complex, it feels overworked. You get a lot of what could potentially be called “great shots” in a movie that simply doesn’t live up to them, so they feel awkward. In addition to that, it doesn’t lean into it and still tries to retain the camp that one might expect. So right after an attempt to be artsy, you get a bad one-liner that is supposed to make you cringe but chuckle. The two worlds never meet and never succeed. I don’t mind “bad” horror movies, in fact, I love them. But if you are going to make a “bad” horror movie, do it.
I hate to just trash on something, but I found myself spending most of the movie watching the timer to see when it was going to end. There were a few moments that I was intrigued, but they only served to point out how flawed the rest of the experience was. When the movie attempts to be funny, I found myself wishing I was watching a Nightmare on Elm Street movie.
Despite this, I can honestly say that for a straight to VOD movie it’s not all that bad. There are assumptions made with straight to VOD movies, and the horror genre is slowly starting to change that, this movie is no exception. It at no point feels cheap. There was thought put into the set, the CGI is solid (though I always find Chucky looking more goofy than scary), and the acting is good all the way through. None of what makes me dislike this movie comes from it being straight to VOD, and I could honestly say it’s better than some horror films that get big screen releases. It also has solid jump scares. A lot of people look down on jump scares, and I will admit I would rather suspense. However, when jump scares are done right they are effective, and this one does them right, in at least a few instances.
Also even with all my complaints, I find myself hard-pressed to call it bad. When faced with the thumbs up or thumbs down on Netflix I just opted not to rate it. There are some good things happening, and I don’t want to simply dismiss it because of that. I think the problem with this movie is that it’s a bit lost. It’s trying to retain the charm of what slasher films were for so long but doesn’t want to be trapped in that box. So it has a lot of the campy, gore-filled, mess that we all know and love; while slapping on more cinematic moments. I found myself wishing it would have just leaned into what I assume the rest of the franchise became.
My bottom line is… eh. If you are a fan of the franchise, I am sure you’ll want to see it. If you aren’t, I would highly recommend not starting here. For me, I was not impressed, but remain curious about the other movies I missed. Also if it manages to learn it lessons the very likely upcoming 8th film could be entertaining.