I'm a sucker for a Chucky movie. Brad Dourif's scratchy, bemused voice coming out of a plasticky sociopathic living doll is one of the best slasher-film entertainments. And as a rule, the films in the Chucky series have been funnier than Nightmare on Elm Street movies, and since they star a tiny little slasher who can hide in weird places, the scares are often more novel than in Friday the 13th movies. So I was excited when I learned that Curse of Chucky, which promised to be a soft reboot of the series—Dourif, thankfully, is still onboard as Chucky—was coming out in 2013, and I was subsequently a little disappointed to see that the movie was consigned straight to the direct-to-DVD bin. (I rented the movie on International Independent Video Store Day; if you're waiting to get the disc from Redbox or Netflix, the staggered release schedule means you won't get to see the movie until after Halloween.)
The good news is that Curse of Chucky is at first a pretty lively back-to-basics outing for the series. It doesn't obsess over the continuity of the last few films (as much as I loved Jennifer Tilly's scenery-chewing in Bride and Seed of Chucky, her character Tiffany by definition made Chucky feel less special) and it takes its time to build up some really good scares. The victims this time are the dysfunctional family of a young, wheelchair-bound woman (Fiona Dourif, Brad's daughter, doing better-than-expected considering the obvious charges of nepotism that could be levied against her). And the kills are just the right mix of gory and ridiculous.
Considering the fact that it's been almost a decade since the last Chucky movie, one would hope that Curse of Chucky would be a good entry point to the series for first-time viewers. That hope is vanquished in the last reel, which ties things back to the other Child's Play films in unnecessary ways. Where I was hoping for inspiration, the series turned lazy and self-congratulating. I enjoyed Curse of Chucky, but I'm not the audience the movie needs to pull it out of the bargain DVD bin; here's hoping that some hot young director will be able to rescue the property and spit-polish it into something that can pick up some new fans to propel it further into the future. As it is, Chucky's just treading water.