Chucky gets hitched to his old girlfriend, her soul transported into a demonic dolly.
If ever a horror franchise was written off entirely, it was the Child's Play series. Though a ludicrous boondoggle made it a tabloid hot potato, Child's Play 3 was about the mildest, most redundant splatter sequel ever made. Therefore, it's a voodoo miracle that this belated fourth entry, which wisely doesn't have a number in the title, pulls all the pieces together, gives them a couple of unusual spins, and goes all out for yocks and yucks that, for the most part, it delivers.
Serial killer Charles Lee Ray, whose spirit (the Nicholsonesque voice of Brad Dourif) moved into the body of a killer doll ("The story is so long that if it were a movie it would take several sequels to tell it all," Chucky sneers), had a hitherto-unknown trailer trash girlfriend, Tiffany (Tilly). She claims the leftover scraps of the doll from that police evidence lock-up where they also keep Jason's mask and Freddy's glove and performs a ritual out of Voodoo For Dummies that gets the now pretty-mangled Chucky walking around again. After a lover's argument, the doll electrocutes the babe by tossing a TV set (screening Bride Of Frankenstein) into her bath, and her spirit is transmitted into another doll. The toys have to get to Ray's grave in New Jersey to retrieve a macguffin amulet, so high school runaways Jade (Heigl) and Jesse (Stabile) are conned into driving them across country and, incidentally, getting a Mickey-and-Mallory reputation by taking the blame for the escalating body count!
The commitment to upping the quality is evident in the choice of ex-Hong Kong superstar director Yu (Bride With White Hair, The Phantom Lover), which brings some much-needed atmosphere and action. With an appealing mix of innocence, smarts and homicidal mania, Tilly is a valuable addition to the franchise, and has even more fun when turned into a killer slut Lady Penelope. The real reversal is that producer-writer Don Mancini, who has been behind the whole series, has suddenly learned to write sharp dialogue (even the traditionally irksome teenage leads are appealing, and the squabbling dolls are wonderful) and toss off subtler-than-Scream frame-breaking jokes about how dated Chucky (who died in 1989) is and how much he has to live down. It ends with an atmospheric graveyard face-off and, of course, a set-up for Son Of Chucky.
Chucky's smartest, sharpest outing yet.