Judge David Johnson is continually astounded by voodoo's ability to turn cute puppets into horny, maniacal, foul-mouthed psychopaths. And, no, he's not talking about Cookie Monster.
Our review of Seed Of Chucky (HD DVD), published November 15th, 2007, is also available.
Time to raise some hell.
Wow, this guy really never dies. Chucky is back in a series that has transformed from horror to comedy. The best way to illustrate this change can be summed up in two words: masturbating doll.
Facts of the Case
Seed of Chucky is, first and foremost, a comedy. A gore-drenched, foul little comedy, but without a doubt a far cry from the straight-arrow horror of the first Child's Play.
The story opens up with our first look at Glen (voiced by Billy Boyd, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World), the offspring of Chucky and his babe Tiffany (voiced by Jennifer Tilly, Bound). These days, Glen is wasting away as a dummy for a cruel ventriloquist, trapped in a cage, verbally abused, and haunted by nightmarish visions of him brutally murdering people. This disturbs him, as it runs counter to his peaceful nature.
When he sees a commercial for a new Chucky movie, starring his parents, he escapes and hops a truck to Hollywood. Chucky and Tiffany are animatronic puppets being used in the movie—which also stars Jennifer Tilly as Jennifer Tilly—and have yet to be reanimated as the devilish murderers they are. Then comes Glen, with his mysterious amulet with the voodoo incantation inscribed on the back. He reads the words, the skies darken, and Chucky and Tiffany return from the nether region to wreak havoc once again.
But the real terror may be what neither of them expects: piecing together a dysfunctional family of killer dolls.
Bride of Chucky, in my opinion, was a fun little flick. It wasn't after serious scares, instead guiding the franchise into the waters of the black comedy genre (though an argument could be made that the inane Child's Play 3 started this tack). Seed of Chucky has dropped anchor in this lagoon, shedding all traces of the horror/suspense of its predecessors.
There are risks to this dramatic change of tone, of course. See, if you're a horror movie without any of the requisite characteristics—i.e., gore or thrills or coherent plot—chances are you suck. And if you used to be a horror movie and have now turned into a comedy, you still have to pony up something. And that something is laughs. The long and short of it is this: Seed of Chucky just isn't that funny. And since there are no serious horror elements present here, the flick's humor is the foundation—and it's ain't strong.
Now, I don't want to pig-pile on this film, mainly because I support the production of hard-R gore flicks, which are becoming scarcer and scarcer with the advent of the PG-13 strain. So let's talk about some of the good stuff here. First, the gibs. Writer-director Don Mancini, who's been with the franchise from the beginning, has ladled on the gore gags with glee. From the opening continuous-shot scene, which is executed quite deftly, showing a doll's-eye view of a murder, to a decapitation followed by torrents of blood shooting skyward Kill Bill–style, to the evisceration of a famous rap star at groin level, Mancini and company are not afraid to earn their R rating. It's tongue-in-cheek stuff, more Peter Jackson than Dario Argento, but it is copious!
Second, the puppetry has come a long way from back in the day. Chucky, Glen, and Tiffany are more lifelike and expressive thanks to some nifty animatronics technology. I really dug the Glen design and Billy Boyd's voice work, and the decision to make him a naïve, peaceful little guy to contrast with his ruthless parents was a good one. Unfortunately, as the movie progresses, his character unravels, due to a complete narrative meltdown.
The story chugs along okay at the get-go: Glen reunites with his parents and they start killing people. The movie-within-a-movie gimmick (which was done to greater effect in Wes Craven's New Nightmare) peters out, and the audience is stuck with a jumbled plot by Chucky and Tiffany to impregnate Jennifer Tilly and Redman and…well, that's it, really. There are some side plots about Chucky trying to turn Glen into a manly murderer and Tiffany attempting to wean herself off of slaughter, but, because these offshoots are purely for comical fodder, the fact that none of them are funny deep-sixes the thread—and ultimately the rest of the movie. The result is a film that starts out as one thing—a piece of meta-narrative comedy horror—and spirals out of control, becoming a quasi-Osbournes spoof with homicidal puppets.
Much could have been forgiven, if it had been funny…
Seed of Chuckyis a good-looking DVD, sporting a sharp 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Color holds up strong, especially in the gore scenes, where the plumes of blood burst out in almost neon red (adding to the jokey feel of the film). Sound comes courtesy of two 5.1 digital tracks, Dolby and DTS; both are pristine, making solid use of the surrounds. Technically this is a very strong disc.
There are lots of extras, but most of them are too hokey to be taken seriously. Bits like "Family Hell-iday Slide Show," with Chucky and Tiffany and Glen commenting on family vacation pictures, and "Heeere's Chucky" and Fuzion Up Close with the Seed of Chucky Stars (featuring interviews with the dolls) are contrived and corny. I don't know who exactly the intended audience is for these materials. They play like something you'd find on a Harry Potter movie, but this is an R-rated flick laced with bodily fluids and nudity.
A few more serious extras include a feature commentary by Mancini, Tilly, and puppet master Tony Gardner; a feature on the evolution of the Child's Play franchise; a pop-up factoid option that runs through the movie; and some deleted footage. These are a little better, offering more meaty insight into the conceptualization and execution of the film.
Seed of Chucky started out promising but eventually devolved into a narrative mess. The puppetry and gore effects are all top-notch, and Mancini has a gifted eye, but a stalled story and a laugh-starved script keeps this seed from growing.
Back into the toy bin with you.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary with Writer-Director Don Mancini, Actor Jennifer Tilly, and Puppet Master Tony Gardner
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