Chucky continues his reign of terror in Cult of Chucky, frightening the unstable residents of an asylum while messing with the mind of Fiona Dourif. Don Mancini's seventh but not final installment in the possessed murdering doll franchise is a good and occasionally surprising entry, but the humor can undermine some of the more creative and weirdly fascinating visuals. Courtesy of Scream Factory, Chucky stalks the Ultra HD hallways with a great-looking Dolby Vision HDR video, a highly satisfying DTS-HD MA track and three new featurettes fans will enjoy. The overall UHD package makes for a strong and Recommended addition to the horror library.
Cult of Chucky picks up a short time after the events of the previous movie where an entire family was murdered by the celebrated genre darling Chucky. But in a post-credit scene, fans of the original Child's Play were surprised by the return of an adult Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) having the last laugh. In the opening moments of this latest entry, we find Andy on a humiliatingly bad date — the woman revealing she knows all about Andy thanks to a simple Google search. Apparently, the traumatizing experience of fighting a Good Guy doll possessed by the maniac killer Charles Lee Ray has turned him into something of a celebrity, and that chapter of his life continues to haunt the poor guy into a socially awkward adulthood. But on the bright side of living alone in a remote cabin with a stockpile of guns, Andy can sit and chat away his troubles with the only friend who's stuck with him until the end: the scarred, severed and still living-talking head of the original Chucky (Brad Dourif). But Andy swears he's not crazy and has moved on with his life.
On the other hand, somewhere in the same town or across the state — this is never made clear — the survivor of the last movie and paraplegic Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif) is totally batshit bonkers and coming to terms with it in a hospital with other like-minded folks. Sentenced to a mental institution for the slayings, Nica spends her days making friends and has better luck getting lucky with a date in the frequently confused but endearingly charming Malcolm (Adam Hurtig). Others are not quite as friendly, but at least she's surrounded by supportive people who understand her plight — if by supportive, we mean either ignoring her or verbally bullying her for being a murderer. It'd be nice to see Dr. Foley's (Michael Therriault) credentials because he seems terrible at managing the group and creepily keeps eyeing Nica while (intentionally?) taunting her with Good Guys. One of which another patient adopts as the son she once smothered with a pillow. Not entirely sure, but it also seems as though the filmmakers are implying our two main protagonists would much rather trade places. She's totally sane but treated as crazy. He definitely has issues but is allowed to walk free.
Don Mancini — the original creator of the Chucky story, writer for every chapter of the series, and helmer since 2004's Seed of Chucky — comes back for this the seventh and apparently not last installment to the 30-year-old franchise. As he did in the previous movie, Cult is another return to the moodier and more atmospheric tone of Tom Holland's original thriller, and Mancini uses the sterilized, uninspiring hallways of the hospital to great effect. But he also can't help injecting the same dark, twisted sensibilities he introduced in parts four and five. Though for this wicked tale of confronting one's ugly past, the tongue-in-cheek humor isn't as laugh-out-loud blatant as it is cleverly sarcastic and knowingly subversive. One of the more memorable moments sees Chucky quietly stalking the empty halls in the middle of the night, looking for Nica, but he's interrupted by an older patient who believes herself dead (Marina Stephenson Kerr). The back and forth with a confused Chucky is amusing, if not also weird because the creepiness of the scene is momentarily put on pause and sets a tone that teeters between comedic and straight gory horror.
Jennifer Tilly also reprises her role as Tiffany Valentine, Chucky's long-time love interest and equally demented partner-in-crime who looks a lot like the actress Jennifer Tilly. Her appearance is a minor running gag that's neither funny nor quirky, revealing one of several problems with this particular production. It's not entirely bad as it can be quite fun at times, but some of the humor also doesn't always gel with the visuals, which honestly, are surprisingly impressive. Over the years, Mancini has grown as a filmmaker, showing more style behind the camera with each entry and a willingness to take risks. Although not as creepy or mildly scary as its predecessor, Cult of Chucky comes with an interesting visual flair that almost beautifies the gorier, more brutal aspects of the movie into separate lovely vignettes or romanticized portraits, such as the slow-motion scene of Claire's (Grace Lynn Kung) death. Unfortunately, the movie's prettier and more fascinating qualities tend to be undermined by the hit-or-miss gags and eye-rolling one-liners or Andy's head-scratching failed attempts to end the madness.
Granted, the ending is a nice twist with another post-credits sequence hinting at more installments, but everything leading up to that satisfying conclusion ultimately feels like forced padding for better future sequels.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Scream Factory brings Cult of Chucky to 4K Ultra HD as a two-disc Collector's Edition combo pack. The triple-layered, UHD100 disc, which contains the unrated version of the movie, sits comfortably opposite a Region A locked, BD50 disc on the opposing panel. The Blu-ray disc also contains the unrated, 91-minute version along with the 90-minute, R-rated cut, and both discs are housed inside the standard black keepcase with a cardboard slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to a static screen with the usual selection along the bottom left side of the screen and music playing in the background.
Chucky stalks the Ultra HD hallways with an excellent and overall satisfying HEVC H.265 encode although it doesn't offer a massive upgrade over its HD predecessor. As with Curse, the movie was entirely shot using HD cameras, and the 2K digital intermediate of the unrated version was used for this 4K remaster. Given that, the fresh transfer still maintains that bland, sterile and made-for-TV digital appearance that largely lacks texture and character. Nevertheless, fine lines and objects are sharper and better defined, from the stitching and threading of Chucky's iconic Good Guy uniform to the hauntingly creepy architectural design of the hospital. There are a few mildly soft moments here and there, which might be the result of the filmmakers' creative choices, and some barely perceptible instances of aliasing along the sharpest edges.
However, the Dolby Vision HDR presentation delivers the most noteworthy improvement with spot-on contrast balance, supplying the story's twisted, dark humor with brilliantly beaming whites and crisp, radiant specular highlights, allowing for better definition within the hottest spots. Black levels are noticeably richer and inkier with outstanding shadow detailing in the many dark, poorly-lit interiors, providing the 1.78:1 image with appreciable depth. Likewise, the overall color palette appears fuller and a tad more animated with the blues and reds, which complements the overall visual design, and facial complexions are healthy and highly revealing throughout, making for a welcome step up over the previous Blu-ray. (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 84/100)
After some back-and-forth comparisons, this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack appears to be the same cracking, slicing-n-dicing track as before, or at the very least, I couldn't detect any discernable differences between the two.
Setting the perfect mood and atmosphere, Joseph LoDuca's score fills the soundstage while bleeding into the sides, generating a wide and engaging soundscape. Imaging also exhibits excellent distinction and clarity in the higher frequencies, providing the presentation with a great deal of warmth and fidelity, even during the loudest moments. Given this is a front-heavy presentation, a majority of the attention is placed on the dialogue and character interactions, which are well-prioritized and always intelligible. Many of the background effects spread across the front three channels, displaying great separation and fluid movement into the off-screen space. The surrounds are only occasionally employed, but when doing so, directionality is discrete and decently enveloping, and with the receivers' Dolby Surround or DTS: Neural:X up-mixing functionality, those same atmospherics convincingly move into the overheads, generating a darkly moody, creepy soundfield. The low end is not particularly noteworthy, but bass nonetheless adds a hearty presence and punch to the on-screen action. (Audio Rating: 84/100)
As with the other movies, Scream Factory ports over the same set of supplements from the previous Blu-ray release and offers three new additions to the mix.
Don Mancini returns for Cult of Chucky, the seventh but not final installment in the possessed murdering doll franchise. On the whole, it's a good and occasionally surprising entry, but some of the humor tends to undermine some of the more creative and weirdly fascinating visuals. Ultimately, it's padding for greater and hopefully better things. Chucky stalks the Ultra HD hallways with a great-looking Dolby Vision HDR presentation and a highly satisfying DTS-HD MA soundtrack, making for a welcome step up from the previous Blu-ray. Porting over the same set of supplements while adding three new bonuses, the overall UHD package makes for a strong and Recommended addition to the horror library.
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