When I wrote this review of Chucky: The Killer DVD Collection on Sep. 22, 2011 the home release of the series was a bit confused. The original Child’s Play film had been released by MGM, while the sequels up until that time were released by Universal. At the time the two studios were unwilling to, or unable to, come up with a comprehensive DVD box set that would include all films. And, according to screenwriter Don Mancini, the same rights issues were holding up a Child’s Play reboot that was then in development. Chucky: The Killer DVD Collection therefore does not include the original film and instead includes four films: Child’s Play 2 & 3, along with Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky.
I am leaving my review as it was initially written (with some improvements) as a reminder of how these films were originally marketed to the home video market. Today, in August of 2020, this problem has been corrected and the films can be purchased together as a set. The most complete product is Chucky: Complete 7-Movie Collection, which includes the original film and the two most recent additions, Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky. The Child’s Play reboot (2019) can be purchased separately.
Child’s Play 2 (1990)
Child’s Play 2 follows closely on the heels of Child’s Play (1988). Continuing the same storyline as the original, Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) is now living in a foster home after the events of the first film, and his mother is in a mental hospital. “Chucky” (killer Charles Lee Ray, again voiced by Brad Dourif) returns and is again trying to track down Andy in order to transfer his soul into Andy’s body. Alex Vincent was a great child actor and really carries the movie. The stepparents, played by Jenny Agutter and Gerrit Graham, are also quite believable. The film’s finale, set in a toy factory, is very creative. Overall, better special effects and production make for a solid sequel.
Child’s Play 3 (1992)
Child’s Play 3 jumps eight years into the (virtual) future and has Andy Barclay (this time played by Justin Whalin) enrolled in a military academy. Play Pal Toys Company has decided to re-start its Good Guys toy line. This time Chucky decides to try to transfer his soul into the body of a young black student, Ronald Tyler (Jeremy Sylvers), presumably because Ronald will be easier to trick, now that Andy is quite a lot older.
The military academy premise feels very contrived, as does the film’s ending in an amusement park atmosphere. Don Mancini has stated that this is his least favorite of the series, due to the time constraints on the production and other factors. The movie does feel rushed, and in this writer’s view is the weakest of the series. Still a decent horror sequel, however, despite its many flaws.
Bride of Chucky (1998)
If the Child’s Play franchise was beginning to get a little stale with Child’s Play 3, all it took was a little breathing room before it could be reinvigorated with Bride of Chucky. Although Bride of Chucky is marginally a sequel it does not connect directly to Child’s Play 1-3, and in fact makes only a passing mention of the Andy Barclay character during the opening credits, when a newspaper article is flashed onscreen.
Instead, the plot revolves around Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly), an ex-lover of Charles Lee Ray/Chucky. Tiffany performs the infamous voodoo chant and brings Chucky back from the dead. Tiffany and Chucky do not see eye to eye, particularly because Tiffany is still in love with Chucky but he does not return the sentiment. Chucky electrocutes Tiffany and then transfers her soul into a female doll in spite. The two spend the rest of the movie trying to transfer their souls into two photogenic teenagers, Jesse (Nick Stabile) and Jade (Katherine Heigl). You may recognize Katherine Heigl as Dr. Izzie Stevens on TV’s Grey’s Anatomy and from the film, Knocked Up. John Ritter also plays a memorable supporting role as the overbearing father of Jade.
Directed by Ronny Yu (Fearless, Freddy vs. Jason), there is much to like about Bride of Chucky. The directing is fast-paced and modern, complete with a driving soundtrack from artists such as White Zombie and Slayer. Ronny Yu provides compelling death scenes, such as when a honeymooning couple gets impaled by shards from a mirrored ceiling, or when the character David (Gordon Michael Woolvett) is splattered along the highway by a Mack truck. Jennifer Tilly is a natural as both an actress and a voice actor. Even Chucky himself has a new design, less like a Cabbage Patch Doll and more like a plush doll with very graphic sutures and scars.
Most of all, this sequel is funny. Humor was already starting to creep more and more into the series; it was only a natural progression. Bride of Chucky just proved what we already knew to be true; movies can be both funny and scary. The finale of Bride of Chucky shows Tiffany giving birth to a baby, since Chucky and Tiffany seemed to work out their differences over the course of the film.
Seed of Chucky (2004)
Seed of Chucky took the comedic elements of Bride of Chucky and took them one step further. After a somewhat nauseating portrayal of Chucky’s “seeds” inseminating Tiffany, the movie explains that their offspring is now in Glasonbury working as a marionette for an abusive English comedian. The kid also has recurring nightmares of murders and other violence and doesn’t understand why. After seeing a program on TV the kid realizes that his parents are Chucky and Tiffany and that they are currently being used as animatronic puppets for a movie called ‘Revenge of Chucky’ (which confusingly was once touted as a real-life sequel to the franchise). After the kid escapes and finds Chucky and Tiffany he does the infamous voodoo chant and brings back his/her parents. Which brings us to one of the main themes of Seed, that the kid is gender confused. Chucky of course wants the child to be identified as male and named Glen. Tiffany wants the kid to be female and named Glenda.
Chucky and Tiffany meanwhile are convinced that they can inhabit the bodies of Jennifer Tilly and rapper Redman. The reason for this is that Jennifer Tilly was playing a role in the fictional ‘Revenge of Chucky’ movie and she was one of the first people that Chucky and Tiffany came in contact with after being reanimated by Glen/Glenda. Redman is a movie director making a film about the Virgin Mary, of which Jennifer Tilly plans to sleep her way into the starring role. The confounding plot element is that Jennifer Tilly plays herself, but she also plays the voice of Tiffany. In Bride of Chucky, she played the character of Tiffany not just as a puppet but as an actress as well. So for anyone who has seen Bride of Chucky this is all quite confusing.
Anyway, Redman’s character is killed by Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly) in a particularly gruesome disembowelment, involving his entire intestinal tract. Since Chucky was going to transfer his soul into Redman’s body, they need a new body. They decide to use character Jennifer Tilly’s personal driver instead. Then they forcibly inseminate Jennifer Tilly, in order to create a new life for the soul of Glen/Glenda to be transferred into. (Question: What legal crime does forced pregnancy entail? Would it be sexual assault? Rape?)
If at all possible, the plot gets even more far-fetched when Jennifer Tilly gives birth to twins. Conveniently, one is male and the other female, so Glen-Glenda has his/her choice of bodies to choose. Then Chucky decides he doesn’t want to become human after all (Really?? After five movies?) This sets the stage for a final standoff between Tiffany, Glen/Glenda and Chucky. Tiffany manages to transfer her soul into Jennifer Tully’s body just before Chucky destroys her doll body. During the film’s postscript we learn that the kid chose to be transferred into the male baby and is happy as Glen.
The overall plot has enough serious continuity issues that Seed of Chucky barely fits into the series at all in the end. Who greenlighted this absurd movie? Ironically, it’s the exact same team that came up with the other films in the series. David Kirschner produced, Don Mancini wrote, Brad Dourif as the voice of Chucky. This one was even directed by Don Mancini, a first for the writer. If anything, this one should be closest to his vision for the character and the series.
Regardless, the movie is an absolute riot and it’s by far the funniest of the series. Don Mancini, who is gay, went out of his way to create a subversive slasher film with heaps of queer and transgender humor, including even a cameo from gay icon John Waters. Maybe he thought this was his last opportunity to say something different in film, maybe he just wanted to make a silly movie. Regardless, it does work, and is probably better than Child’s Play 3 at the very least.
The Child’s Play series remains remarkably consistent, despite the rushed results of Child’s Play 3 and the quirkiness of Seed of Chucky. It’s unheard of that a series retains the same writer and producer, much less the same voice actor. Don Mancini simply wrote a great character that has stood the test of time. Brad Dourif has become a horror icon, in some ways more distinctive than even Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger). There are some who argue that Child’s Play 1-3 are the only authentic movies in the series. Others are more beholden to the comedy horror of Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky. I like them all for different reasons. In fact, the original is in some ways more of a thriller than a straight horror film.
To purchase these five films as they were originally packaged click on the image to the left for Chucky: The Killer DVD Collection. Or, if you prefer, purchase the more complete Chucky: Complete 7-Movie Collection. which includes all films up to 2020 except for the Child’s Play reboot.
For other horror-related articles, please see:
- EMP Museum succeeds with Can’t Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film
- Final Destination 5 meets expectations
- George Romero’s ‘Survival of the Dead’ – dead on arrival
- Hellraiser: Revelations deserves another look
- Hostel: Part III a missed opportunity
- Leprechaun – Decades later and still not scary
- ‘Mega Piranha’ – so bad it’s good?
- Review of ‘Memory’ from 2006, starring Billy Zane
- Review – Zombie Diaries 2, aka World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries
- Seattle’s ZomBcon raised the living dead
- Seattle’s 2012 MIFFF opens with Mon Ami
- Shocker by Wes Craven is shockingly bad
- Tobe Hooper ‘Mortuary’ – brain-dead zombies and black fungus
- Wes Craven ‘Cursed’ falls short of potential
- 2002 film ‘They’ explores night terrors
(This article was originally written in Sept. of 2011 for Examiner.com).
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