61 Days of Halloween: Seed of Chucky (2004)

Introduction

For an introduction to the concept of 61 Days of Halloween, as well as a list of previously featured titles, please go here.

Seed of Chucky (2004)

With Seed of Chucky I went in expecting next to nothing based on what occurred the last time around. What I got in it was surprising, if not redemptive. The film series that in Chucky’s first not-targeting-a-kid film felt a bit unbalanced. Here, albeit further out on a cliff, with still some head-scratchers and eye-rollers (it really wastes some time at the beginning) the film goes into a full-on-meta rendition, after it hinted at a world wherein Chucky (as well as Jason and Michael Myers) were real.

Jennifer Tilly’s involvement here makes much more sense because it gives her plenty more to do (being both onscreen and working voice) and is an appropriately self-deprecating, yet oddly reverential work for her. Also, striking mostly correct and humorous notes are the participation of Redman and John Waters, two men whom I never believed I would put in the same sentence together.

While the Glen or Glenda homage here is subtler and more clever than the Bride of Frankenstein in the previous installment, it may have been the only thing subtle about the entire thing. It does become more and more outlandish as it goes but a lot of the jokes and kills work to great effect.

While there is a descent into an unfortunate cacophony of events and screaming there is a some of actual self-exploration by these villains-turned-protagonists. As hard as it is to believe, there is some internal and external conflict in the film about their natures and trying to fulfill their pyrrhic mission of returning to human form.

However, not only do the blunders that hold it back come out far too often, but a lot of the good that’s done towards the middle of the film is undone by the grinding to a halt nature of the climactic sequences as well as what happens in the tag. I grant that to get any enjoyment out of this film at all, you do have to be prepared for any and all kinds of sophomoric, silly content that doesn’t further things too much.

It’s a sequel wherein I didn’t mind the direction it chose to go in at all, it just didn’t get there as well as it could have. It’s also a film in a bit of a catch-22. The prior film of the series crossed a point of no return: the girlfriend was brought into the fold so the direction of the series was altered. This film went further afield so to continue down that road would’ve been foolhardy. It was definitely time for the reset button to be hit after this one if it was to continue at all.

Said direct sequel that, based on reports, goes back to its roots is due out on video on October 8th

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61 Days of Halloween: Bride of Chucky (1998)

Introduction

For an introduction to the concept of 61 Days of Halloween, and a list of previously featured films, please go here.

Bride of Chucky (1998)

This is the point wherein the Child’s Play series takes a departure from its original course. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with that. In general, horror sequels can be repetitive enough as it is without having the same antagonist/protagonist paradigm every time out. However, what happens here, after a halfway-decent setup, in which Chucky’s ex-girlfriend finally hunts him down in doll form and resurrects him; is that this installment wanders too far into the realm of self-parody.

As I previously noted, comedy was always a part of the equation in the initial run of these films, as there is a reboot in the offing. However, far too much of this one is comedy. Furthermore, it falls into the trap of late-series horror films of making the antagonist the star. While the films were always referred to commonly as “Chucky movies” his name never made it into the title until this installment.

The antagonist becoming the lead late is not inherently a bad thing, but what matters is who they’re up against, how present they are and what they hope to achieve. Far too much of the film is spent with Chucky and his newly-formed doll-bride sitting and waiting, listening as a troubled girlfriend and boyfriend are eloping, and then running from the law because of what the demon dolls did.

Not only are this couple annoying but the girl is portrayed by Katherine Heigl so it’s essentially doomed from the start. The Frankenstein myth-lending is fine but the spiral this film goes down, and ends up being even more ridiculous, less humorous and interesting than I had anticipated. Mind you this is following a first act that was slightly better than expected. However, at the end I was left wondering not only what Jennifer Tilly was doing in this film, but everyone involved.

61 Days of Halloween- Child’s Play 2

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Child’s Play

In stark contrast to the first installment of this series Child’s Play 2 gets off on the wrong foot and never really rights itself. It all starts very early on. How and why Chucky comes back to life is never confirmed. At the end of the first we assume that he was shot through the heart and hence he was dead. Granted he is becoming more human within the doll all the time but this concern is never addressed. If we want to suspend disbelief we must be left to assume the bullet just missed.

Whether it was a business decision or an aesthetic one all that happens is we are told that Miss Barclay, Andy’s mom, had a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized and never see her either get to that point or where she is. It is understandable to want Andy isolated in this tale so that he faces more adversity. However, we as an audience can be let in on it so it is to an extent a piece of the tale which could be very compelling is far too overlooked.

If the first two strikes against it weren’t enough well there’s more. The climactic fight takes things back to the toy factory where Chucky was cleaned up. This battle has the same issue the battle in the first film had. You have to kill Chucky, or believe you killed him, three times to really kill him and yes, revisionists, I’m aware that he’s not really dead but you catch my drift.

The dialogue for the most part in this film is just lazy with some gems like “Get lost microchip,” it’s the kind of thing that wouldn’t even have been funny in the 80s. A new director was at the helm and it was definitely noticeable. This film just doesn’t move as assuredly and a lot of the supporting performances are just off.

The one redeeming quality is that the character of Kyle (Christine Elise) who had the trappings of a typically snotty, annoyance of a character ends up being pretty cool and an ally of Andy’s and the only other good performance aside from Alex Vincent. The parents and Brad Dourif fell into the decent categories with occasional slips to lower stratifications.

It is a sluggish disappointment of a film. The first film set the framework up for how a tale of this nature could be made to work and it was completely ignored.

4/10

61 Days of Halloween- Child’s Play

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Child’s Play

Alex Vincent in Child's Play (United Artists)

This retrospective is valuable in part because it has allowed for revisiting of many titles. This particular film was one I’d seen in a very piecemeal manner, which is no way to see any film but especially when dealing with a concept like this. Seeing Child’s Play in pieces will only highlight parts of the narrative which suspension of disbelief will get you through.

Structurally this film works absolutely perfectly. Things move along at a brisk pace and cause and effect up until the climax are very clear. All you really have to get past is your own faculties of reasoning and you see that many things in this film do in fact work.

Now while as a child, who was not technically supposed to be seeing any part of this film, it did scare me, as it should, even removing that it still works whether you are scared by the subject matter or not which is not always the case with horror films.

Disbelief amongst characters is a factor in horror films that can be quite frustrating. When evidence is piling up and events that defy rational explanation are happening but people don’t believe it can be frustrating as an audience member. This film deals with that notion in an interesting way. The reveal of Chucky’s nature to Andy is rather slow. Andy’s not doubted long before his babysitter meets her untimely demise. It’s a kill of a character whom is not disposable, someone who we have met and liked so it’s effective.

Though Andy is refuted both by his mother and the police but his mother quickly sees the light. The reveal of the doll missing batteries after Andy is held for examination is visual and stunning. Similarly Detective Norris’s doubts are allayed when he narrowly escapes death at the hands of the possessed doll but he plays it close to the vest upon re initiating contact with Miss Barclay.

So very slowly but most importantly steadily the circle of believers grows. As the circle of believers grows so does Chucky’s rampaging. Another asset this film has at its disposal is a distinct set of rules, which are blatantly disregarded in the sequel, and the antagonist’s want is clearly defined. Conversely Andy’s need changes, at first he wants the doll then he wants to be believed and wants to be with his mother anew.

All the comedy of the film comes through design. The only things that truly hold it back are that the final showdown with Chucky is overly-long, as he appears to be vanquished twice and comes back to life but it is allowed to be that long because all those fighting him weren’t recalling or acting upon the biggest rule given to them by the dying witch doctor: shoot him in the heart. It’s not until his last stand that attempts are made at that hit.

Otherwise, though it is a truly effective and accomplished work by director Tom Holland and his two co-writers Don Lafia and Don Mancini.

7/10