Written by: Matt Molgaard
It’s been a while since we shared some cinema thoughts with our readers. Given the insane buzz now circulating Child’s Play 7, we figured, why not speak on the Child’s Play franchise a bit?
Let’s be real for just one moment: There is no genre film based on a killer doll that can hold a candle to Charles “Chucky” Lee Ray and his runaway terror show, Child’s Play. Puppetmaster is and always has been fun, but it’s not Chucky level of fun; Dead Silence was an overlooked treat, but not Good Guy sweet; The Boy was… well, it was The Boy, and The Boy ain’t got jack for Chuck! Comparisons could continue on, but you get the message loud and clear: Chucky rules the sub-genre.
Chucky has always had some wit, and he’s always been unwaveringly ruthless. He also looks like he loves his murderous craft. He’s one of the few villains of film that has more home viewers cheering for him as opposed to rooting against him. That’s how much we love Chucky, and that’s also why it comes as a challenge in ranking this franchise, worst to first. At the end of the day, when you look back on the series of films in their entirety, they’re all pretty damn good. There isn’t a single stinker in the lot!
So, acknowledging my personal stance as a fanboy of this franchise, I’m going to do my absolute best to rank these pictures, worst to first!
Child’s Play 3
Child’s Play 3 is really a revenge story. It’s a cool idea to see Chucky tracking Andy Barclay down, especially with Andy spending his time in a military school that’s damn near as torturous as Chucky himself. The picture boasted some really entertaining performances and a couple of nice and graphic gore-glimpses. But despite the pros of the film, the cons are just too dominant, and they all begin with the casting of Andy. I’m not sure the role could have been cast any worse than it is, sticking Justin Whalin in a role that he should have nothing to do with. Andy should first, share at least a minor resemblance to an aged Alex Vincent, who played the character in the both Child’s Play and Child’s Play 2. Second, he should have probably grown a pair by his teenage years as he’s been through hell, and when you walk through the fire, that skin thickens up a bit. And finally, where’s the insanity? How did a tormented 8 year old turn into a just-slightly-paranoid teen? None of it works, and my complaints stretch beyond the casting, as the acting itself and the film’s editing both leave a lot to be desired.
Bride of Chucky
Some people love the comedy-first approach that Don Mancini opted to utilize following Child’s Play 3. Some people hate said approach. Personally, I’m on the fence. There’s no denying that the Chucky films are heavy on heart and do deliver some legitimate laughs, but it also has to be noted that any attempt at mustering up a truly frightening moment – even just one single scene – has either disappeared entirely or simply doesn’t exist. And one of the things I always found charming about the first two Child’s Play films was the fact that they were generally creepy affairs. Of course we get some chuckles from the earlier pics, but there was something wildly unsettling about moments like the one in which Miss Kettlewell is trapped in her own classroom and beaten to death with a yardstick; or the scene in which Karen Barclay learns that Chucky is indeed alive and bloodthirsty. Her panic feels genuine, organic – not contrived. The early films had those sequences. Bride of Chucky, and Seed of Chucky abandoned such maneuvers, all for some often-cheap and hollow laughs.
Seed of Chucky
After reading the breakdown for Bride of Chucky, you can probably guess what I’m going to say about Seed of Chucky. I won’t bore you being repetitive, instead I’ll point out the fact that (at least) Chuck and Tiff produced one hilarious little booger. You just can’t forget a shot of young Glen contemplating his roots, “I don’t know much about myself. I know I’m an orphan. I know I’m a freak. And, of course, I know that I’m Japanese.” This reason, coupled with a few fun sociocultural statements and a constant awareness of what the movie truly is (it really does bypass the fan insult of taking itself too seriously), make it a superior effort to Bride of Chucky, but significantly weaker than a few other franchise installments.
Child’s Play 2
Child’s Play 2 was a great sequel that did the things a sequel should do. It brought back crucial cast members and personalities. It picked up where its predecessor left off. It maintained a relatively faithful tone. And, of course, it kicked the body count up by a few numbers all while giving us some improved practical special effects. The continuity that exists through the first few Child’s Play flicks is great. It’s an angle I would have loved to see executed throughout the entire franchise. But that didn’t happen. Oh well. At least we’ve still got a few super eerie series installments to cherish. And you’re best to make no mistake, Child’s Play 2 unquestionably resides in the creepy, eerie, disconcerting and chilling columns… simultaneously.
The film that started it all… doesn’t snag the top spot in my list? Nope. It did a lot of things really right, and I have the utmost respect for Tom Holland and Don Mancini. But Child’s Play isn’t the best feature in the still-six pic lineup. That said, the original is awfully close to as good as it gets. From the moment Charles Lee Ray starts to chant some wild incantation while hovering near a Good Guys doll, to the point in which Chucky ties up loose ends by turning his old pal John into a human pin cushion, both Mancini and Holland make it known that their killer toy movie isn’t your run-of-the-mill celluloid. The psychological pokes that they force on a young Andy Barclay could easily be deemed controversial. Whether the use of a child as a crucial victim in a genre pic is controversial or not, it does deliver a major punch to the psyche of the viewer. Especially the viewer who has children at home. As a father of three who encourages his children to dive into horror, this is one film I still cannot bring myself to recommend to my offspring. That alone is a tremendous compliment.
Curse of Chucky
Don Mancini… you devious, devilish, diabolical brainiac, you! Somehow, after the creation of five feature length films, tons of collectibles, apparel and more, Don Mancini not only made a terrifying Child’s Play film, he made the absolute finest of the entire lot. The atmosphere, the familial tensions, the sympathetic heroine… all of it, it’s just a wonder to behold. The gloomy earth tones of the film work wonders in ratcheting up the terror of the story. The pacing of the picture is pitch-perfect. Chucky looks great, and seeing him toe the line with the gorgeous handicapped lass, Nica (that’s the extremely easy on the eyes, Fiona Dourif, daughter to living legend and voice of Chucky, Brad Dourif), who refuses to break in the face of fear, makes for a special experience. I really can’t say it enough: this, right here, is exactly what a Child’s Play film should look like. Respect to you, Mr. Mancini!