Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Child’s Play Franchise Breakdown

The Child’s Play franchise kind of fascinates me. Personally, as a kid of the late ‘80s–early ‘90s, the first three films were staples of my childhood. I also think it’s very unique (and kind of great) for a horror franchise to run for 26 years without including a remake, prequel or reboot. But most of all, rarely has the overall tone of a horror franchise varied so drastically. The Child’s Play films have gone from dead serious to moderately humorous, silly to absurd, parody to dead serious (again). And look, by no means am I saying that these films are good, I’m just saying that, more often than not, I tend to have fun with them.

Child’s Play (1988)
The franchise begins with a cop (Chris Sarandon) gunning down serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) in a toy store. Before Ray dies, he uses voodoo to transfer his soul into the hottest toy on the market, a Good Guy doll. Chucky, as the doll is now known, quickly learns that to escape from the doll, he must transfer his soul to the first person he told about his new soul possession, which happens to be a young boy named Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent).

So basically, Child’s Play is about a doll killing a shitload of people all in an effort to take possession of a kid’s body. One of the best things about Child’s Play is that for the first several minutes, you’re not sure if the Good Guy doll is really possessed, or if this Andy kid is just seriously whacked. Now, of course we all know that Chucky is the one wreaking havoc, but I respect the filmmakers for trying to throw us off, if only for a few minutes.

Best kill: Chucky offing his witchdoctor with a voodoo doll is arguably the best kill of the entire franchise.

Child’s Play 2 (1990)
Two years later: Andy is living in a foster home while his mother withers away in a mental institution. Chucky, invigorated with a new doll body, manages to track Andy down and the game of possession starts yet again. Child’s Play 2 is essentially more of the same, that is until its amusing conclusion set inside a Good Guy doll factory. As Andy and his foster sister try to outrun Chucky within a maze of dolls, we’re playfully reminded of the end of The Shining. The camera position, the wide angle lens, the gliding movement – it’s actually a pretty solid and respectable homage.

Best kill: I can’t decide between two. The first is Chucky beating Andy’s teacher (Beth Grant) to death with a… yard stick (I mean really), and the second is a factory worker falling onto a conveyer belt and having his eyes replaced with Good Guy doll eyes. Poor bastard.

Child’s Play 3 (1991)
Okay guys, we’ve reached a milestone. The first time I watched Child’s Play 3 remains a key moment in my movie-obsessed life. And here’s why. Child’s Play 3 was the first R-rated film I ever watched. I’ll never forget seeing the VHS tape sitting alone next to the VCR. Confusing Child’s Play 3 with the family-friendly Problem Child films, I put the movie in and hit play. I was transfixed – the blood, the cursing, the danger of it all. My world was opened, and I couldn’t get enough.

The movie itself, set eight years after the conclusion of Part 2, wherein Chucky tracks the teenage Andy down at military school and continues to terrorize him, is often regarded as the weakest of the Child’s Play films. Franchise creator Don Mancini has even publicly stated that it’s his least favorite Chucky film. And while I get where he’s coming from, for better or worse (as silly as this sounds), I'll always be indebted to Child’s Play 3.

Best kill: Easy, torturing the CEO of the company that makes Good Guy dolls using various toys. “Doooon’t fuck with the Chuck.”

Bride of Chucky (1998)
Bride of Chucky is a romp that doesn’t, for a second, want to be taken seriously. Because really, any flick that shows two talking dolls getting high and having sex isn’t looking to be considered for awards attention. The one thing Bride of Chucky, and its immediate successor, Seed of Chucky, asks of its audience is that they lessen their expectations and try to have a little fun.

The movie is about a former girlfriend of Charles Lee Ray, Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly), who summons Chucky back to life and is herself turned into a doll. The two soon venture to Jersey to find an amulet that will return them to human form once and for all, killing any and everyone who gets in their way. Again, Bride of Chucky is a complete farce whose sole intention is to make money (which it did) by shocking people with B-movie gore, and making them laugh with cheap toilet humor.

Best kill: A cop takes a bunch of nails to the face. It’s awesome.

Seed of Chucky (2004)
The out-and-out comedy, Seed of Chucky, is Child’s Play’s answer to Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. That is, a meta take on the franchise itself. In Seed of Chucky, Jennifer Tilly plays an actress named Jennifer Tilly who is starring in a movie adaptation of Chucky and Tiffany’s crime spree. Chucky and Tiffany’s child, an asexual doll called Glen by his father and Glenda by his mother (get it?!), accidentally resurrects his lifeless parents, and watches as they continue their wave of terror. Chucky and Tiffany’s first order of business is to transfer their souls to the real Jennifer Tilly and rapper-turned-director Redman (playing himself). So yeah, it’s that kind of movie.

And if the flick sounds absurd, that’s because it intends to be. I haven’t even mentioned the artificial insemination via turkey baster, the killing of Britney Spears, John Waters’ perfect cameo, and on and on. If Seed of Chucky works, it’s because it unapologetically owns up to itself. And I respect that. I’ve see a lot of very bad horror films that take themselves far too seriously, so a movie like Seed of Chucky can be oddly refreshing. If nothing else, the film is a ridiculous farce that never pretends to be anything but.

Best Kill: Spoiler alert – Gotta be Waters getting a bottle of acid poured onto his head. His death scream is hilariously unconvincing.

Curse of Chucky (2013)
Curse of Chucky is the type of straight-to-DVD, take-me-seriously modern horror film that Seed of Chucky so openly mocked. Curse of Chucky was shot digitally, is bathed in cold hues, accompanied by an eerie musical score, and is set in a generic haunted house, making it virtually indistinguishable from the dozens of cheap horror films released every year. No fewer than 48 minutes pass before the relevance of this film is understood in the world of the franchise. Before then, there’s literally no mention of anything that has happened in the previous films, which means we spend half the movie wondering what the hell is going on (and why). But I suppose it’s hard to hate on Curse of Chucky’s drastic tonal shift. The film was directed by franchise creator, Don Mancini, who also directed the absurd Seed of Chucky. With Curse of Chucky, Mancini clearly wants the franchise to be taken seriously again. Fair enough. Shifting the franchise back to horror isn’t the problem. Making a lame movie rife with horror clichés is. And the film’s laughably tidy conclusion is far too neat for its own good.

Best Kill: A hatchet to the face splits a man’s tongue in half. The severed side comes flopping out and everything. Pretty wicked.

My Rankings (best to worst)
Child’s Play 3
Child’s Play
Seed of Chucky
Child’s Play 2
Bride of Chucky
Curse of Chucky

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22 comments:

  1. Sorry Jack. Chucky's back! Love this breakdown, Alex. The first one has a special place for me. Joe Renzetti's score (especially the section that plays over the end credits) and the voice of the always great character actor Brad Dourif are the reasons why it still holds up for me.

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    1. Another Chucky fan - YES! Love that part of this franchise is special to you as well. Dourif continues to deliver truly astonishing work here. Man has kept Chucky for 26 years, without missing a beat. So good.

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  2. Ah Chucky. The first 2 films are great while I do kinda love Bride of Chucky. I haven't seen the most recent one but the third film and Seed of Chucky aren't so great.

    My qualms with the third one had to do w/ the casting of Andy as I thought Justin Whalin overacted his fear while I was more annoyed by the kid who discovered Chucky and I wanted that kid dead in the film.

    Seed of Chucky just didn't work for me though I did enjoy John Waters' death.

    Oh, and here's a moment that definitely helped contribute to the death of World Championship Wrestling which involves Rick Steiner arguing w/ Chucky which you can see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEbXo3rTJPQ

    It's so fucking bad.

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    1. Wow that clip is... yeah, bad. I agree about the acting in Child's Play 3. It's a shame that it's so weak. And yeah, that Tyler kid is rough. So cool to see a young Perrey Reeves in there though. What a babe she turned out to be. I'd skip the most recent one if I was you. Very lame.

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    2. Oh yeah, Perrey Reeves was in that film. She was quite cute as she did get hot. She also had nice boobies in that scene in Kicking & Screaming by Noah Baumbach.

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    3. Ha, shit, I forgot about that. She killed it as Ari's wife on Entourage.

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  3. I have a similar relationship with Child's Play as you. Though I'm not certain whether it was the first R-rated movie I ever saw, I certainly remember seeing it when I was very young (probably far too young to have seen it actually). Probably more memorable to me though was an experience I had with my parents where we were shopping in some store (I think it was a Spender's) and I couldn't have been more than 6 and my mom tapped on my shoulder with a Chucky doll and I screamed so loud it freaked everyone else in the store out. So that sticks with me more than any of the movies, but Chucky had some effect on my life for sure.

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    1. Haha that's a great story. I was young too man, like 4 or 5. I remember my parents being kind of upset when I told them I had watched it on accident. My dad was like, "You don't do something on accident for 90 minutes." But then they basically agreed that I had to be exposed to R-rated films at some point, and there are far worse ones than Chucky 3 to see first. Ha. But I'm glad these films have a personal stake in you as well. Very cool man.

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  4. Well, I can say I've never liked any moment I was watching one of these films. Granted I've only watched two of them, the first and the last. But I just never had interest in them. Maybe I'll go rent the absurd ones and have some fun Friday night with them though, but I did just get the 40th edition blu ray Texas Chainsaw Massacre on the other hand, so maybe I won't. Actually I don't know yet, I'll just see what movie I happen to watch on Halloween when I get there. Anyway, still a good list, loved the bit about your first R-rated movie being Child's Play 3, I think mine was the Patriot (Mel Gibson one). But glad that is your favorite, seems like a solid reason for being there too. Again, good list, can't wait to see the next horror franchise breakdown you make next year (I enjoy all your other ones quite a lot).

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    1. My vote is for that Texas Chainsaw Blu-Ray, all the way. That's my favorite horror film, and I bet that edition will look fucking great. Seed of Chucky might be fun at some point though, especially if booze are in the picture.

      And thanks so much for the kind words about these breakdowns. I did some two years ago, and people didn't really seem to care, which is totally fine. But moreover, the films are often just really bad, you know? Tough to slug through 10 Jason films haha. But really, it means a lot to me that you enjoy them.

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    2. Yeah, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a good one, one of if not my favorites as well. Let me tell you, it's getting really hard not to tear open that new copy and shove it in the TV, I just gotta wait till tomorrow.

      Well I'm not going to be able to watch Seed of Chucky how you recommend, for I'm not quite 21. But I still have an appreciation for just those really silly and awful horror movies, for they can just be so much fun to laugh at, especially with friends.

      I remember when I was maybe 13, I was at a friends house for Halloween night, and there was a Jason marathon on TV. We started with Friday the 13th: The final chapter, and went all the way to Freddy vs Jason. I can completely understand why it is hard to sit through a bunch just like them, they are so awful! Jason X must be one of the worst movies I have ever watched, others like Freddy vs Jason are really close behind. But once again I really appreciate these lists, it's fun to read about just these awful franchises that should have died long ago, but just wont. Actually, bringing up Texas Chainsaw again, you should do a breakdown for that franchise. That would be very enjoyable to read.

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    3. Those Friday the 13th movies were TOUGH to sit through when I wrote my post on them. My God, they just get worse and worse. I'm looking over my breakdown now, and I forgot how bad New Beginning (which follows The Final Chapter) was. So damn lame.

      I thought about doing a Texas Chainsaw breakdown this year, but I just didn't have time. I've seen the sequel and the direct remake from 2003. But maybe I'll get to them soon. No need to wait a whole year, you know?

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  5. I love the Child's Play franchise. It's kind of a guilty pleasure, but I think Child's Play 2 is my favorite. It's one of the few instances (for me anyways) that I think a sequel is better than the original.

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    1. Yes! So happy that you like them. That final scene in Child's Play 2 is so wicked. I really enjoyed watching it this time around.

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  6. Ha! I've never seen any of the Chucky films because the movie posters and covers alone scared me. So reading this post is the first time I've known what the storyline is actually about. Sounds interesting. I don't think I'll ever give these movies a try, but they sound somewhat humorous, an ingredient I often enjoy in a horror film.

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    1. Oh they're definitely silly as shit. Chucky has a wicked sense of humor, which definitely makes these movies fun. Again, they're not great or anything, but I enjoy most of them. Thanks for the comment!

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  7. This is such a fun post! I heard Beth Grant was awesome in her role :) I love what you wrote about being young and seeing the movie and always having sentiment for it - I have tons of movies I saw that I have fond memories of seeing and it just makes them uniquely special.

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    1. Thanks! I LOVE Beth Grant and she is priceless in that role. So cool to see her in such an early role in her career. And her death scene is hilarious.

      Really glad you liked my story about Part 3. It seems so silly that THAT movie was so important to my movie-watching life, but so it goes.

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  8. I've never actually seen any of these in entirety, but I do have the first one in a 3-pack with the original versions of Carrie and The Amityville Horror. I'll have to check it out some time.

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    1. They're silly but definitely worth checking out. Love that third one.

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  9. One of my favourite franchises! Here is how I would rank them:

    Bride of Chucky
    Child's Play
    Child's Play 2
    Child's Play 3
    Seed of Chucky
    Curse of Chucky

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    1. Nice rankings. Curse of Chucky sucks, doesn't it?

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