Curse of Chucky: Less a Curse, More Than Child’s Play

My history with Chucky and the Child’s Play movies goes back a very long time, long before Curse of Chucky. When 1998’s Bride Of Chucky was released, it was the first time I can remember wanting to watch a horror movie multiple times on my own. Usually, my dad was putting them on and the rest of us had to deal because there was just one television in the house. The humor in Bride Of Chucky was what helped me overcome any fear I had with watching the original three films.

Around that year, my mom bought my brother and I these gigantic dolls that looked like Good Guy knock offs. She got me the girl version while my brother got the boy. We respectfully renamed the dolls Chucky and Tiffany. One day when my mother heard us playing in our playroom, she got closer and started hearing the chant Charles uses to put his soul into the original Good Guy Doll. When she opened the door, there laid my brother on the floor next to his doll and me with one hand on my brother’s forehead and the other on the doll’s. She asked us what we were doing, and my mother’s only reaction was, “Marc [my dad], deal with your children.” After, we told her that we wanted to become the dolls so we didn’t have to go to school.

Both Chucky and Tiffany dolls sit pretending to not be alive.

Then, 2004’s Seed Of Chucky happened, and by that time (at 14) I had seen all the films leading up to it multiple times. I even had a majority of Bride Of Chucky memorized. Seed felt different though. It played too hard into its comedy and had me scratching my head thinking, “What did I just watch?”

I felt as though I was seeing the real idea that “all good things must come to an end” happen before my very eyes. 

The years passed, and suddenly it’s 2013. I’m sitting in the main hall of the Javitz’s center at New York Comic Con (NYCC). Series creator Don Mancini is on stage with Brad Dourif (voice of Chucky), Jennifer Tilly (Voice of Tiffany), and Alex Vincent (Andy from the original two films). They break the news to us that there is going to be a sixth film in the franchise.

Was I excited? You bet! Was I scared? More than you can possibly know.

Where in every other horror franchise new writers would come in, Don Mancini had written every installment of Child’s Play except for the newest remake. That meant that he was behind Chucky’s ever-growing personality and character development. Most Big Bads in horror films that appear in multiple installments usually become versions of what their film’s writer believes they are. If you manage to maintain the same actor for every installment, then you have the chance that they’ll fight to keep true to the character. The thing with Chucky is that with a consistent writer and a consistent actor behind the wheel, they can work together to grow the character.

Nica greets her sister and the other members of her family.

2013’s Curse Of Chucky proves that “going back to basics” really works. Mancini did away with the portions of the Chucky History that clashed with viewers (because they were bad choices) and stripped the film’s storyline back down to its bare essentials. The end result was a revenge story that made those nine years of Chucky being lost in limbo well worth the wait.

Curse Of Chucky has Chucky being sent to the Pierce residence where Sarah (Shantel Quesnel) and her daughter, Nica (Fiona Dourif), reside. According to the second retconned history (the first being in Bride Of Chucky) of Charles Lee Ray, he was infatuated with Sarah and wound up kidnapping her while she was pregnant with Nica. When things turn south for Charles, he ends up stabbing Sarah, causing Nica to eventually be born with a defect that confines her to a wheelchair. This also triggers the events that would become the first Child’s Play film.

Chucky is still set on his goal of gaining a human body, but that isn’t his driving force like it became in the other films. Instead, this feels much more like the early portions of Child’s Play where we get Chucky killing to get revenge for his own death. This time, he is getting revenge for what led to his original death. We don’t get a good “the doll’s alive” moment till halfway through the film, just like in the first film.

Within Chucky’s revenge arc, we are given a pretty tight story that allows for the film to really get back to its horror roots. It becomes less about which one-liners will Chucky say and more about which person is he going to kill. There are many lingering scenes where we are waiting in anticipation of if this will be the moment Chucky comes to life for us.

One of the best of these scenes occurs in an elevator after Nica finds the doll with her sister’s husband, Ian (Brennan Elliot), and decides to return it to her niece, Alice. While on the way up to the second level of the house, the power cuts out and there is a long moment shared between Nica and Chucky as they wait for the power to kick back in. Where Bride Of Chucky and Seed Of Chucky would have taken this moment to throw in some slapstick comedy, Curse Of Chucky builds on the silence and anxiety we all are having waiting to see what will happen.

Nica (Fiona Dourif) rides in an elevator with Chucky.

The use of long pauses and silence between characters to build tension is honestly more frightening than Chucky instantly coming to life and stabbing someone in the gut. It’s during these scenes that you don’t even fully realize that you are holding your breath until they are concluded.

It’s also compelling to see the film go back to the idea of “is the doll alive, or is this in someone’s mind?” In Child’s Play, everyone believed little Andy Barclay was actually committing the crimes (included killing his mother’s best friend). The fact that he blamed everything on a doll was just showcasing how insane he truly was. They even committed him in the first film, and by the third had sent him off to military school to rid him of the thought of Chucky. That trail of disbelief would follow Andy through Child’s Play 1,2, and 3.

Mancini brought this concept back in Curse Of Chucky by making Nica the one who finds herself trying to convince those around her that a doll has come to life and is killing people.

Just as Tiffany was the breath of fresh air that the Child’s Play franchise needed back in the early 2000s, Fiona Dourif’s Nica would prove to be the breath of fresh air the franchise needed now.

Nica taunts Chucky as she is pushed past him in a court room.

When you think of a “Final Girl” you usually don’t think of someone that has a physical disability. In horror films, the character with a physical disability is usually killed off early and is often written as needing a lot of help or being very stubborn. With times changing, it’s refreshing to see that Don Mancini decided to break the traditional final girl mold to bring us Nica, a woman who is resilient, compelling, and has more brains and brawn than her family want to give her credit for. She’s a character that breaks barriers in the horror community and actually gives Chucky a run for his money because she knows how to outsmart him.

Nica doesn’t let her disability get in her way.  Her family constantly insists that she is helpless because she is in a wheelchair. They treat her like a child, thinking even the simple task of making dinner would be too hard for her. Her sister Barb wants to send her away to live in a home after their mother is killed. Yet, she is proving time and time again that she’s more capable than all of them. When Chucky attacks her, she defends herself by rearing up on her chair so the bulk of Chucky’s blow will hit her legs where she can’t feel pain. She then is given the advantage of retrieving his weapon and using it against him.

When Chucky is about to kill her, Nica uses her psychology learnings to break down Chucky’s completion anxiety and make him confront the fact that he never actually finished killing Andy Barclay. For three films (and a lot of years in movie time) Chucky had been tracking down Andy to put his soul into him. With that no longer being an option, Chucky would spend the rest of the time trying to kill him and would achieve neither. Even when it came time to killing Nica he would fail. In the final moments of the film, Nica is being blamed for her family’s murder and all she can do is taunt Chucky over how she was still alive.

Nica is such a worthy and equal adversary to Chucky. The fact is that she challenges him and defeats him not by killing him but by not allowing him to succeed in the one thing he wants most. For years, the Child’s Play films felt as though they became a paint by numbers. They were usually a recycled story from one of the previous films, and the characters felt one-dimensional leaving you only really interested in how they were going to get killed. Even though this series was one I had fallen in love with over its humor, even that aspect began to feel as though it was being done cheaply.

Curse Of Chucky promised me a renewal of the series, and it delivered on so many aspects of this promise. It’s a simple but compelling story that made me fall in love and become invested in its many colorful characters. It gave me a final girl that I felt was really relatable and groundbreaking. It reminded me why I fell in love with this series as a kid and stuck with it for so long.

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Written by Katie Bienvenue

Katie is a writer, cosplayer, craftswoman, and Barista. When she isn't talking about Chainmaille she is usually found discussing some television series, film, or how to properly make one's latte.

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