Franchise w/ Me: CHILD’S PLAY w/ Michael Palladino

My love affair with Chucky goes back to early childhood. I used to sit around in my room flipping through channels on weekends, occasionally landing on the USA Network. USA always played a good amount of early 90s Universal movies – Major Payne, Tremors, Kindergarten Cop, Problem Child 1 & 2 and of course, Child’s Play 2 & 3. These were the only two entries of the series I had seen (at this point, the only two sequels of the franchise that existed) but I knew one thing for sure – Child’s Play 2 was better. Child’s Play 2 was the entertaining one with the relatable kid hero and the older kid sidekick that reminded me of my sister. It was the one with that great climax in the toy factory and a relatively happy ending. Child’s Play 3 was the shitty one, with characters I didn’t connect to, lamer F/X effects and a climax that feels like a drop in a pond compared to what came before.

USA Networks would never play the original, though. Most likely because they either couldn’t afford the rights or because the first, unlike many of the sequels, is not a Universal Pictures release. Later in life, my mother would rent me the original Child’s Play and while I liked it far more than the third, I didn’t like it nearly as much as the second. Well, time has changed my perspectives on a lot of things including my assessment of biochemical warfare and the Child’s Play series.

With me for this spooooky edition of Franchise w/ Me, is my roommate and recent Chucky convert, Michael Palladino.

Let’s start with breaking down the original, a killer doll movie with a darkly humorous side that inspired six sequels and a remake.

Child’s Play

directed by: Tom Holland ; written by: Don Mancini and John Lafia and Tom Holland

cast: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, Brad Dourif, Tommy Swerdlow, Dinah Manoff, Ray Oliver

runtime: 87 minutes

release date: November 9, 1988

other horror movies released Fall of ’88: They Live, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Pumpkinhead, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, Dead Ringers, Night of the Demons

MARGETIS = BLUE ; PALLADINO = RED

The late 80s was really when slashers were starting to wear thinFreddy had made a full fledged leap into absurdism, Michael Myers was part of some Ancient Druid death cult and Jason was riding around on boats. Where else could you take these typically mute killing machines? The formula was so overused it became rote and cliche for even the stupidest of audiences. That’s why writer and creator Don Mancini was such a welcome addition to the scene, because he decided to ditch big and imposing super monsters for something as innocuous as a red-headed child’s doll. Except you know, inhabited by the soul of an unhinged, foul-mouthed sociopath. Chucky is your friend till the end, a ridiculously overpriced and extremely popular child’s toy your kid has to have that happens to be possessed by a serial killer.

Over the course of seven films (eight if you count the remake, which we did), Chucky kills, jokes, dies repeatedly, goes to military school, gets married, has a child, masturbates into a turkey baster, clones himself, and so on and so on, but he was never scarier than he was in the original. 1988’s Child’s Play opens with serial killer Charles Lee Ray (a menacing Brad Dourif) getting chased by police detective Chris Sarandon through a toy store. He gets mortally wounded and before he passes, he chants this ancient voodoo curse that allows his soul to inhabit whatever object he’s holding, which is the only thing he can find at that moment — a popular child’s doll that is the season’s hottest seller. The toy he possesses gets discarded or something (figured it would be in a police evidence locker but, whatever) and a street vagrant gets a hold of it. He sells it to a tired single mother (Catherine Hicks) in a back alley because she wants something special for her boy, Andy (Alex Vincent), but can’t afford to buy it in stores at list price on her perfume counter salary. Little do they know the doll is possessed and when violent things begin happening around them, there is no explanation. Andy claims the doll is speaking to him but no one believes him. Detective Susan Sarandon’s Brother gets involved when Andy’s babysitter gets murdered and he and the mom become convinced Andy is making it all up and maybe even the killer himself. That is until Chucky reveals his true self to each of them before attacking them with violence and foul language.

Child’s Play has a great collection of morbidly hilarious sequences usually involving the pitter patter of Chucky’s little feet. Mostly these scenes ricochet between funny and chilling in a tonal balance the series would never see again. I personally love the scene where Chucky comes back to seek approval but then to ultimately murder his voodoo mentor, this scene showcases Chucky’s dark humor the best. In fact, I think it’s the longest stretch of film we spend with an animated Chucky (in this one). The movie ends with Chucky being put down by Detective Fright Night after being set on fire and dismembered. Andy is forever scarred because of this terrible incident and the next one explains how the mom has been committed to an insane asylum. Cause who would believe their story about a killer doll? Not this reviewer. Not ever. Give that struggling single mom the electric shock therapy she deserves. Palladino, what do you think of the inaugural Child’s Play offering?

Would you believe I didn’t see this movie until 2018? Honestly, I was never that interested in horror films until you and I became roommates during a fucking pandemic and had to do our civic duty. (Stay home, don’t interact with anyone else, get high, watch every movie ever made.) But on a lonely October night three years back, Hulu recommended it to me after I informed its algorithm that I throughly enjoyed Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. And you know what? Hulu was dead on here. I did really like it.

It’s not the first murderdoll story we’ve seen in film and television, but Brad Dourif’s voice over work and the overall ruthlessness of the main antagonist pull the concept into a place that’s pretty far from the Talking Tina doll in that old episode of The Twilight Zone. The big reveal scene encapsulates the whole tone so well and it will always be one of my favorite moments in any horror film, right up there with the dirtbike/samurai sword massacre in Demons and the last sixty seconds of Sleepaway Camp. If you’re reading this and you haven’t seen Child’s Play, click the link I so helpfully provided. Yeah, it’s kind of a spoiler, but it’ll let you know exactly what this movie is all about. Maybe you’re one of those people who, like me, thinks a murderdoll calling the mom from 7th Heaven a “stupid bitch” and “filthly slut” is funny and you want more context. In that case, I encourage you to set aside eighty-seven minutes and get the whole story. If you think that sort of thing is depraved and without any artistic merit, then go watch The Land Before Time and write fan letters to Tipper Gore or something.

*IN GENE SHALIT VOICE: Bottom line, this is a movie that doesn’t TOY around, but if you like horror movies that PLAY rough, sit back and watch Chucky DOLL out the punishment. Back to you, Joan and Charlie!

Child’s Play 2

directed by: John Lafia ; written by: Don Mancini

cast: Brad Dourif, Alex Vincent, Jenny Agutter, Gerrit Graham, Christine Elise, Grace Zabriskie, Beth Grant, Greg Germann, Peter Haskell

runtime: 84 minutes (shortest entry)

release date: November 9, 1990

other horror movies released Fall ’90: Misery, Psycho IV: The Beginning, Jacob’s Ladder, Troll 2, Night of the Living Dead (Remake), Shakma, Graveyard Shift, Hardware, Repossessed, Rocky V, Soultaker, Frankenstein Unbound

MARGETIS = BLUE ; PALLADINO = RED

Call me crazy if you want, and I know you will, but in the opinion of this reviewer, this film is part of an exclusive fraternity that includes such members as The Godfather Part II and Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Yeah, there’s a little hyperbole in that statement, but we’re talking about murderdoll movies here, so I think a little hyerbole is to be expected.

Rather than blindly following the template of its predecessor, like so many horror sequels have done, this one knows what you liked about Child’s Play and builds on that. It even improves upon some of the things that you might not have been on board for in the first one. Did you also think Catherine Hicks was a little too much? No problem, because this time Andy is paired with a moody teenage foster sister. Did you find yourself wishing for more outlandish murders, preferably of adults who have treated Andy terribly? Chucky hears you and he has big plans for Andy’s shitty teacher and asshole foster dad. Did you like the first film’s climactic final battle throughout the apartment, but wish it could have been on a grander scale? Then come join us at the Good Guy Doll factory and see how many OSHA violations you can count.

Child’s Play 2 has a great fun-to-dumb ratio and it knows exactly what it’s supposed to be. I like it, maybe more than the original. What do you think, Margetis?

This is a tough one for me because it was far and way my favorite slasher movie as a child, and by child, I mean when I was in the single digits. But before you start freaking out that a toddler was watching this in all it’s blood-soaked glory, keep in mind I was only watching the edited down version on USA Network. As I said in the introduction, this and the third one were like the most played movies on USA Network during the mid to late 90s. Eventually when I was 11 or so, my mom let me rent all four of the existing Child’s Play films, in all of their violent glory and the second one, especially for 11-year-old me, was great. Time has made me appreciate this one less, though.

I really have to request a roommate piss test from you for lumping this in with the cinematic phenomenon sequels like T2 or Godfather Part II. I thought for a while some of the meth I was selling was going missing and this all but confirms it. T2 really flipped the script on the original in that it expanded the action but repositioned the viewer to identify with and like Arnold’s terminator character (a new character “technically”, but pretty much the same thing inverted good.) This made us, as an audience, feel morally cleaner about delighting in the explosive chaotic violence that is a Cameron action film. In Aliens, Cameron again flipped the script by making a dark, tense, claustrophobic, deliberately paced horror film into a loud, fun, and overall wider action/adventure picture. The Godfather Part II takes a perfectly paced and almost magically lean three hour epic, and plays looser but deeper with it, adding another half hour and successfully jumping between two different time periods which in their own separate ways paint a portrait of the absolute fabrication that is the American dream. You can argue that Godfather 1 maybe romanticizes the mafia, but Godfather II absolutely deglamorizes it, showing what a human shell being a mob boss has made Michael Corleone. But let’s get back on track, Child’s Play 2 doesn’t really flip the script at all. It’s the same old doll, killing people, in the same exact way (albeit with less impact) as the first one. Sure, the climax is more intense, but it’s just Chucky trying to play hide the soul with Andy again. They add in an older foster sister character that IMO mimics what the Jamie Lloyd character had in her older foster sister in Halloween 4 & 5, but the parents are more or less the same, not particularly well developed other than that they want the best for an obviously disturbed child and then die cruel deaths.

I think what this one does differently than the original is that it distills what people liked about the original (TALKING DOLL CURSE THEN KILL KILL KILL) and gives you more of that, but with less flavor. None of the deaths have the menace and cruelty of the original. Some of the deaths (especially the teacher yard stick murder) succeed as solid comedic set pieces but they never approach anything remotely chilling. They also never go far enough to be fall down hilarious. The humor is more broad in this one and less clever, and everything before the toy store finale showdown seems oddly paced. This is the shortest entry in the series yet it feels longer than the original. I like how Chucky is battling little Andy straight up in this one, and we don’t have a cop or a mom character to help him fight. As a child, I loved movies where other children solved problems and fought bad guys because it was easier for me to identify with them than say Catherine Hicks.

I really hope none of you think I dislike this entry, because I really don’t. It’s a solid B-/C+ and for slasher sequels, that’s glowing praise from me. This is a fan favorite because it’s about what most people would imagine if someone pitched them with the idea of Chucky. That being said, it lacked the creativity and subversive humor of some of the other sequels. Contrary to a lot of horror fans, I don’t like when franchises deliver us the same shit over and over and over again. If the first one is terrifying, make the sequel a parody of that one (a la Texas Chainsaw 2) or a parody of the idea of sequels in general (Scream 2), or turn horror into action/adventure (Aliens) or dive into the inherent stupidity of your franchise so hard it’s almost a subversive statement in itself (Leprechaun Back 2 tha Hood, Seed of Chucky/Cult of Chucky). Don’t just deliver basically the same thing but with less calories, because contrary to what American marketing firms might tell you, Diet Coke doesn’t taste as good as regular Coke. I guess Child’s Play 2 plays it a little too safe for me. After all, it’s horror – the playground for the art world’s true freaks. It shouldn’t feel this bland.

Child’s Play 3

directed by: Jack Bender ; written by: Dan Mancini

cast: Brad Dourif, Justin Whalin, Perrey Reeves, Jeremy Sylvers, Dean Jacobsen, Travis Fine, Andrew Robinson, Dakin Matthews, Peter Haskell

running time: 90 minutes

release date: August 30, 1991

other horror movies released Summer ’91: Body Parts, Stephen King’s Sometimes They Come Back

MARGETIS = BLUE ; PALLADINO = RED

Released less than a year after Child’s Play 2, Child’s Play 3 was rushed into production. Creator/writer Don Mancini admits to not having much of an idea for this one and it shows. It really shows. Like so many late horror franchise sequels, Child’s Play 3 offers so little tweaks or deviations to the established formula that fatigue had set in, hard. How does Chucky keep coming back and why is he so dead set on Andy? Why must we go through this same thing again? As an audience, we’re so ready to move on from this set-up and we wish Chucky was too.

Child’s Play 3 jumps years into the future when Andy (now played by Serial Mom’s Justin Whalen) is like 16 years old and away at military school. Chucky comes back when the evil toy company goons clean up and repurpose his melted corpse (YET AGAIN!) to re-sell him and make more money. The toy company CEO takes him home and is rightfully attacked and murdered. Thank God, if only so we don’t have to sit through Bride of Chucky opening with that damn toy company being like “Hey, let’s repurpose and recycle this Good Guy doll that has somehow been involved in three different mass murder sprees!” Anyway, Chucky finds out where Andy is and has his doll body shipped to military school. Once there, he terrorizes Andy’s friends, a young Perry Reeves and a flagrant Jewish stereotype, as well as his superior officers. One of the series’ most hilarious death scenes is when Chucky frightens an old fat goober Captain into having a heart attack, who proceeds to fall backwards and right into an enormous glass model case, making one of the biggest messes I’ve ever seen in a movie death. Even Chucky is stunned by the craziness of it. Far and away, the most enjoyable 11 seconds of the film.

Chucky also finds another potential child victim/host body, a 12-year-old military school kid played by quite possibly the worst child actor to ever enter the business, Jeremy Sylvers. It’s hard to get through a scene of Jeremy’s without cringing your facial features off your actual face, and he’s easily the third lead of the movie behind Andy and Ari Gold’s wife. And we really didn’t need all of Chucky’s “I’m gonna be a brother!” jokes because the 12-year-old is black. Thankfully this movie tanked hard at the box office, otherwise Jeremy Sylvers might have been the new franchise lead.

The most disappointing aspect of this is the wasted potential of the setting. Chucky could do SO MUCH at military school and everything he does end up doing seems like the fourth or fifth best idea everyone had. I get that with its rushed production and lower budget they probably couldn’t do much, but after such a strong climax in Child’s Play 2, the rigged military war games that overspills into a local amusement park seems kind of lame. In 1991, Chucky was getting old hat. Maybe he just needed to get laid to dust off some of the cobwebs? Palladino, what did you think of Child’s Play 3 and also my set-up for Bride of Chucky?

You’re not wrong. This movie fucking blows.

When I learned that this was almost shot back-to-back with the previous movie, I wondered why they didn’t do a Back to the Future thing and make the two movies better companion pieces that could be released in theaters within a one to two year period. So to go from Andy at seven years old to Andy being in his late teens just doesn’t make any sense to me. It reminds me of the rapid aging that the character of Tommy Jarvis went through between Friday the 13th: Part IV and Friday the 13th: Part V. As far as the cast goes, Justin Whalin just didn’t do anything for me here, so I will continue to believe that the role of Jimmy Olsen in Lois & Clark is still the real crown jewel on his resume. Entourage’s Perry Reeves was probably my favorite character, which is to say that she was not annoying, like most characters in this movie are. Young Tyler, played by Jeremy Sylvers, got on my last nerve. That’s not his fault, the poor kid was only eight years old at the time and probably had a horrfic stage parent looming over him every day until he turned eighteen. It just seemed that they tried to make him younger than he was and they ended up with an eight year old that comes across as a three year old. Why is a boy like this at military school? What kind of shitty parents thought that this would be a good environment for a sweet little kid who likes to play with dolls? Really hoping there’s a deleted scene out there in which Chucky finds Tyler’s mom and dad and sets them on fire or something.

And didn’t it seem to you that Chuck’s death was a little too easy in this one? The first two had such good multi-layered deaths that came in phases. He gets burned, he pulls his arm off, he gets melted down, and so on and so forth until he’s just pieces. This time, he falls into a fan and that’s that.

I think it’s safe to say that the third time is not the charm for Chucky. I’m Michael Palladino and this has been Michael at the Movies. Back to you in the studio.

Bride of Chucky

directed by: Ronny Yu ; written by: Don Mancini

cast: Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, John Ritter, Katherine Heigl, Nick Stabile, Alexis Arquette, Gordon Michael Woolvett, Kathy Najimy

running time: 89 minutes

release date: October 16, 1998

other horror movies released Fall ’98: Halloween H20, The Faculty, John Carpenter’s Vampires, Cube, Apt Pupil, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Psycho (Remake)

MARGETIS = BLUE ; PALLADINO = RED

Child’s Play 3 was when the franchise got stuck in the mud, and Bride of Chucky was the kitty litter they poured all over the wheels so it could gain traction and move forward. Top shelf kitty litter, by the way. Not the most expensive brand, but still pretty good.

I am of the belief that adding Jennifer Tilly to a waning movie franchise will absolutely bring the plane out of its nosedive, and hopefully there will come a day when Hollywood gets its head out of its ass and agrees with me on that. Like if she was introduced as Jason Bourne’s boss in the in that series’ next movie you could easily squeeze at least three more sequels out of it.

Bride of Chucky has a smart sense of self-awareness that really sharpens all its edges. It knows that the series is inherently goofy, so it leans into that a bit. Chucky creator Don Mancini’s sense of camp humor really shines through in this one. If this movie could manifest itself into a human form somehow, it would be the form of a drag queen in a bloody wedding dress, revving a chainsaw and shouting filthy one-liners. Don’t pretend you wouldn’t pay good money to see that.

You’re right, Bride of Chucky was the electric paddle that revived a series everyone wanted to bury and forget about. Of course, it wasn’t the most brilliant idea a horror movie has ever had, basically, it was just a homage to the classic and arguably superior than the original Bride of Frankenstein. However, that playful classic Universal movie monster madness is present in every scene. Every scene not involving Katherine Heigl, that is. That’s why ultimately I love Bride of Chucky, because it’s still creepy and violent and nasty, without ever taking itself too seriously. It never quite crosses the line into absolute absurdism like its successor, but it’s a welcome wink at the audience that we’re in for something fun and playful.

Jennifer Tilly is a great addition to the franchise and I can’t think of anyone better to play the role of Tiffany Valentine. She’s sexy, she’s hilarious and most importantly, she’s an actor that can match Brad Dourif’s intensity. The best scenes of this movie aren’t the kills, which are pretty solid to be honest, but the scenes where Chucky and Tiffany are playing off each other like real humans. Whether Tiffany is baking cookies, bitching at Chucky about not helping out around the house, or when the two have glorious plastic sex on top of the bodies of a honeymooner couple they just murdered, this is where the movie really comes alive as one of the only legitimately funny horror-comedies of the 90s. However, the human leads in this are just awful, maybe the worst the series has ever seen.

Katherine Heigl and Nick Stabile are two boring teenagers on the run from Heigl’s sadistic and controlling police lieutenant stepfather (a reliably excellent John Ritter) and most of their interplay comes as a major letdown after Chucky and Tiffany-dominated scenes. Their gay bestie isn’t much better either, he’s a very boring character for a gay best friend and acts like he’s 35. We don’t really care much when he gets annihilated by a van going 80mph down the freeway. It does make me wish they gave John Ritter a little more to do here. He’s very funny and commanding in every bit he’s in, I just think he deserved at least one more scene really showcasing his comedic talents and also his talent for playing a real stick-in-the-mud dickhead.

This movie should have ended with Katherine Heigl getting fired from acting but instead we get a set-up into the next foray into the Chucky-verse – Tiffany births Chucky’s baby, maybe the first doll baby ever born in this version of Earth. Congratulations Chucky and Tiffany! I wonder if they’re registered at Spencer’s Gifts?

Seed of Chucky

written & directed by: Don Mancini

cast: Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Billy Boyd, Redman, John Waters, Hannah Spearritt, Steve Lawton, Jason Flemyng

runtime: 86 minutes

release date: November 11, 2004

other horror movies released Fall ’04: Saw, The Grudge, Blade: Trinity, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Darkness

MARGETIS = BLUE ; PALLADINO = RED

Far and away, the most despised entry of the franchise and I can absolutely see why. It completely abandons any attempt to be even remotely scary and instead dives head first into humor, meta-ness and the inherent insanity of a talking killer doll movie’s fifth entry even existing in the first place. It shows a once terrifying horror movie icon, jerking his little plastic dick off into a petrie dish, so his doll wife can turkey baste his toy sperm into a restrained and unconscious Jennifer Tilly’s womb, so they can bear a child. It has gay camp daddy John Waters as a trashy tabloid photographer who watches and photographs Chucky masturbating. It has Jennifer Tilly playing not only Tiffany but also herself as an insecure emotional wreck who once had a promising career and is now looking at letting Redman go down on her to score a lead in a movie. And most of all, it has Glen/Glenda, the son/daughter of Tiffany and Chucky who is undergoing both a moral and gender identity crisis and stands as one of the only trans slashers in a horror movie, and maybe the only trans slasher in a horror movie whose trans-ness isn’t portrayed in a negative light. Sure, the movie walks a tight rope in balancing Glen/Glenda’s trans-ness with his/her split personality (sorry, this movie predates common usage of they/them pronouns), but it never feels like the movie is blaming Glen/Glenda’s sexual identity for him/her/they/? being a savage murderer. As always, it’s the parents’ fault.

It’s no secret Child’s Play creator and writer (of all the films) Don Mancini is gay. In fact, it’s well documented that the studio execs’ only real complaints about the script was that it was “too gay.” Not that it was “too silly”, “too over-the-top” or “not in keeping with the tone of the rest of the franchise”, but simply it was “too gay.” I wonder what makes it “too gay”? Is it the fact that Glenn/Glenda is trans in the first place or the fact that killers/parents Chucky and Tiffany are so accepting of his/her/their’s sexuality. It’s never a problem for either Chucky or Tiffany, Chucky’s just concerned Glen/Glenda won’t want to be a serial murderer. Glen, the boy part of their biological son, is not. Glenda, however, the girl personality of their biological son, is like Annie Wilkes on crack. Anyway, let’s pivot into the plot and stuff I liked and didn’t like about this sequel.

So, Chucky and Tiffany had a kid at the end of Bride of Chucky, before both dying in wonderfully theatrical ways. The kid doll ended up with a British traveling circus where a guy that looked like Criss Angel abused him and made him appear in a ventriloquist act. Glen, seeing the “Made in Japan” logo on his arm (something I’m assuming either Tiffany’s doll body or Chucky’s doll body had imprinted on the arm), decides he’s Japanese and must find his parents, who must also be Japanese. He tracks down Tiffany and Chucky who for some reason are inexplicably alive and blending in with dolls they’re using for a Chucky movie within the movie. This makes fucking no sense and is for me, the only straight up infuriating thing about this sequel. Glen tracks them down and greets them in Japanese, assuming they’re fluent. It makes for one of the best reoccurring gags of the film. As a family, they hatch a plan to kidnap the real Jennifer Tilly (who is just hanging around the movie studio or in the Chucky movie or something?) and possess her and a male suitor, and inseminate her with a baby that little Glen can possess as well. It’s far fetched and ridiculous, but it gets Chucky, Tiffany and Glen in the same house with Jennifer Tilly and a horny-ass Redman playing a version of himself who is directing major motion pictures. God help us, that’s the scariest part of the movie!

I admire the movie at this point because even though half of the jokes fall flat on their ass, this movie goes for it in a way that gives Brad Dourif and especially Jennifer Tilly a lot to do. This is the only Child’s Play film where they are definitively the leads, no Andy, no Detective Susan Sarandon’s Brother, no shitty ass Katherine Heigl and her loser-ass boyfriend. It also fleshes out Tiffany more than any other entry, who, as I mentioned, is my favorite character of the franchise. Anyway, Glen drops the bombshell on her and Chucky that he’s also a she – Glenda, the polar opposite of Glen’s meek personality, an absolutely bonkers but seriously creative serial murderer who arguably has more fun with murder than both Chucky and Tiffany. It’s an unconventional little family and an absolutely terribly abusive one, but again, the family dysfunction never stems from anyone’s sexual identity. It stems from the fact they are all homicidal maniacs incapable of solving a problem without violence. There’s a bunch of stuff that doesn’t even begin to work here and it seems Mancini was more focused on building a character that never returned (Glen/Glenda) than explaining how Chucky and Tiffany came back/what the fuck they were doing in Hollywood. I love Glen/Glenda as a character, Billy Boyd delivers some fine voice acting and the character is completely empathetic. This is obviously a trait passed down from his mother because Chucky isn’t empathetic in the slightest, he’s probably the truest sociopath of the bunch. However, he still accepts his child as trans, and that’s a big one. Is this movie woke AF?

Overall, I found this entry to be not scary in the slightest. but honestly, one of the most enjoyable of the bunch. It doesn’t always hit, but the overall absurdism is exciting to me and a real message to slasher franchise filmmakers churning out lazy, unimaginative sequels for chump box office returns.

P.S.: The Britney Spears/Chucky road rage gag is awful, cringe-worthy and totally dated. That being said, Chucky having road rage is a funny concept in itself. Here’s hoping we get a 2-minute Chucky rant about electric cars in a future entry.

I know this is a weird thing to say about a series of movies about murder dolls, but I just felt like this one was a bit much.

I know that this movie knows exactly what it is. Having John Waters star as a unscruplous paparazzo, the running Glen or Glenda reference, Jennifer Tilly being called a slut by the other character she’s playing… They took the camp that worked in Bride of Chucky and totally redlined it, with the best of intentions. Unfortuately, it goes too far into that realm and the whole thing comes across as a bitchy critique on pop culture and the shallowness of celebrity.

It’s early 2000’s to it’s very core, complete with an unnecessary Britney Spears jab that hits different in light of all the stuff we now know about the lady. I felt like a bad George W. Bush impersonator would make a cameo at any moment and comment about the “murderization” and “evilishness” of Chucky and Tiffany before getting pushed off a balcony or something. Then Chucky would say a line like “Never been much for politics!” or “Looks like his approval rating took a dive!” before cacckling wildly.

So look, I get Seed of Chucky, I understand what it tried to do, I respect Don Mancini’s creative decisions, but at the end of the day, it’s just not for me.

Curse of Chucky

written & directed by: Don Mancini

cast: Brad Dourif, Fiona Dourif, Summer Howell, Danielle Biscutti, Brennan Elliot, Maitland McConnell, Chantal Quesnelle, A. Martinez

runtime: 96 minutes (longest entry)

release date: September 24, 2013 (VOD & Netflix)

other horror movies released both in & out of theaters Fall ’13: Carrie (Remake), Insidious: Chapter 2, Hell Baby, The Devil’s Rapture, I Spit on Your Grave 2

MARGETIS = BLUE ; PALLADINO = RED

So Bride of Chucky has the right amount of cheese. Seed of Chucky is slathered in it. So Curse of Chucky is as if I took the sandwich back to the counter, told the guy that it had way too much cheese, and then he scraped off all the cheese and gave it back to me. But I never said I didn’t want cheese, Kyle. Just not a Seed of Chucky amount of cheese. I mean, I definitely prefer this over the last sandwich, but still.

The whole tone of this one is quite muted in comparrison to Seed of Chucky. There are no cross country trips to Los Angeles, no Britney Spears cheap shots, no Redman. It’s all just Chucky, his victims, a scary ass house, and a family secret. It’s four basic ingredients and no filler, like a Kind Bar. Now, is this one of those movies that’s able to do more with less? I honestly can’t say either way. And that’s how I feel about the movie as a whole. Fairly neutral.

The father/daughter acting team of Brad and Fiona Douriff works really well. She’s effective as the main protagonist who not only has to elude Chucky, but do it in a wheelchair. But the other characters didn’t do much for me. Not even the attractive nanny and the hot rich wife who have a secret romance going on, which is really unlike me.

I always like when we get to see more of Charles Lee Ray’s backstory in these things, and Curse of Chucky probably gives us more of that than any other entry in the franchise. But I wasn’t really into the whole pre-Chucky family secret thing. (I won’t spoil it here, but Margetis probably will.)

All in all, not the worst.

It ain’t the worst, but it’s a far cry from the best. You’re absolutely right, this one scrapes off all the cheese on my sandwich, and what I’m left with is something a bit too dry. It feels like Don Mancini was panicking in a way, after the blowback of Seed of Chucky, frantically trying to piece together what made the original work so well but forgetting that Chucky is already a prominent comedic figure in horror movie pop culture. You really can’t go back after having Chucky marry Jennifer Tilly, raise a child and masturbate into a petrie dish. This is the longest entry of the series and certainly feels like it. Child’s Play 2 and 3 both had some pacing issues, 3 more than 2, but this one takes almost forever to get going.

It basically plays out like House on Haunted Hill with a killer doll. A half dozen folks are sequestered to a creepy old house with a violent supernatural force and one by one they get picked off. The Fiona Dourif character is probably the most interesting leading human the franchise has ever had, most likely because of what Fiona (Brad Dourif’s daughter IRL) brings to an almost certainly one-dimensional character on paper. The other characters are pretty one-dimensional too, but don’t have a good performance elevating them. You get Fiona Dourif’s frigid sister, her mostly easy-going brother-in-law, her boring niece, their naughty nanny, who you think is banging the brother-in-law, but ends up banging the sister and a priest whose mom used to make him chili. It takes almost an hour for Chucky to come to life but when he does, the movie takes off on the strength of Brad Dourif’s performance and some good mechanical effects. Chucky’s first line in this movie is maybe my favorite of the entire franchise. There’s a storm outside and the frightened niece holds her Chucky doll in fear. “I’m scared, Chucky!” the niece says to which Chucky maniacally laughs and responds, “You fucking should be.” In that moment, we’re back to the menacing Chucky of the original, only to fall down a couple pegs as the movie progresses.

The kills in this one are really solid even if they mostly happen in the final third of the movie. It ends with only Fiona Dourif and the niece surviving. The police arrive to find everyone dead and of course, no one believes Fiona Dourif. She gets sentenced to a mental institution and Jennifer Tilly ends up adopting the niece so Chucky can possess her. It’s interesting this one ends with Jennifer Tilly and a distinctive horror-comedy tone. It’s like Mancini realized that going back to the original is impossible and that you can’t have Chucky without Tiffany post-Bride of Chucky. I’m glad because this led to a much superior direct to Blu-Ray sequel, Cult of Chucky.

Cult of Chucky

written & directed by: Don Mancini

cast: Brad Dourif, Fiona Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Alex Vincent, Michael Therriault, Christine Elise, Adam Hurtig, Elisabeth Rosen, Grace Lynn Kung

running time: 91 minutes

release date: October 3, 2017 (VOD, Blu-ray & DVD)

other horror movies released in and out of theaters Fall ’17: It (remake), Happy Death Day, mother!, Jigsaw, Mayhem, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Creep 2, Flatliners (remake), Woodshock, The Crucifixion, Jeepers Creepers 3, Boo! 2: A Madea Halloween

MARGETIS = BLUE ; PALLADINO = RED

Hot off the tail of Chucky’s big 2010s comeback is a much superior sequel to Curse of Chucky, Cult of Chucky. The previous installment, as I mentioned, was too stripped down for my tastes and this one incorporates some of more of the ridiculous elements Bride of Chucky introduced to the series – mainly the over-the-top humor and the camp. Also some more of that glorious queerness. Because when your killers are a foul-mouthed child’s doll and Jennifer Tilly, you absolutely cannot play it straight. While Seed of Chucky seemed to ditch anything truly menacing or dark about the series, Cult of Chucky embraces the morbidity and threat of the original while serving up some of the series funniest gags (Hannibal TV show joke was FIRE)

The choice to kill off the little girl from Curse of Chucky off-screen because Chucky possessed her, used up her body and she died in the process of whatever mayhem Chucky was causing, is a great creative choice. This reminds us how truly evil Chucky and Tiffany/Tilly are without having to show this transpire on screen thus alienating us as viewers. It also gives us a window into what Andy’s fate would be if he lost that game of Hide the Soul back in ’88. Anyway, it would have been a bummer if that little girl character from Curse of Chucky was interesting, but she was totally forgettable and utterly useless in the fight against the Chuckster. Another great choice is to bring back both Jennifer Tilly as sort of the human puppet master in all of this and Curse of Chucky‘s Fiona Dourif, who when possessed by the spirit of a Chucky (but really just doing an impression of her IRL dad), really comes alive as an actor.

Naturally this certifiably insane sequel takes place in a mental institution. Noticeably free of the constraint of a major studio, Cult of Chucky swan dives into campiness and violence so over-the-top, it inspires more laughs than shrieks. After being blamed for the murder of her family, Fiona Dourif is sentenced to life in a mental institution where she meets a cast of real kooky characters. #thisaintcuckoosnest There’s this ginger clinger-on dude suffering from multiple personality disorder, a woman suffering from Munchausen By-Proxy (the disease that makes you kill your babies) and a goofy old lady, among others. Chucky gets sent to the institution by criminal mastermind Jennifer Tilly but they have a new scheme up their sleeve. Apparently, they found a spell where Chucky can fracture his soul and multiply, inhabiting an unlimited number of different bodies. Their end-game? A Chucky World where everyone is Chucky except for Jennifer Tilly, who will be the only Jennifer Tilly in a sea of Chuckies.

Shit pops off in a wonderfully tight 90 minute fashion, with some of the more violent and ridiculous kills of the series. There’s a couple of twists and turns here I really liked, mainly you go through the movie thinking the ginger dude is possessed by Chucky but he gets outed at the end as just adding Chucky as a new personality to his roster of cut-ups. He really gets the shit killed out of him. In the end, we’re left with Fiona Dourirf (possessed by Chucky, stoked about his new vagina), Jennifer Tilly (possessed by Tiffany) and a Tiffany doll (possessed by a fraction of Tiffany’s soul) riding off into the moonlight in an old car, like a fucked up little Thelma & Louise trio. This actually might be the gayest the franchise has ever been and mama, I’m here for it.

Well, they finally did it. They went from one singular Chucky to many Chuckies. I don’t know why they didn’t go for that sooner in the series. The third one could have been way better if the toy factory got hit with a lightning bolt and Charles Lee Ray’s evil spread to every Good Guy Doll in the place. Picture it: Chuckies pouring out of air vents, Chuckies tackling a security guard and ripping him apart like a school of piranhas, Chuckies taking over a shopping mall… It could have been Gremlins with Chuckies.

But that’s not exactly what they did here. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the idea of Chucky basically cloning his soul and increasing his kill count. I liked the idea of the master Chucky being a 35 year-old Andy’s prisoner and torture victim. I liked the idea of a Chucky with a bad haircut who gets shit on by the other Chuckies. Fiona Dourif is great all the way through, Brad Dourif gets to really shine by playing more than one Chucky, and Alex Vincent’s return helps bring us back to the first two movies, which we’ve strayed from pretty heavily by this point. But I found myself wanting more, especially with Andy and Chucky. I feel like we didn’t get enough of the two of them together, and since the whole series is basically built on the relationship the two of them have, it seems like there was a lot more to be mined from there. I’m sure the new Chucky series on USA and SyFy will provide that, but still.

Again, not the worst.

Child’s Play (2019)

directed by: Lars Klevberg ; written by: Tyler Burton Smith

cast: Aubrey Plaza, Brian Tyree Henry, Mark Hamill, Gabriel Bateman, Tim Matheson, Beatrice Kitsos, Ty Consiglio, Marlon Kazadi, David Lewis

running time: 90 minutes

release date: June 21, 2019

other horror films released Summer ’19: Midsommar, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Annabelle Comes Home, Ready or Not, Brightburn, Ma, The Dead Don’t Die, Crawl, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, Don’t Let Go, Jacob’s Ladder (remake)

MARGETIS = BLUE ; PALLADINO = RED

I did not like this movie at all and I resent having to write this.

I am not going to go on some “remakes ruin my childhood” diatribe here. The internet is already full of long winded horeshit hot takes from sad men who think the 2016 Ghostbusters and the 2010 Karate Kid are bigger crimes against humanity than sarin gas and waterboarding. Remakes, especially horror ones, can absolutely work. The Thing and The Fly being the two most obvious examples my brain can come up with right now. But sometimes they fall face down on a hot sidewalk and you get something like 2019’s Child’s Play.

There is so much that I can say, but I’ll just focus on my one major problem with the movie. (This is out of respect for you, the reader, who has somehow found the will to stay with us all the way to the end.) Chucky is a serial killer who inhabits the body of a doll because of a voodoo spell. Don’t stray too far from that. You want to make Chucky more of an Amazon Alexa smart doll to fit in with these modern times? That’s fine, you can do that. Just find a way to download Charles Lee Ray’s crazy ass brain into that doll. I understand wanting to go the whole “what if technology became self aware” route in these Ancient Aliens, Joe Roganesque times we find ourselves in, but don’t bring Chucky into it. Make it it’s own thing.

Margetis, am I wrong here?

Yeah I agree, I’d say this is much more of a re-imagining or reboot than an actual remake. I usually have no problem with a remake completely changing the game of the original, usually that’s the better alternative to just existing because people can’t stand to watch something thirty years old where characters don’t have smartphones. The Fly and The Thing are two great examples, but I also think about Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria which takes the frame of Dario Argento’s original, gives it an actual plot about a cold war between a coven witches happening on top of the actual cold war, while still capturing Argento’s themes of feminism and female power. However, Child’s Play 2019 doesn’t capture the spirit of Child’s Play 1988 at all. They should have just made this another movie entirely about an evil Amazon company basically trying to murder and control us with their AI technology. That being said, this movie doesn’t even do that well. This is a really poorly made, obviously rushed 90-minute shit pile that doesn’t even know what it wants to be.

None of the characters are developed properly and director Lars Klevberg can’t find a balance between horror and comedy. It’s like the worst chef in the world improvising soup – put in a little basil, paprika, parmesan cheese, uhhh sugar?, cinnamon, durian fruit chunks, mayonnaise and uhhhh shrimp stock? Lars is serving us some Child’s Play with a side of Stephen King’s It, some Stephen King’s Cell with a soupcon of The Way Way Back and bit of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. It’s all over the place and not the fault of the actors in any way. Aubrey Plaza, I love her, but she’s really miscast as a single mom here while Atlanta‘s Brian Tyree Henry would have been a great Detective Susan Sarandon’s Brother in a better Child’s Play remake. Gabriel Bateman’s Andy is a step up from Alex Vincent’s Andy, and his kid friends are all pretty solid but lacking cohesive characters in the script. Mark Hamill is as good a voice actor as Brad Dourif, and by god, he does the best he can with this version of Chucky. He’s funny, funnier than the material and of course his timing is perfection. But this isn’t Chucky and it’s so different than what Brad Dourif did it’s completely jarring. That being said, I would have liked to see this Mark Hamill doll character in a better movie.

The deaths are wildly violent, almost too much so that they become distracting. Assholes get murdered just as viciously as nice old ladies and there’s one scene played for laughs where a little girl gets viciously sprayed with blood to the point of blinding her. It’s like watching a white open mic comic say the n-word on stage. My god, cringe-y. I’m glad this didn’t become a big hit and Mancini was able to continue with his Chucky series.

Top 5 Kills of the Franchise

Margetis’ List

NOTE: These are my favorite deaths, I don’t claim them to be the definitive best deaths so if you’re twelve and reading this, just calm down.

5. John Waters Face Melt/Family Photo Opp (Seed of Chucky)

John Waters gets so spooked by Glen in a photo development room that he backs up into a container of sulphuric acid and gets his face melted off. It’s wildly over-the-top but perfectly punctuated with a father/son selfie. Real proud daddy moment for Chucky, his boy is coming into his own as a creative movie slasher.

4. John Ritter gets Nailed (Bride of Chucky)

Tiffany’s first kill of the franchise is a Home Alone-inspired trap that lures John Ritter into an artillery of nails.

3. Dr. Death Voodoo Doll (Child’s Play)

Simple in terms of actual killing, but this is the first scene where we really see Chucky in all of his nasty glory. He gets an extended monologue detailing how great he feels to be back and in a body where he can easily get away with mass murder. Confronting his old mentor and then murdering him with a voodoo doll when he rejects him.

2. Chucky Kills Some Asshole Teacher (Child’s Play 2)

Probably the fan favorite kill of the entire franchise, especially for people who first saw this as a child. Everyone has had that mean, uptight teacher that makes their schooling difficult so it’s cathartic to see Chucky frighten and savagely beat Miss Kettlewell to death with a yard stick. She’s been a very, very naughty teacher and now it’s time for detention.

1. Chucky Spooks Colonel Cochrane (Child’s Play 3)

You probably won’t see this Child’s Play 3 gem in most best franchise kills lists, but for me, it’s the hardest I laughed during the entire franchise. Chucky tries to kill an old Colonel but the mere sight of seeing a talking doll scares Colonel Cochran so much he has a heart attack and dies on the spot. Of course heart attacks themselves aren’t funny but what is funny is how much of an over-the-top production it is, that lasts like 30 whole seconds. He grabs his arm, falls back, trips into a giant model case and glass explodes everywhere. The look on Chucky’s face is priceless. Imagine dying in a way that makes an evil talking doll absolutely speechless. It’s actually one of Chucky’s more human moments.

Palladino’s List

5. Andy’s Step Dad (Child’s Play 2)

Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. And there’s something about a suburban dad getting offed in a basement that’s just so “Forensic Files.”

4. Andy’s Teacher (Child’s Play 2)

It’s probably the least graphic kill in the series. We don’t really see anything except a quick stab with a basketball air pump and a tumble over a few desks. And it’s hard to imagine how a doll his size could swing a yardstick so hard that it would bash someone’s head in. But hey, Beth Grant!

3. Swingers Couple Glass Water Bed (Bride of Chucky)

Polyamorous couples can be fucking insufferable, so I was very into this one.

2. Factory Worker with Eyes Punched Out with Doll Eyes (Child’s Play 2)

Pardon my pun, but it’s a great sight gag.

1. Aunt Window Toss (Child’s Play)

The first kill of the series, so it holds a lot of weight. It has more of a fallout than any other death in the franchise, it acts as the catalyst for the whole “No one believes Andy” thing, and it’s on the damn poster. This all adds up to number one for me.

FINAL ASSESMENTS/RANKINGS

One of the most consistent horror franchises of all time, even the worst entry isn’t as bad as the third or fourth worst entries of the Halloween, Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street franchises. Shit, it’s more consistent than the Predator or Terminator franchises. Franchise Grade: B-

  1. Child’s Play (7.5/10)
  2. Bride of Chucky (6.5/10)
  3. Cult of Chucky (6/10)
  4. Seed of Chucky (6/10)
  5. Child’s Play 2 (6/10)
  6. Curse of Chucky (5/10)
  7. Child’s Play (2019) (4/10)
  8. Child’s Play 3 (3.5/10)

Last year, we did one of these articles about the Halloween series and it nearly killed me. This is a much more consistent horror franchise, despite the shift in tone you start to see between Bride of Chucky and Cult of Chucky. All in all, I give it a straight B.

  1. Child’s Play 2
  2. Child’s Play
  3. Bride of Chucky
  4. Cult of Chucky
  5. Curse of Chucky
  6. Seed of Chucky
  7. Child’s Play (2019)
  8. Child’s Play 3

On the Next Franchise with Me

My buddy Danny and I explore the first six films of the most 2000ish shitty mainstream horror production company ever Dark Castle EntertainmentHouse on Haunted Hill, Thir13en Ghosts, Ghost Ship, Gothika, House of Wax and The Reaping – all awful. Much like their birth parents, we just didn’t have time for Orphan.

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