Welcome to The Last Horror Blog, a biweekly column on all things horror.
Image is ready to take us back to Wolf Creek – It’s been years in the making, but Greg McLean’s Wolf Creek 2 is finally ready for release. We saw the new trailer for the return of John Jarratt’s murderous outback dweller a few weeks back, now comes news about U.S. distribution.
Image has acquired the rights to the sequel – which finds Jarratt’s character stalking another group of unlucky young adults – and plans to release it sometime in 2014. I’d like a more concrete date, but knowing that it’s definitely coming will tide me over for now.
James Wan climbs into the Crawlspace – Filmmaker James Wan might hope to move beyond making horror films one day, but in the meantime, he’s going to keep cranking out genre efforts because working is a good thing.
Wan’s newest project will be producing Lesbian Vampire Killers director Phil Laydon’s new supernatural thriller Crawlspace. What starts out as a traditional “family moves into a haunted house” feature quickly changes directions in the film, which is set up at New Line. Details beyond that are scarce, although I still hold out (fading) hopes that this will somehow morph into a remake of the Klaus Kinski film of the same name.
Joe Hill and CW set to revive Tales from the Darkside – If you were a kid in the ‘80s who loved horror, there’s little doubt in my mind that you spent many a late night sitting up watching episodes of Tales from the Darkside. The anthology series (spearheaded by George Romero) offered up 30-minute tales of the macabre each week and brought the works of some of horror fiction’s biggest talents (including tales from Clive Barker and Stephen King) to the screen.
It’s sort of fitting, then, that King’s son (novelist Joe Hill) will team up with the CW to revive the series for a new generation of horror geeks. No word on when this will debut, but let’s hope they keep the creepy opening title segment just like it was in the ‘80s.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since Charles Lee Ray was fatally shot by the cops and passed his soul into a creepy looking Good Guys doll – thereby launching the entire Child’s Play franchise in the process -- but the math doesn’t lie. And while Chucky has never quite made it into the unholy trinity of modern horror icons (Jason, Freddy and Michael Myers, respectively), Don Mancini’s killer doll has carved out a pretty decent niche for himself in the second tier of fright icons.
It’s been almost a decade since Chucky last sliced his way through a film, but a quarter of a century anniversary certainly deserves some form of celebration – so the Chuckster has returned with his newest feature, Curse of Chucky.
Director Don Mancini’s latest entry in the series is a bit of a throwback – and if you didn’t know better, you might even assume it’s one of those dreaded reboots everyone in Hollywood is so enamored with. Curse feels different than the previous two Chucky films (Bride and Seed of Chucky) in that those two installments took the series in a more blackly comedic direction – emphasizing silly gags over out-and-out frights. Granted, Child’s Play has always had an element of humor to it (because, let’s face it, a plastic doll isn’t really all that terrifying), but the early films in the series emphasized slasher film elements first and laughs second. That changed in the recent sequels.
Mancini seems intent on getting back to the slasher film roots here. Chucky arrives in a box at the home of wheelchair-bound Nica (Fiona Dourif), and next thing you know, her mother is dead. This allows the film to trot in its group of future victims in the form of the grieving family. Nica’s sister shows up with her husband, her nanny, their young daughter and a priest (A. Martinez – who’s basically underused). Soon enough, the niece finds Chucky and things get rolling.
Unfortunately the film never really gathers any sort of momentum. Curse of Chucky is a strange little movie – because it’s easy to mistake it for a reboot or a remake of the original. Even though it’s not, but Mancini spends roughly half the film setting everything up before Chucky really lets it rip – which is a very long time for those of us who are already familiar with the character and the series as a whole. Then, even when Chucky does finally reveal himself, the proceedings are so flat and predictable that it’s hard to muster any real enthusiasm for the events happening on the screen.
At least part of this is attributable to the film’s budget. While earlier Child’s Play films got theatrical releases with respectable (if modest) credit accounts, Curse walks the direct-to-disc route. As such, Mancini doesn’t have a lot of cash to spend. The script feels simplistic and it’s hard to shake the feeling that some of that was out of financial necessity. Chucky’s kills are rather sedate (the film boasts one good gore gag – a car wreck aftermath in the very early going) and the bulk of the movie takes place in one location.
It appears as though the majority of the budget went to updating Chucky’s appearance and animatronics – and this is one area where Curse is a success. Chucky looks new, but he’s not so new as to alienate the older fans. The updated animation techniques make the doll seem more lifelike than ever, which makes it even more disappointing that the budget doesn’t allow for more scenes where this stuff is showcased.
Then there’s Brad Dourif. The heart and soul of the killer doll, Dourif is back once again to play both Charles Lee Ray and voice Chucky. I’ll admit to being intrigued by the idea of Dourif working alongside his daughter in this film – but for whatever reason, Curse never really does anything with the pairing of Brad and Fiona. The elder Dourif does his thing – spewing maniacal one-liners as he dispatches his victims, but he’s largely absent from the movie for almost half the running time. This leaves the younger Dourif to carry the film – and she gives it her all, but the script doesn’t help her in the least.
If all that weren’t disappointing enough, we soon arrive at an ending that’s pretty terrible even by Child’s Play standards. The final scenes are there to remind us that this isn’t a remake and that Mancini isn’t completely wiping Bride and Seed of Chucky from the series canon. While I suspect fans of those movies might enjoy the tie-ins, I found them tedious and unnecessary.
Of course, I found most of Curse of Chucky tedious and unnecessary as a whole. The idea of bringing the killer doll back to his early slasher film roots is the right one after two sequels that attempted to put comedy ahead of fear. However, Mancini’s execution of the material leaves a lot to be desired. Curse of Chucky feels like the direct-to-video slasher films of the ‘80s – and not the classics. Fans of the diminutive psycho will probably enjoy seeing him stalking the screen again, but once the nostalgia wears off, we’re left with a fright flick that’s simply going through the motions.
Horror on the Horizon
With the holidays rapidly approaching, there’s a complete lack of horror at the local multiplex – boo to that. Seriously, forget about going to the theater to see a horror movie for the next two weeks.
Fortunately for all of us, things are better on DVD and Blu-ray. If you’re jonesing for a fright fix, there should be a few titles that will scratch your itch over the next fortnight.
The week of November 19 sees the arrival of Edgar Wright’s The World’s End, which was just in theaters not too long ago. If that doesn’t whet your appetite, maybe some cool films from our friends at Scream Factory will. The company is bringing us Blu-ray versions of John Carpenter’s seminal Assault on Precinct 13, cult favorite Night of the Comet, and the underappreciated Gregory Hines flick Eve of Destruction. The feast doesn’t end there, though – there’s also a new release of Demonic Toys, a complete Twilight Zone set, and Maniac Cop 2 and 3. You could conceivably finish your holiday shopping with the stuff released this week.
If you don’t like to spend Thanksgiving watching football, there are some other options available to you on November 26. My top pick of that week is the 25th-anniversary set for Mystery Science Theater 3000, but you can’t go wrong with George Romero’s totally bizarre Knightriders or the grade-Z slasher flick The Horror Show (which features fantastic performances from Lance Henriksen and the late Brion James).
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