It's tough to bring an iconic character back to the screen. Every fan brings their own baggage that's been hardened under the weight of nostalgia. The fans see Freddy, Jason and all those other franchise slashers in very specific ways. Most of us just want to relive the goosebumps we experienced the first time around. We want to be freaked out by the burned dude that can kill us in our dreams, the big guy in the hockey mask and the talking doll with the big bloody knife.
I'm no Chucky expert by any means. I liked original Child's Play and Bride of Chucky, but have nothing but vague memories of the other three. All I remember is that he reached a point where he simply wasn't scary any more. The creators admitted that by Seed of Chucky they thought the only way to proceed was to embrace the absurd black comedy of the situation. It was interesting direction to take, but let's not kid ourselves, the public didn't exactly accept it with open arms.
Nine years have passed and the powers that be have tried to reboot the franchise many times to no avail (due to complicated right issues). It took the screenwriter of the previous five films (and director of SEED) to take the reigns up again with a DTV sequel that's basically a soft reboot that doesn't ignore the mythology that's been piling up since Child's Play.
Director/Writer Don Mancini cuts the premise to its bare essentials: There's a killer doll and a bunch of people in an isolated location that will soon be bloodily murdered by said killer doll. In this case, the location is a creepy dark house during a thunderstorm and the people include a woman in a wheelchair, a priest and a small child. We know that eventually Chucky is going to start moving and the always reliable Brad Dourif's voice will start cracking the one liners (that are kept thankfully brief here), but this time around it's nice to see the immobile doll played for all of its creepy "Did it jut move?" eeriness. There's a slow build going on in Curse that's reminiscent of the original without ever feeling no-budget padding. This is Don Mancini second directorial effort, and his self-professed first 'horror' outing, and he shows off his chops by going into pure Hitchcock mode. There's no huge surprises or crazy camera tricks, but every shot is carefully chosen, every cut has obviously been discussed and the whole thing comes together with a care that's rare sight in DTV horror sequels. Don has been writing this stuff for a long time and he obviously knows how it works. The scares are choreographed right out of the suspense handbook: You let the audience knows there's a threat, you have have them wander around the threat, and you pay it off right at the critical point of release. The kills are fairly creative, but there's only a handful of them, and it feels like it's the build were Don's chief interest - and you know what - it works pretty well!
The CGI is kept to a minimum (beyond a few jarring shots) in favour of a puppet, the actors are capable in their roles especially Fiona Dourif) , and the pace hums along like a well oiled machine. The only big missteps are an over long flashback and a slightly unsatisfying finale, but those can be forgiven when the all around package is so well put together. Curse of Chucky is a minor effort at best, but Don Mancini has proven that he can craft a solid horror product. It's about time he dipped his toe in non-killer toy territory.