61 Days of Halloween: Child’s Play 3 (1991)

Introduction

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

Child’s Play 3 (1991)

As with any series of horror films that runs long enough, there comes a point where shifting the protagonist becomes necessary. Andy Barclay (here played by Justin Whalin) is still the central figure of his tale but the innovation of this film is that Chucky, through a creative loophole, finds a new target body to try and take over.

As is the case with many later-on sequels in horror series, you have to further suspend disbelief than is even normally required just to stick with things. There’s a few examples of that: the fact that Chucky, melted and virtually dead, is recycled by the factory and fashioned into a new toy; or the fact that the company both would restart the Good Guys line after the bad publicity and changes in the marketplace; and, lastly, that they would have Andy Barclay’s whereabouts on file. As if corporate spies would keep tabs on a person that closely, a person they were now vowing to forget as they reintroduced the toy.

One course correction this film has is the reintroduction of a strong, relatable female character. As Andy is now remanded to a military academy, he meets De Silva (Perrey Reeves) who becomes one of his closest allies. The new target of Chucky’s quest for a human body is Tyler (Jeremy Sylvers) a younger boy closer to the age Andy was in the first film.

Two things become readily apparent as the series progresses: first, the comedy element is always there, so unlike Freddy there’s no real unfortunate shift in the character but rather one in focus it would seem. The series is always stronger when a toy is targeting a child, in the next installment, and likely in the final one (to date) that focus is lost and cartoonishness finally rules.

What occurs in this installment is that the first kill of any kind takes a while so it does build suspense. There are some unsavory types running the school so it makes those creative kills rather enjoyable, and through the events there is revealed to those close to Andy that what he’s saying about the doll is true so the insanity plotline, as strong as it is to establish his world, is less necessary here.

The film is not without missteps, like Chucky laying low until lipstick is applied then suddenly war is on. The change of venue to the amusement park is nearly without purpose save visual interest, and there are other awkward moments and imperfections, however, fewer of those come out in the characters where we’re supposed to draw identification, so it works better than the previous film for sure.

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