I think I see your problem. You have this list. It’s a list of people you need/want to buy a Christmas gift for. The trouble is that they’re into home theatre, and you don’t know Star Trek from Star Wars. You couldn’t tell a Wolf Man from a Wolverine. And you always thought that Paranormal Activity was something too kinky to talk about. Fortunately, Upcomingdiscs has come to the rescue every Christmas with our Gift Guide Spotlights. Keep checking back to see more recommendations for your holiday shopping. These gift guides ARE NOT paid advertisements. We take no money to publish them. With conditions as they are, shopping won’t be easy this season. The nice thing about discs is that they’re so easy to get from places like Amazon that you can give a great gift and stay perfectly safe while you do it. Well… being safe isn’t exactly what this gift guide is about. Some of the people on your list like to mix a little fear with their Yuletide. Think about it. There’s last year’s sleeper hit Violent Night, Nightmare Before Christmas, and who can forget jolly ol’ Krampus? Shout Factory’s Scream Factory has you covered once again. They’ve released four Chucky movies and the original Night Of The Demons on 4K just in time for the horrordays … eh … holidays. So be of good cheer, and slide some fear under the tree this year.
There have been four films so far released under the Chucky name and, of course, we’re into the third season of a Chucky television series. One of this year’s best houses at Universal Florida’s Halloween Horror Nights was … you guessed it … Chucky. So there hasn’t been a better Christmas to take advantage of the hype and pick up some 4K’s for that certain someone on your Christmas list. Get one. Get a couple. Jingle Bells, just rock all four films. They come separately, but I think that gives you bonus Christmas points, yeah?
Bride Of Chucky (1998)
“Go ahead and shoot! I’ll be back! I always come back!”
Yes, he does. Chucky is the evil side of the Energizer Bunny. He keeps slaying and slaying and slaying … you get the picture. When the Child’s Play films ran out of numbers the decision was made to rename the franchise after Chucky himself. I mean, after all he’s the potty-mouthed star with an edge … a knife edge, that is. It was also a good time to expand the family, so to speak and start to really create a Chucky family going forward. Sounds kind of warm and fuzzy, like Ozzie and Harriet or Lucy and Ricky and it’s really just like that, only different. To start a family one needs a bride so that’s where it all starts … again.
Enter Tiffany, played by Jennifer Tilly. She’s been doing some heavy reading these days. Her latest deep dive is Voodoo For Dummies. The book is one of those reads that inspires you to do big things with your life. Tiffany is no different. You see, Chucky had a girlfriend before he got shot and transferred his body into the Good Guys Doll that we’ve all come to know and love. She’s been pretty much another psychopath who gets the remains of the Chucky doll from a police evidence facility and uses the newly learned voodoo to bring Chucky back to life. She soon discovers it’s not quite the same thing when your boyfriend is a 14-inch doll. Romance just doesn’t have that same color … red. They start to argue when Tiffany starts talking about getting married. Chucky isn’t the get-tied-down kind of doll. He’s used to doing all the tying down. Long story short, she ends up having her soul transferred into a bridal doll, and the two go on a Barbie & Ken “honeymoon” spree. That is, of course, if Barbie & Ken were more like Bonnie & Clyde.
You know dolls can’t really get around much, so they kind of hitch a ride with two human newlyweds, Jesse, played by Nick Stabile and Jade, played by Gray’s Anatomy pretty girl Katherine Heigl. If you think her Gray’s Anatomy role was tragic, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The pair are kind of on the run from Jade’s overbearing father who happens to be the county sheriff and is played by John Ritter, who eats up the short scenery he has.
With the name change, the Chucky films go meta and start to look and sound a bit like the Scream franchise. But here’s where Don Mancini goes Scream several better. First of all, you really can’t resist the design of that original Good Guys Doll. It’s one of the most clever monster designs in horror film history. He’s a bit stitched together here and doesn’t look quite as pristine as his play dates with Andy might have shown him, but there’s something both charming and sinister about that doll. When you add Brad Dourif’s voice, I have to say this Bad Guy is one of the best. Who would have thought that Dourif got himself an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor as Billy in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, losing to a strong George Burns from The Sunshine Boys. Billy was a character dominated by a weak voice that constantly stuttered. Now he’s one of the most recognized sinister voices since Boris Karloff.
Some of the credit goes to director Ronny Yu, who takes a pretty comedic film about lovelorn dolls on a killing spree and fills it with as much blood and serious creeps that you might look like a fool between those cringing and laughing fits. I’ll bet this was one hell of a date flick. How can you sum it all up in a capsule review like this? Short answer? You can’t. ” Let me put it this way. If this were a movie, it would take three or four sequels to do it justice.”
Seed Of Chucky (2004)
“My mother always said, “Once is a blessing, twice is a curse.”
We’ve gone way beyond that by now. Don Mancini takes over the director’s chair once more to guide his creation into another meta, sinister, dark and funny-as-hell sequel under the Chucky name. Remember I told you that these Chucky films were all about family and once you have your bride everyone knows what comes next. What kind of child, or seed are you going to get from two killer dolls? That’s the burning question. Inquiring minds might want to know. Ready or not Mancini digs a little into the Ed Wood catalogue of films and the result is Seed Of Chucky, once again in 4K where the blood is just that much redder.
“I’m one of the most notorious slashers in history! And I don’t wanna give that up. I am Chucky, the killer doll! And I dig it!”
Chucky is suffering the greatest of indignities. Along with his “bride” Tiffany, their dolls are being used to make a Chucky movie. And who happens to be starring Jennifer Tilly as the psychotic sexpot. The two dolls have had a child, and it’s their own internal fighting that has caused some confusion in the living doll. Chucky wanted a boy named Glen, and Tiffany wanted a girl named Glenda. Fans of Ed Wood know where this little piece of gender confusion comes from. He ends up in a ventriloquist show. He’s pretty much a slave to his human “master”. So he escapes and hitches a ride to Hollywood to find his parents and he hopes a clue to who and what he really is. In yet another argument, Chucky wanted his “son” to get into the family business of slashing, while Tiffany kind of wants to break out of that rut. They both intend to use the movie gig to once again be real people, but maybe Chucky’s heart isn’t exactly into it. The idea is Tiffany will take over the body of Jennifer Tilly and Chucky will take over the body of Redman, also playing himself in the film. Then they can have a real boy, but Pinocchio this isn’t.
“Look around you, Tiff! This is nuts! And I have a very high tolerance for nuts. If this is what it takes to be human, I’d rather take my chances as a supernaturally possessed doll; it’s less complicated.”
You really have to give a ton of credit to Jennifer Tilly here. She’s playing herself as an actress, and it’s not a kind portrayal. She’s really a bit of an A-hole, and she kind of wants to take over. Tiffany is attracted to that stardom life, while Chucky would end up being her toady if they follow through on their plans. It truly adds to the entertainment value of the whole thing watching her be such a good sport about it all and having a blast while doing it. This was actually Mancini’s first film as a director. Granted the material was quite familiar to him here, but give him credit for keeping that wonderful blend of comedy and horror that so many other franchises have tried, and outside of Scream few have been able to pull it off this well. There’s a cameo by filmmaker Roger Waters, not the Nazi Pink Floyd dude, as a paparazzi that is just another one of those insanely perfect moments. He ends up becoming Glen/Glenda’s first victim as proud papa keeps hoping that his baby boy will be the kind of killer he is. It’s also one of those be careful-what-you-wish-for themes.
Billy Boyd from Lord Of The Rings fame does the voice of Glen/Glenda, and the three of these actors are having such a wonderful time that I swear you can actually hear the smiles in the voices.
Today this kind of gender confusion might not be so funny to some. I still loved it, so sue me. If you’re sensitive to all of that stuff, then this might not be the Chucky for you. I’d stay away from reruns of Three’s Company and Bossom Buddies while you’re at it. As for me? “I want more.”
Curse Of Chucky (2013)
“Hi, I’m Chucky. You wanna play?”
When an unexpected package arrives at the home of Nica (Dourif) and her rather crazy mother, Sarah (Quesnelle), they have no idea what it is or who might have sent it. We already know what’s in the familiar-shaped package. That’s right. After nearly a decade absence, Chucky’s back.
“You know, that doll. It looks familiar somehow”.
When a horror series hasn’t been heard from in 10 years and shows up direct-to-video, I’m scared, and it doesn’t have anything to do with whatever creature/monster/entity that stalks the movie. Direct-to-video is the last stop for once thriving franchises on their way to cultural obscurity. That’s exactly what I expected from Curse Of Chucky. It was made on a paltry $5 million budget, much less than any of the previous films. The last two sequels resorted to camp silliness, and Chucky was reduced to a clown. For most of us the franchise actually ended somewhere in 1991 with Chucky 3 … at least that’s what I once believed. Let me tell you just how wrong I was. Chucky is indeed back, and he’s better and scarier than ever.
“It’s a doll. What’s the worst that could happen?”
So Chucky arrives, and it doesn’t take long for someone to turn up dead. Nica is left alone in an expensive and large home where she has been wheelchair-bound for her entire life. Funerals bring family, and before you know it Nica’s sister Barb (Bisutti), her browbeaten husband Ian (Elliott), their daughter Alice (Howell) and her $400-a-week babysitter Jill (McConnell) arrive to crowd Nica’s life. Of course, Barb’s got her eye on selling the house and getting her share of the money. She also hopes to put “fragile” Nica in a home. Well, Nica’s not so fragile, and Chucky’s got plans of his own. Little Alice takes to the doll, and Chucky has found himself a new playmate.
At first it appears the film will fall into that all-too-familiar ground where the cast becomes fodder for the bad guy. There’s also plenty of the predictable child being the only one who believes the doll is alive. You know how that goes: “I didn’t say it, Chucky did.” “Chucky did it.” We’ve seen all of this too many times before. If that were the sum total of Curse Of Chucky, I’d say pass on to something really scary. But Curse Of Chucky happens to be really scary.
The cast is led by Brad Dourif’s daughter Fiona. We all know she got the job because her father has been the voice and often even the face of Chucky for over 25 years. Let’s just say he has juice in the franchise, and I’m not talkin’ Tropicana. Anyone who tells you different is lying. How she got the part isn’t important here. What is vital is that she absolutely earns the part. Fiona’s character spends most of the film in a wheelchair. It could have just been a contrivance, but I promise you that she brings so much more to the role than that. She’s totally natural in the chair, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an actor do a better job of selling that as merely a fact of their lives. Her movements appear practiced, honed over a supposed lifetime with the disability. She fights with a natural fierceness against the notion she can’t take care of herself. The chair isn’t a contrivance, because her disability hasn’t really handicapped her, and by the end of the film she understands that more than ever before. She ends up being the most worthy adversary Chucky’s ever had, both physically and mentally. Her casting also helps to pull off a nice red herring in the film, and there is a very strong connection between her and Chucky. It’s not what you think. The truth is, I fell in love with her performance, and it doesn’t hurt that the movie’s pretty damn good, after all. She’s also got one convincing maniacal stare.
If you’re shooting a low-budget film, you have to make compromises somewhere. Something in the production value, cast, or effects must be sacrificed. Credit Don Mancini for turning his liability into one of the film’s greatest assets. Most of the money went into building the set of the house. It is in the house that 95% of the film takes place. It’s perfect. Now we have what is basically a haunted house film with a lot of the old-fashioned elements that have made them so popular since the 1920’s. It’s a beautiful set design that was built perfectly to maximize budget dollars and scares.
It doesn’t hurt that there is some startlingly sweet camera work going on here. If you’re a fan of the Universal classic horror films, there are some terrific nods to be found here. There’s a particularly effective shot that involves lightning flashing from a window. The quick flash pan effect gives us just a nanosecond shadow silhouette of Chucky wielding his butcher knife on the walls. Another cool shot involves the camera’s point of view perspective. The image is shot high from a room’s ceiling corner through a perfectly-spun spider web.
You might have expected the franchise to finally revert to rendering Chucky himself in CGI. Of course, you can’t completely ignore the modern tools of the trade, and there are some computer animated moments. Almost all of it, however, is still puppets and animatronics. It’s a real doll that wields these knives and axes, and I can’t tell you how much more effective having real elements like that is. It makes the actor reactions that much more sincere, and your mind knows it’s there just because of the thousands of minute ways an object interacts with its environment. Whatever Hollywood might like us to believe, we know when something is real. We know. It’s far more labor-intensive and puts a heavy burden on the shooting schedule, but the results are worth every minute. Thanks, Don, for understanding that so well. And thanks to Tony Gardner for creating and manipulating these puppets.
The supporting cast is well above average for a low-budget horror film. Each and every one of these folks is convincing. They are completely fleshed out characters. You may still not care for them when they get theirs, because some of these people aren’t necessarily nice, but we believe they are indeed real people. There’s an affair going on that will absolutely take you by surprise.
The kills are satisfying, but it’s the creepy moments in between that really make this a superior movie. Chucky’s good at playing hide and go slay. He’s still knows how to crack wise, but the overt attempts at humor from the last two films is gone. Mancini listened to the fans and not only returned Chucky to his roots, but I think he went one better. I might get some flak for saying this, but I think this is my favorite from the series. Jennifer Tilly’s Tiffany does make a coda appearance that has me a little worried about where this is going. If they can continue to do this, I say bring on more. Stick around for the credits for a scene that brings back Alex Vincent who played Andy from the original film, now all grown up. “You know it’s called Completion Anxiety. It’s very common in males.”
So what has Chucky been up to the last decade? The movie doesn’t really fill in too many of those blanks. We know he was coaching in the NFL for a few years, but we’ve since lost track of the little devil. The film does fill us in with some back story that takes place long before the first film. We get a bit more of Charlie and what he was doing before the police chase that got him killed in the toy store. It’s a pretty nice blend of old and new. I’m so thankful they didn’t take the common path of recent horror franchise resurrections. No remake/reimagining or retool. This is a continuing story that fits in very nicely with the previous films. We haven’t really seen this Chucky since 1991, “but believe me it was worth the wait”.
Cult Of Chucky (2017)
“Ok, let me explain something to you. I am a vintage, mass-marketed children’s toy from the ’80s, standing right in front of you, holding a very sharp scalpel.”
This film pretty much picks up where Curse Of Chucky finished. No one believes Nica (Dourif) that a Chucky doll killed all those folks, and she was pretty much the last human standing, and she’s in a hospital for the criminally insane. It doesn’t help that her psychiatrist, Dr. Foley (Therriault) decides that Nica and her fellow patients would benefit from him bringing a Good Guy Doll to the therapy sessions to help her get over her delusions. So Chucky has a whole mentally disturbed ward of folks to do away with. One of the most interesting kill scenes involves a drill and not Chucky’s usual go-to weapon of choice, the butcher knife. To join the fun we also have the Tiffany doll, again voiced by Jennifer Tilly.
Meanwhile we catch up with an adult Andy, once again played by Alex Vincent. He has been scarred by his encounter with Chucky as a child in the original Child’s Play film. His scars are internal and he has been spending some quality time with a Chucky doll that he tortures for kicks. He uses welding torches and other fun tools to administer pain and revenge on the doll. He’ll even do a few repairs so he can have fun all over again. In many ways this film is meant to bring the franchise full circle and would very well serve as a finale to the film series, and for a while it certainly has been. Here we are six years later, and Chucky has made the jump to television/streaming, and that’s been the focus for the last several years, but Mancini assures us that Chucky will be back on that big screen at some point in the future.
There is a slight problem with the plot of this film. All of these revenge plots are going to drive you crazy if you haven’t been keeping up since the beginning. Mancini doesn’t waste time on recaps and explanations. This film brings together elements from across the franchise, and there isn’t time for you to catch your breath, let alone look up some reference from the entire slate of films. It’s a great payoff film for the fans, so you don’t want to give this one to just anyone on your list. If they aren’t already in the clubhouse, you just might have to give them all seven films. This one is loaded with Easter eggs, but it’s the kind of film you can watch a few times and still make new discoveries. This Chucky set will fit nicely under a few trees, so get a couple of extras for yourself while you’re at it. Particularly at Christmas time, “A true classic never goes out of style.”
Night Of The Demons (1988)
“Hey kids. You’re not going to believe what I found in here.”
Night Of The Demons has become a bit of a cult classic over the years. There were two sequels, and you can also get those from Shout’s Scream Factory. They’re just available on Blu-ray right now, but I wouldn’t let that stop you from throwing them under the tree right along with the original in 4K and those Chucky movies I’ve been telling you about. There was a remake in 2009, but it wasn’t really anything like these original films. This is one of those films that took a while from its original release to really catch on. There’s a few good reasons for that.
The film was originally shot under the title Halloween Party, but it was decided at the last minute that it would cause some confusion with the John Carpenter franchise, and they didn’t want to taint the expectations of filmgoers from the jump. It was also originally intended as a Meridian Pictures release, but the final film ended up with no connection to that studio at all. The distribution deals they could make ended up being just for select markets, so the film initially opened in Detroit, and soon after it hit markets in L.A., New York City and Philadelphia. The film ended up taking in almost half a million dollars over one Thanksgiving weekend in just those limited markets which would come out to about $1.3 million in 2023 box office numbers. Not bad for such a limited release. Of course, there were eventual wider release dates, and the film ended up pulling in something like $2.5 million before it was over. That’s a little over $6 million today. The film became a hit on home video later, but the original numbers were enough to allow for the two direct sequels.
It’s Halloween, and a group of teens are looking for a cool place to have a party. They end up at an old abandoned funeral parlor that has since been nicknamed Hull House. The main group of partiers included Cathy Podewell as Judy. Podewell is perhaps better known for several seasons as J.R.’s trophy wife, Cathy, on Dallas for three seasons. Alvin Alexis as Rodger. He started his career on The Wiz and ended up doing mostly television shows like 21 Jump Street and a 1991 remake of Adam 12. Linnea Quigley plays Suzanne, and she’s quite well-remembered for her frequent nude scenes, particularly the tombstone dancing zombie in Return Of The Living Dead. Night Of The Demons was just one of many 80’s comedy/horror hybrids that featured the young actress, like Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers and Sorority Babes In The Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama. She had also been a nude model who found a way to find her own little niche with these films for over a decade. She ended up marrying the f/x supervisor Steve Johnson, who had to give her a full on set of fake breasts for one of the film’s more memorable scenes involving those fake boobs and a tube of lipstick. You have to see it to understand it. Amelia Kinkaid becomes the star of this film and its sequels as the dancing demon Angela.
The party couldn’t have found a better location. There are plenty of funeral parlor accoutrements like coffins strewn throughout the spiderweb-infested joint. There’s also a giant mirror where the kiddies decide to play a spooky game. You’d think by 1988 these teens would have learned better by now. They decide to hold a seance in front of the mirror where they end up opening a portal to Hell where demons start to crash the party. The demons start to infest each of the teens something like a zombie movie and you either end up dead or a demon yourself, usually both. A couple of the teens figure out if they can find a way out by dawn, the portal will close down unless and until someone opens it up again next Halloween. And you just know the sequels were coming on that revelation.
There’s a rather crazy animated/stop-motion finale, and we’re left with a safe finale,… for now. It turns out Angela’s demon kind of takes over Hull House, and she’s going to be inviting you back for more with Night Of The Demons 2 (1994) and Night Of The Demons III (1997) “Angela is throwing another part. Trick or treat, sucker!”