Cult Classics 4
Plaid Shirt Zombie, Sebastian Haff, Shaun of the Dead, Chucky

NECA continues to crank out the classic movie characters with their Cult Classics line. Series 4 just started shipping a week or so ago, and includes Chucky from Child's Play, the Plaid Shirt Zombie from Dawn of the Dead, Shaun from Shaun of the Dead, and Sebastian Haff from Bubba Ho-Tep.

While we've seen Chucky's before, it's been quite some time. More importantly, the other three are brand new to the scene, and all are huge cult favorites.

Zombies are always good, and while there seems to be a influx of plastic versions these days, something from a classic like Dawn of the Dead is a nice addition. Speaking of zombies, Shaun of the Dead is one of the funniest zombie flicks ever produced, and Simon Pegg's everyman character was a terrific choice. Finally, there's Sebastian Haff, or perhaps it's Elvis? This figure goes with the actual Bubba Ho-Tep figure produced in the Cult Classics 3 series.

These retail for around $12 each, depending on the retailer. The only brick and mortar store that I know of carrying them is Hot Topic, but there are plenty of online options.

Packaging - ***1/2
These are clamshells of course, always big on my list, and each package has an individualized insert for the character. The pattern for the Zombie and Haff is the same as the previous Zombie and Bubba Ho-Tep, but both the Chucky and Shaun inserts are completely new. All of them look terrific, and that extra personalization goes a long way to making me happy.

There's still more twisty ties than you can shake a pair of wire cutters at, but at this point that's really not much of a surprise.

Sculpting - Shaun, Haff ***1/2; Zombie ***; Chucky **1/2
The sculpting is excellent on Shaun and Haff, and not bad (although with a couple issues) on the other two.

Shaun is my favorite of all the sculpts, and actually bears a much better likeness to the actor Pegg and to the character than I first gave it credit. The shape of the face and head seemed a little off to me, as I remember Shaun being a little pudgier around the chin. But after reviewing some stills from the movie, I have to say that was just my memory getting in the way, and this is much more accurate than I first thought.

There is a lot of detail in the face though, which means he has more texture and wrinkling in his face than usual. In this case, it does make Shaun appear older than he did on screen, at least in close up photography. In real life, it isn't nearly as noticeable.

He can stand great on his own, and his body is sculpted in the classic poster pose. The right hand can hold the cricket bat, and his left can work with the loose album if you work at it a bit. His shirt, pants and tie all have the right wrinkles without being over done, and the sculpted plastic appears to 'hang' in a very realistic way. Someone might note that the name tag is on the opposite side from the poster, but in reality the poster had it wrong and had flipped the image for printing. Nobody ever wears a nametag on the right side, even in the U.K.

Haff sports the best looking glasses I've ever seen on a figure in this scale. Normally they end up looking goofy, unrealistic and oversized, but this time they came out just right. I suspect that part of the reason for that is because in real life they are goofy and oversized, so it's less noticeable. But you also have to give NECA credit for getting one of the toughest features ever on any action figure to look this good.

Haff also has some amazing small detail work on his elaborate costume, including several real metal chains around his belt. His head sculpt is good, if not a dead on match to the source material, and his hands are sculpted appropriately. He can also stand up fine on his own, and probably better than the actual character could.

The plaid shirt zombie isn't a bad sculpt, and in fact, some of the detail work around his rotting flesh are quite good. The head sculpt is also very realistic, and does match up pretty well from what I remember on film. However, there's something about the design, and his stance from the waist down, that just doesn't say 'zombie'. I'd expect him to say "Hey dude, where's the beer?" rather than "braaaaiiinnnsss!"

He does stand fine on his own, and his hand sculpts are positioned in such a way to work pretty well with most arm poses.

Chucky is the only odd man out when it comes to sculpt, and his issue is really all about one thing - the space between his eyes. It's huge! I referenced a number of photos of the character from various films, and while he sure did change a lot over the course of the movies (and at times, even within a movie), I couldn't find any reference that showed him with such extremely wide set eyes.

The rest of the sculpt is fine. There's good detail in the face, but not so much that he loses his 'doll' appearance. Likewise with the body, where nothing is exaggerated or done in human style. The arms are a touch long, but even that is fairly consistent with most real life dolls. The rooted hair is thick and well planted in the skull, and the hand sculpts work with the accessories. Finally, he even stands just fine on his own, which is pretty critical since he is the only one that doesn't have a display stand.

Paint - Chucky, Haff ****; Shaun ***1/2; Zombie **1/2
When it comes to NECA action figures, one of the areas that has required some attention is the paint application. Issues like over applied washes, too much dry brushing, and excessive slop have existed on certain figures and certain lines, hurting their overall reputation.

This set of four figures is some of the best overall work I've seen from them. Chucky and Haff both have amazing detail work, and zero slop. Haff has some dry brushing on the hair to simulate some gray, but it's done with restraint and looks appropriate. His suit is covered with gold and silver details, and there's no bleed or bad cuts to be seen any where.

Chucky has great work on his clothes, although he's less bloody and dirty than previous versions. This is obviously him at the start of a spree, rather than in the middle. The skin color is good, and the eyes and mouth are even and clean.

Shaun is solid as well, with good colors and excellent cuts between them. His face is a *little* shiny, but the work on his beard, hair and employee badge more than make up for it.

The zombie is the only questionable figure this time around. The plaid didn't turn out terrific on any of the figures I saw, and some were downright odd looking. I picked the best of the bunch, and I do admit that plaid is a tough pattern to do right, but it was a bit of a disappointment, considering the general quality of the paint across the series.

The small detail work on the zombie is great, although the rotting flesh has a slightly different appearance from his chest to his face. The chest is more yellow, perhaps more pus-filled, while the damage to the face (and extruded eyeball) is redder and more fresh. The skin tone itself is a slightly different gray, although you could probably make the excuse that the flesh would rot at different rates. 

Articulation - Chucky ***; Haff, Shaun, Zombie **1/2
If you're looking for super articulated figures, you're looking in the wrong place. The articulation is designed to keep them standing, and allow them a couple basic movie accurate poses. That's about it.

Chucky has the best articulation of the bunch, with a ball jointed neck, NECA ball jointed shoulders (which means they can move outward from the body slightly, but the movement is much more restricted than the normal ball joint - this is a trade off for better looking shoulders), pin elbows, cut wrists and a cut waist.  The waist is cut inside the bib overalls though, and doesn't extend out to the rubber cover.  That makes it far less useful.

There's no leg articulation, but it's not a huge loss for this character. A bicep cut would have been nice so the arms could cross the chest or hide behind his back, but it's not a huge issue.

Sebastian has a ball jointed neck, although the movement is a little restricted. He also has NECA shoulders, cut wrists, cut waist, and cut ankles. Yes, you can turn his feet in and out, making it easier to attach him to the base AND keep him standing without it.

Shaun has the ball jointed neck, but has an excellent range of movement, allowing for lots of 'pesonality' in the posing. Again, he has NECA shoulders, a cut waist, a cut left wrist (where you can pop the hand on with the flowers), and cuts at the bottom of the sleeves. While he has less articulation than most of the other figures, he gets extra points for the excellent neck joint.

The zombie has a ball jointed neck, but his is at the junction of the neck and torso instead of below the head. That's because of the sculpt of rotting flesh down the side of his face, which didn't really allow for a joint there. The lower ball joint works fine, although it's not quite as good as the one that Shaun sports.

He also has NECA shoulders, but the shirt/shoulders on both arms (especially the right) are cut back a bit to allow more movement than usual. He also has cut wrists, cut ankles and a cut waist to round him out.

Accessories - Chucky, Shaun ****; Haff ***; Zombie **
This is a real mixed bag, with some figures having lots, and others having little.

The Zombie fills the 'little' category. He has his display base, and that's it. It's a fairly small base too, with a couple small hunks of flesh, nothing nearly as elaborate or interesting as the zombie in series 3.

Chucky is on the opposite end of the spectrum. That's partly because he has no base, a rarity for the Cult Classics line up. Instead, he has a wicked looking knife, baseball bat and hammer, all very useful for hurt and harm in the hands of a doll like Chuck. These are nicely detailed and fit in his right hand. The most important accessory is his Good Guys box. It even includes a yellow cardboard insert, and he fits perfectly inside. This one accessory adds a tremendous amount to his display potential.

Sebastian comes with his walker, his "mucho mojo" medicine bag, and his base. His base can set against the Bubba Ho-Tep base from the previous release, but don't expect anything too fancy. The colors don't quite match, and the edges aren't designed for a perfect fit, almost as if it was an afterthought. It does hold him up well, but he can also stand fine on his own. The walker is a nice touch, and is well sculpted but easy to break. Handle gently! His medicine bag can go over one shoulder, and has a string, rather than rubber or plastic, strap.

Shaun is the big winner in general in this category, with not only a great base, but several other ideal accessories. His base, which again isn't necessary to keep him standing, includes an opening box of albums, with titles like "Music to Kill Zombies By". The block of albums is one solid piece, but it's still a great touch and looks terrific. One downside to the base is that the two foot pegs seem to be a bit too far apart, and you'll have to stretch his legs a bit to use them both at once. However, there's no reason you have to do this, or that you have to use the pegs at all.

There's also the vinyl half out of it's sleeve, the cricket bat, and the extra left hand sculpted permanently to the bouquet of flowers. The hands pop on and off easily enough, but it is possible to snap the wrist pegs if you're not careful. All the accessories look great, where key in the film, and help reproduce an iconic image of the character.

Fun Factor - **1/2
These aren't exactly designed as toys for kids, but the adults will enjoy them. My five year old daughter enjoyed them, only because she likes to help daddy take all the twisty ties off.

Value - ***
You can find many of these guys for as little as $11 each online, and that's an excellent price considering the amount of detail, great paint, and accessories. NECA is upping their game in terms of quality, and keeping their price constant. I'm not sure how they are pulling it off, but it's definitely something I like to see.

Things to Watch Out For - 
It's always a good idea to watch the paint, but this time there's a particular issue - that zombie's shirt. The plaid pattern is funky on all of them, but I saw one on the peg (and I saw an earlier photo from someone who got one similar to it) where the patter was just terrible. Some areas that were supposed to be squares were actually circles, and it didn't look like any plaid I'd ever seen. Avoid those if you can.

Also, Haff's hands are very hard plastic, while the walker is very brittle. Getting it into his left hand can be a little challenging, and it's very easy to break it. Take your time, and be sure to move the thumb out of the way first.

Finally, be particularly careful in taking the box and insert out and folding it together.  It was a bit tricky, and I rushed things, and ended up with a crinkle in the box.  Don't make my mistake!

Overall - Shaun, Haff, ***1/2; Chucky ***; Zombie **1/2
I'm very happy with this series overall, especially Shaun and Sebastian. Haff looks terrific facing off against Bubba, and Shaun will make a nice centerpiece to the many other 7" scale zombies we're getting these days. Chucky is an improvement over the old Mcfarlane version, and while the wide set eyes are annoying, the box is a great addition.

The Plaid Shirt Zombie is really the only one in the group that's not a real must buy, but he does make for a nice, realistic zombie figure for Shaun to battle. And accessory or two, and a better paint job, would have gone a long way to moving him up the food chain.

Series 5 has been announced to include Hannibal Lector, a classic Leatherface, Medieval Ash from Army of Darkness, and a masked and unmasked version of the Saw killer. With the quality of this set, things look good for series 5 and beyond. There's also a 12" talking version of Shaun coming out, and after seeing how well the smaller version turned out, I suspect I'll end up buying him as well.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpt - Shaun, Haff ***1/2; Zombie ***; Chucky **1/2
Paint - Chucky, Haff ****; Shaun ***1/2; Zombie **1/2
Articulation - Chucky ***; Haff, Shaun, Zombie **1/2
Accessories - Chucky, Shaun ****; Haff ***; Zombie **
Fun Factor - **
Value - ***
Overall - Shaun, Haff, ***1/2; Chucky ***; Zombie **1/2

Where to Buy - 
I've seen these at the local Hot Topic, but you'll pay close to $15 each once you factor in tax. The online stores that have the singles have priced them differently based on the character, or at least their belief on which characters will be most popular. Interestingly enough, this varies from retailer to retailer, so if you shop around, you'll find pretty much all four singles at around $11 someplace. Online options include:

- CornerStoreComics has the singles at $11 - $14 each, depending on the character, or the boxed set for $44.

- Amazing Toyz is pre-sold out of many of the singles, but still has the full set available for pre-order at $44.

- Alter Ego Comics has the full set of four at $48.

- Killer Toys has the singles at $12 - $14 each, depending on the character, or the full set for $49.

- Time and Space Toys has the singles for $15, and is one of the few places left that I know of to still have Bubba Ho-Tep in stock.

- YouBuyNow doesn't have series 4 listed yet, but has several of the series 3 in stock, including Bubba Ho-Tep. Some are even on clearance!

Related Links - 
I've reviewed all the series so far, including series 1, series 2, and series 3 (with Bubba and John McClane  in one review, and Flyboy and the Endoskeleton in another).

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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