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I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Seed of Chucky is the best Child’s Play movie by John Waters that he never directed. And to me, it’s probably the most underappreciated entry in the entire series, because if you take a moment to look at what Don Mancini did with this 2004 sequel, you’ll realize it’s a brilliant celebration of B-movies that also cleverly mixes up the Child’s Play franchise formula once again.

Seed of Chucky picks up after the events of Bride of Chucky, addressing the deaths of both Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif) and Tiffany (voiced by Jennifer Tilly), and the birth of their unlikely progeny, who was rescued from the graveyard by a ventriloquist named Psychs (Keith-Lee Castle) and now works as a dummy named “Shitface” (voiced by Billy Boyd). One night, Tiffany and Chucky’s offspring sees what he thinks are his parents (but are actually puppet versions of them being used for a film about the massacre that happened in Bride of Chucky) and sets out for Hollywood to reunite with them and find his identity in a world he still does not fully understand.

When Shitface resurrects his parents through the dolls on the movie set, Chucky and Tiffany awaken to find their lives will never be the same as new parents, and we see how the introduction of Glen/Glenda (the renamed “Shitface”) into their lives challenges their twisted affection for each other and their allegiances as well.

I understand if camp cinema isn’t your thing and you don’t enjoy Seed of Chucky because of that, but, to me, Mancini’s script and approach to the material is just so blissfully wacky (and genius in its execution) that I can’t help but think that Ed Wood would weep tears of pride if he had been alive to see Seed for himself. Beyond the obvious hat tips to Woods’ filmography (more on that later), Seed of Chucky features three different homages to Psycho within mere moments (the shot of the father hitting the floor, the shower scene, and “Shitface” declaring that he “wouldn’t even hurt a fly”), proving that Mancini is wearing his genre-loving heart defiantly on his sleeve for this sequel.

After going in such a bold direction for Bride of Chucky, Seed feels like the perfect extension of the new direction for the Child’s Play franchise, especially since the concept itself on paper will always be pretty damned ridiculous (and I say that lovingly and with great reverence for the series). I mean, we’re talking about a serial killer who voodoo-chants his way into existing inside a popular child’s toy, so the premise of a supernatural killer doll can only be handled with a straight face for so long before you have to be willing to have some fun with the concept.

And to their credit, the first three Child’s Play movies do just that: they confront our childhood fears in ways that were utterly scary for that time. After the third film, though, I was ready to have some fun, especially considering how much the landscape of horror had shifted tonally over the decade and change since we had first been introduced to Charles Lee Ray in 1988. If Bride of Chucky was Mancini’s way of embracing that change, then Seed of Chucky was his attempt to subvert our expectations by placing the absurdity of Chucky and Tiffany’s existences within a real-world context. What happens when your child becomes the embodiment of your worst fears, and your own worst attributes as well? Mancini may have tortured us as kids with the first three Child’s Play movies, but with Seed, he taps into his loyal fanbase’s own worst fears as parents. There’s a sly genius at work here, and I completely dig that.

One thing about Seed of Chucky that has always stood out to me is how Mancini takes the driving force of the series and completely tosses it out the window. When you think about it, almost all of Chucky’s exploits since the very first Child’s Play were fueled by his desire to transport his soul back inside a human vessel. By the time we get to Seed, Mancini has his iconic character full-on embracing his dollish status, as Chucky realizes that being a regular person again pretty much sucks in comparison to being the most infamous murder doll in all of history. And he’s right, Chucky needs to be Chucky, because we don’t really watch these movies to see him as one of us.

Beyond the fact that Seed of Chucky is just looking to have a good time, the film itself does examine a few weighty topics with Mancini’s tongue firmly planted inside his devious cheek. At the forefront is the idea of gender identity, and I love the way the story never draws any clear-cut lines as to whether or not Glen or Glenda is the dominant gender of Chucky and Tiffany’s progeny. Mancini embraces both identities of Glen/Glenda in Seed of Chucky, and I love the way it all plays out in the film’s final moments, as we catch up with “Jennifer Tilly” and her twins at their fifth birthday party.

And speaking of Tilly, it takes a bold talent to steal the spotlight from the legendary Dourif, but she does just that, first in Bride but then to an even greater degree in Seed of Chucky, in which we get to see the actress not only portray herself and her Tiffany counterpart, but also embrace some of the unfair crap that comes with being a professional female actor in Hollywood. It’s no secret that it can be a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation when you are a woman in the industry who wants to be taken seriously, while at the same time utilizing your femininity (or sexual prowess), and Tilly plays up that complexity perfectly with her own brand of self-deprecating humor in Seed of Chucky.

I’ve already mentioned numerous reasons why I adore Seed of Chucky so much, but probably the reason I feel so strongly about it is that I simply flat-out love horror movies about movies being made, and Seed scratches that itch and then some. Also, one of the biggest components to the success of the Child’s Play and Chucky films over the years is due to the brilliant special effects teams on every single one of those movies. Recognizing the importance of the technicians and artists who toil away for countless hours to bring Chucky (and now Tiffany and Glen/Glenda) to life on all of these films, Mancini’s decision to feature prolific special effects maestro Tony Gardner so prominently in the film’s first act is a fantastic way to give Gardner his due (he also gets a gnarly decapitation scene, and, in a landmark moment, is featured in the film’s main closing credits as himself).

While it may not be nearly as vicious as its immediate predecessor, or as scary as the first three Child’s Play movies, Seed of Chucky has been undeservedly on the receiving end of a lot of fan vitriol over the last 13 years, and as a fan, that makes me sad. Sure, it’ll never be the best entry in the series, but how any fan of Chucky (or horror) can outright dismiss a movie that features John Waters as a ruthless member of the paparazzi and shows our titular anti-hero yanking it to Fangoria is just beyond me.

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