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The Chucky Films Ranked
Voodoo molded satanic plastic
By Chuck Francisco
October 09, 2013
Voodoo molded satanic plastic
© Universal Studios
Let’s talk about the Chucky movies. With a brand new installment hitting store shelves this week in the form of Curse of Chucky the timing could not be more apt to bring up everyone’s favorite murder doll. But is he beloved by all? The Child’s Play movies have a mixed reputation, which makes a great deal of sense given how tonally schizophrenic they are.
The first three, which were released in rapid succession between 1988 and 1991, were predominantly slasher horror films that contained sadistic humor overtones. Bride of Chucky rode the tsunami waves of self-aware horror originating from the isla de la Scream, while Seed of Chucky is a meta comedy with gore elements. Curse of Chucky, which came out yesterday (review here), is an attempt to return to the horror roots of the original series progenitor.
Given that there isn’t even a consistent genre stitching these films together, you might think my attempt to order them from best to worst the endeavor of a mad man. Nevertheless the Chucky films offer wildly divergent points, no where near resembling a neat diagonal line when plotted haphazardly across a graph. In an effort to give this the fairest of possible shakes, I’ve mainlined all six Child’s Play movies within the past week, tapping a vein to inject more than the recommended doses of voodoo molded satanic plastic directly into my well abused visual cortex. Let’s start with the worst of the bunch. Some minor spoilers do follow but you probably don’t care all that much.
6. Seed of Chucky (2004)
Bride of Chucky ended with the explosive reveal of the resultant progeny of Tiffany and Chucky’s on-screen puppet relations. Years have passed and their androgynous offspring is a squeamish wuss, taking abuse from a faux ventriloquist. Later named Glen/Glenda (a nod to the Ed Wood cross-dressing movie), this synthetic sassafras accidentally revives Chucky and Tiffany on the set of a movie about the events of Bride. Right away Seed goes off the rails in a knowingly meta direction; Tiffany (voiced by Jennifer Tilly) wants to swap bodies with the real Jennifer Tilly, who she happened to be a dead ringer for prior to becoming a doll and who happens to be playing the part of Tiffany in the fake Chucky movie inside the movie. While it’s less confusing in practice than it sounds, the scale tips so severely toward stupid that the audience doesn’t care. At least John Waters and his salacious pencil ‘stache make a small appearance playing a scummy paparazzi. Oh and we’re treated to a Chucky wanking scene (yay?).
5. Child’s Play 2 (1990)
I had a mega 90’s kid crush on Christine Elise who plays Kyle, the rebellious tomboy foster sister of Andy when he’s placed in a home following the events of Child’s Play (his mom having been locked up for telling crazy tales about a killer Good Guy doll). And while undoubtedly the final confrontation set piece at the Good Guy factory is a lot of fun, the majority of Child’s Play 2 is a rehash of Chucky terrorizing Andy while the adults refuse to believe his outlandish claims. The kills are bloodier but at the expense of suspense. Brad Dourif ratchets up the maniacal cackling act, but the proceedings come off as so much recycling.
4. Child’s Play 3 (1991)
The second series sequel represents the first true deviation to the formula established in the original. Andy, now a teenager, has been shipped off a military academy featuring a ball busing Colonel who plans to abuse the notions of a satanic dolls out of his head. Almost beyond belief, the heaping plastic slag Chucky was reduced to at the end of the second film is melted down and used to make more Good Guy dolls. This of course leads to yet another reincarnation of serial killer Charles Lee Ray, who again embarks on a quest to transfer his consciousness into the body of Andy (the first person he revealed his secret to; you know how finicky VooDoo is). The bright spot of this lesser entry is the final pursuit through a carnival haunted house, which multiplies the creep factor of a murderous slasher doll tenfold.
3. Curse of Chucky (2013)
It feels weird to be writing about this movie so soon after tendering the review. Curse of Chucky is a solid return to horror with a less is more approach to unsettling imagery. Partially this is due to budgetary limitations (being a direct to video entry), but despite this it works wonderfully (with one or two very poor instances of CGI). Wise cracks take a back seat to tension, while Fiona Dourif holds her own opposite dear old dad. There’s also a wonderfully gothic aesthetic which lends a visually interesting atmosphere to the claustrophobic proceedings. Curse would have made the number two spot if the next contender wasn’t so much gosh darned fun (or if the list were ranked by a factor of fright).
2. Bride of Chucky (1998)
Bride of Chucky was such a stark departure from the series that it risked alienating the established fan base if everything didn’t click like Swiss watchmaking. At its rotten core Bride is a road movie, blending genres as a black comedy. In Jennifer Tilly was found a vicious equal to pair off against Dourif’s callous Chucky; anyone else would have been lost to his furiously boisterous personality. The kills are cooler this time around, include both times John Ritter gets it, while the wit is sardonic and dripping with concession stand cheese. Bride of Chucky is a fun, gory ride that became the highest grossing film in the franchise to print, and I am compelled to watch it every time I come across it.
1. Child’s Play (1988)
There’s something absolutely striking about the original film; it left an indelible mark on an entire generation of children, warning them that their formerly safe stuffed companions may be more lethal than any mauling the lawn mower could dish out. Even those who were not predisposed horror flicks are familiar with Chucky (case in point: while watching it this week with me, my wife recalled long dormant memories of seeing this as a child at a sleepover). The fright is a lingering one that builds to an almost unbearable crest- Chucky isn’t seen moving autonomously until far into the film, at which point it startles the nervous system. The less is more approach weaves a nerve wracking spell, as the uncanny valley is barely just glimpsed before we’re thrown headfirst into that frightening chasm.
Want to watch something right now? Check the Screaming Streaming section for suggested viewing which is available right now via the magic of the Internets.
Assorted Child's Play flicks
Runtime: Right around 90 minutes each
After a list like that many of you likely pine for a little stab and squeal with the Lake Shore Strangler. As luck would have it Netflix currently offers three of the six Child's Play films your instant edification. Child's Play 2, Bride of Chucky, and Seed of Chucky are all mere seconds from streaming directly into your quivering grey matter. So quit riding the pine of bad cinema, and jack into the Good Guy matrix with its flaming red hair and wicked scars. If that's not enough Brad Dourif in your fragile little life, Curse of Chucky is available for rental via video on demand.
Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Wednesday's Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.