Series Overview – Child’s Play (1988-2013)

The Child’s Play films tell the story of Chucky, a doll possessed by the serial killer Charles Lee Ray. Although Chucky’s general aim in each movie remains the same – to escape from his doll body by possessing a human’s soul – the tone of the series grew more light-hearted over the years until Seed Of Chucky, which was a flat-out comedy.

More recently, Chucky returned to straight horror in Curse Of Chucky, essentially bringing the series full circle.

Click each poster for the full review.

Child’s Play (1988)
“This particular doll is possessed by Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif), a serial killer and voodoo nut who transforms his soul into the doll just before he’s killed by a police officer. The doll, Chucky, sets about killing Andy’s babysitter as well as the other criminal chaps who screwed him over before his ‘death’. Cue various explosions and voodoo doll stabbings.” Continue reading “Series Overview – Child’s Play (1988-2013)”

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Curse Of Chucky (2013) review

Curse Of Chucky posterDirector: Don Mancini

Starring: Fiona Dourif, Brad Dourif, Danielle Bisutti, Maitland McConnell

ALICE – “Chucky, I’m scared.”

CHUCKY – “You fucking should be.”

The success of Bride Of Chucky and its follow-up Seed Of Chucky mean these days Chucky is commonly considered a horror comedy star. Despite this, there still remains a core following of long-time horror fans who have been hoping for years that everyone’s favourite killer doll would return to his roots and appear in another ‘proper’ horror film in the style of the original Child’s Play trilogy.

Curse Of Chucky is that horror film, with nary a dick joke, sex scene or zany sidekick in sight. Although it’s the first Chucky film to go straight-to-video, don’t let that put you off, because this is old-school Chucky doing what he does best – pretending to be a doll while trying to steal a small child’s soul.

Set four years after Seed Of Chucky, Curse begins with a mysterious package turning up at the house of Nica (Fiona Dourif), a wheelchair-bound paraplegic who lives with her mother. Predictably, the package contains Chucky, but Nica’s at a loss as to who would have sent this odd-looking doll. It’s a wonder she’s never heard of Chucky – she should probably get out more. Oh, right, the wheelchair. Continue reading “Curse Of Chucky (2013) review”

Seed Of Chucky (2004)

Director: Don Mancini

Starring: Jennifer Tilly, Redman, John Waters, voices of Brad Dourif and Billy Boyd

“I’m an Oscar-nominee, for God’s sake. Now look at me, I’m fucking a puppet.” (Jennifer Tilly, Seed Of Chucky)

After Bride Of Chucky took the Child’s Play series and injected a much-needed burst of dark humour to proceedings, it would have been impossible for its successor to go back to pure horror. Sure enough, Seed Of Chucky goes even further down the comedy route, only just stopping short of having the characters throw custard pies at one another.

Seed Of Chucky is set in the ‘real world’, a world in which Chucky is just a doll in some daft horror movies. We’re first introduced to a new doll, Glen (voiced by Billy Boyd). Glen doesn’t know who his parents are – can you see where this is going? – but after seeing an on-set report from the latest Child’s Play movie on TV he notices that he shares the same ‘Made In Japan’ markings Chucky has on his wrist.

So that's the Seed Of Chucky, is it? Oh.

Glen decides to travel to Hollywood to meet Chucky and Tiffany, his apparently Japanese mum and dad. When he gets there he finds that Chucky and Tiffany are just normal dolls, but after a spot of voodoo (ah, that old chestnut) they’re back to their old selves and ready to carve upLos Angeles, but not before trying to figure out how to raise their son. Or is it their daughter?

You see, Chucky wants to raise Glen as a killer so he can go on murderous sprees with his old man in the same way other father/son combos would go fishing or watch sports. Tiffany, meanwhile, is adamant that their child is in fact a girl called Glenda (a nod to the Ed Wood cross-dressing classic Glen Or Glenda). The fact that, being a doll, Glen/da doesn’t have any genitalia doesn’t really solve the argument, so Chucky and Tiffany spend the rest of the film competing for the love (and gender) of their offspring.

Her eyes are up there, Chucky

Killer dolls aside, the real star of the show is Jennifer Tilly, not only providing the voice of Tiffany but also playing a caricaturised version of herself in this ‘real world’. This version of Tilly is a desperate B-list actress who was once respected (Tilly was nominated for an Oscar in real life for her performance in Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway) and is now struggling to get all the good roles because they keep going to the likes of Julia Roberts. Throughout the movie Tilly considers sleeping with a director (played by Wu-Tang Clan legend Redman) to get a part, is frustrated when everyone she meets only remembers her from her lesbian scene in Bound and treats her PA like dirt, without realising that she’s the one writing all her so-called ‘fan mail’.

Well, that's what happens when your dog swallows a grenade

She also sticks the boot into herself a few times while voicing Tiffany, who at first is starstruck by Tilly and then begins to lose respect for her (“no wonder her career’s in trouble”). In one scene Tiffany drags an unconscious Tilly across the floor and declares “jeez, she’s fat” – a line many actors would refuse to say, I’d wager, but one that Tilly is game to deliver with refreshing self-deprecation.

After a series of inventive and gory death scenes (cult movie-making icon John Waters getting acid poured on his face, anyone?), the film falls apart a little in the third act as the novelty factor starts to wear off and Glen’s character (the weakest of the three dolls) comes to the fore. It’s a shame, because the first hour is great fun, but much like a French frog it just doesn’t have legs.

Seed Of Chucky is both the goriest and least serious of the five Chucky movies to date. The fact that the upcoming Child’s Play remake is taking the series back to its deadly serious roots shows that Seed was essentially as far as the comedy approach could go, and this shows near the end of the film as the laughs get stretched further and further. Still, it’s not a terrible film by any means, and should at least keep you entertained for most of its duration.

Bride Of Chucky (1998)

Director: Ronny Yu

Starring: Jennifer Tilly, Katherine Heigl, John Ritter, voice of Brad Dourif

Jesse: “How’d you end up like this?”
Tiffany: “It’s a long story.”
Chucky: “Let me put it this way. If it were a movie, it would probably take three or four sequels to do it justice.” 

A lot can change in seven years. When Child’s Play 3 was released in 1991 the idea of a killer doll was still considered scary. By the time Chucky’s fourth film went into production however horror was in its post-Scream phase and slasher films were being taken less seriously when their killers were human, let alone a tiny ginger plastic midget. Chucky would have stood no chance as a convincing horror star anymore had his fourth film stuck to the super-serious Child’s Play formula, so things would have to change.

"Nice work eBay, you bastards... minor imperfections my arse"

And so, rather than following the tried-and-tested “Chucky stalks a young child” routine as seen in the previous three Child’s Play movies, Bride Of Chucky instead became a knowing, tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating movie that knew audiences wouldn’t take killer dolls seriously anymore and so chose not to take itself seriously either.

The film opens with Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly), an ex-girlfriend of Chucky’s when he was still a human, tracking down the remains of the Chucky doll and bringing them home. After performing voodoo on the doll and bringing Chucky back to life, she tells him she’s going to help him find a human body so they can finally get married like they’d planned. Problem is there’s been a little misunderstanding and Chucky never wanted to get married, so a dejected Tiffany locks Chucky in a cage, vowing to keep him in his doll form.

Laugh it up now mate but your hand isn't articulated enough to pull the trigger

After breaking loose, Chucky decides to give Tiffany a taste of her own medicine and voodoos her soul into the body of a bride doll. The plastic pair grudgingly form an alliance to seek out the corpse of Charles Lee Ray (Chucky’s original form) so they can find the amulet he was buried with and use its power to turn them both human again.

Whereas the Child’s Play trilogy played things out with a stony-faced solemnity as if it were Cape Fear, Bride Of Chucky knows it’s a bit mental and because of this it’s far funnier than Chucky’s previous films. The one-liners come thick and fast and the characters of Chucky and Tiffany play well off each other. They’re an odd couple both literally and figuratively – Tiffany wants a happy home where she bakes cookies for her loving man, while Chucky is a foul-mouthed sleazeball who doesn’t have a romantic bone in his plastic body – so it’s fun watching their personalities clash.

When Mick Hucknall met Debbie Harry, it was awkward to say the least

Humour aside, Bride Of Chucky’s level of violence is also brought killing and screaming into the late ‘90s. At one point being told his traditional knife is “too ‘80s”, Chucky is encouraged to improvise new ways of offing his foes and this results in some interesting kills. Safe to say you’ll never sleep in a water bed, break into a car or step into the middle of the motorway again – though if you do the latter you’re sort of asking for it anyway.

Bride Of Chucky may not be to everyone’s taste but it’s really the best direction the series could have taken. Chucky just wasn’t scary anymore by the time this went into production (though the upcoming Child’s Play remake may change that) and so it’s ultimately better to get audiences laughing with him than laughing at him. With this change in tone, what could have become an ‘80s slasher character long forgotten among the Leprechauns, Critters and Ghoulies of this world is now a cult hero among genre fans, with merchandise up the wazoo and a horde of followers. Bride Of Chucky was a big risk but, as the film’s poster says, Chucky got lucky.

Child’s Play 3 (1991)

Director: Jack Bender

Starring: Justin Whalin, Perrey Reeves, Jeremy Sylvers, voice of Brad Dourif

“You know what they say, you just can’t keep a Good Guy down.” (Chucky, Child’s Play 3)

It’s ironic that the worst film in the Child’s Play series was the one that gained the most notoriety. After the horrible killing of two-year-old James Bulger in1992, The Sun newspaper decided to pin the blame on Child’s Play 3, claiming that the young boys who murdered Bulger had seen the film numerous times. While police would later confirm that this was completely untrue and they had never even seen it once, the damage had been done – Child’s Play 3 and its predecessors were removed from video shelves all over theUK, never to be seen again for at least a decade. Incredibly, The Sun continues to blame Child’s Play for all manner of killings, while still maintaining (in the face of police statements reporting otherwise) that it was responsible for the Bulger killings.

Mick Hucknall tried to explain that his love child looked nothing like him

Regardless, let’s move on before I go off on a rant. I’ll discuss the Bulger incident further in the future (I wrote my university dissertation on it) but for now let’s look at the “offending” article itself. Child’s Play 3 is set eight years after the second movie (even though it was only released a year later). Now aged 16, Andy has been sent to a military training camp after failing to settle in any of the foster homes he’s been to. Meanwhile, the company responsible for the Good Guy dolls has decided enough time has passed to start the production of Good Guys again, so the toy factory is re-opened and Chucky’s corpse is disposed of – but not before some of his blood drips onto the production line, causing Chucky’s soul to pass into a brand new doll. D’oh, you pesky toy makers and your piss-poor security measures.

"What? You aged eight years in twelve months? Bollocks you did"

After finding out where Andy’s based, Chucky mails himself (somehow) to the military camp so he can finally do what he’s been trying to do for so long – take over Andy’s body. When he gets there though he’s first found by Tyler, a young boy also at the camp. Since the voodoo rules state that he can only take over the body of the first person he reveals himself to, Chucky decides to take over Tyler instead. As luck would have it though, Andy finds out about Chucky’s surprise appearance and so he tries to put an end to the killer doll once and for all.

"What do you mean you don't have jam? I can't eat my toast without it"

Rather than breathing new life into the series, the military camp setting is actually detrimental to Child’s Play 3’s quality. It’s packed with tired clichés – bossy drill sergeants, “yes” “yes what” “yes sir” chat and the old “drop and give me 20” bollocks – not to mention a few lines ripped completely from Full Metal Jacket. The result feels less like an original slasher film and more like an unoriginal war movie that happens to have a killer doll wandering around.

Well, that gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "cut-throat razor"

Despite this, Child’s Play 3 is actually superior to its predecessors in one aspect – the inventiveness of its kills. Whether it’s the garbage truck scene, the part where Chucky substitutes paintball pellets for live rounds or the amusing moment when Chucky doesn’t even have to do anything to cause one chap’s death, it’s certainly the most creative film in the series to date in that respect.

Child’s Play 3 is an average sequel at best. While kudos have to go to the filmmakers for at least trying something different by placing the movie in a military camp and aging Andy eight years so it’s not following the same old “doll chases young boy” routine again, the film messes up by regurgitating tired boot camp clichés and, um, following the same old “doll chases young boy” routine again with the introduction of the Tyler character. It’s a reasonable way to pass an hour and half, but of the five Chucky films to date this is the weakest of the bunch.

WHERE CAN I GET IT?
Child’s Play 3 is fairly cheap on DVD. If you live in the UK you should be able to get it for a few quid by clicking here. If you live in the US, you can get the Region 1 DVD by clicking here or get it in a box set with Child’s Play 2, Bride Of Chucky and Seed Of Chucky by clicking here.

Child’s Play 2 (1990)

Director: John Lafia

Starring: Alex Vincent, Jenny Agutter, Christine Elise, voice of Brad Dourif

“Why fight it, Andy? We’re going to be very close. In fact, we’re gonna be fucking inseparable. ” (Chucky, Child’s Play 2)

You just can’t keep a bad doll down. Even though it seemed fairly clear Chucky was dead at the end of the original Child’s Play, it turns out while the body was weak the spirit was still willing. So when the company responsible for Good Guy dolls gets hold of Chucky’s remains and sets about cleaning the doll up as a publicity stunt to show it wasn’t cursed, Chucky’s soul awakens again and shit goes down. He then sets about finding Andy, the kid from the first film (who’s now staying with a foster family after his mum was deemed… well, a bit mental), to finally take over his body.

Mick Hucknall resorted to extreme measures to get youngsters to attend his gigs

In a way, Child’s Play 2 is faced with the same dilemma as Jaws 2 – when you know who the killer is and you’ve already had a good look at them at the end of the previous film you can’t spend another 50 minutes playing it all mysterious. Half the original Child’s Play was spent trying to guess if Andy’s doll really was the one doing the killings, or whether it was just Andy using the doll as an excuse. Now we all know it’s Chucky, that whodunit angle goes right out the window for the sequel, which is why this time Chucky springs into life and starts the bodycount before your arse has even started to warm the seat.

"Of course you're winning, you've got Mr Blue reading my cards, you fucking crook"

Andy’s foster home provides a refreshing change of scenery while still keeping the story grounded in reality a little – his foster parents understandably think all the events from the first film were in Andy’s head and so they aren’t having any of it when Chucky finally tracks him down and he tries to convince them to kill it. Instead they think it’s Tommy, a different Good Guy doll they bought which, unknown to them, Chucky has already buried in the back garden. Having Andy trapped in an unfamiliar house with his would-be killer with no way of convincing anyone to help him creates an interesting tension which at least brings back the whodunit angle in some form, even though we’re all in on it this time.

"This head scratcher is marvellous"

A few unconvincing kills later (it’s hard to imagine a small doll can effectively beat someone to death with a ruler or be strong enough to suffocate someone with a plastic bag) the film finds itself in its final location, a huge toy factory where the Good Guys are manufactured. It’s a fun setting for the typical fifteen minutes of “killer stalking the heroes” shenanigans you’d expect from an early ‘90s slasher, with loads of conveyor belts and dangerous equipment lying around to keep things lively.

It all has to end eventually though, and Chucky’s demise this time is even more decisive than it was in the first movie, leaving absolutely no chance that they could put him together for a third film… or could they?

Although its predecessor was a stronger film when it was first released, now we all know Chucky is the killer these days Child’s Play 2 is the more entertaining movie. It’s got more action, more tension and more Chucky quips. It’s still not exactly a classic, but if you’re looking for one Chucky film to watch from the pre-comedy trilogy this is the one to go for.

WHERE CAN I BUY IT?
Brits can get the UK DVD version here fairly cheap. Americans, meanwhile, can get either the the US DVD here or get it as part of the Chucky Killer DVD Collection, which contains Child’s Play 2, Child’s Play 3,  Bride Of Chucky and Seed Of Chucky.

Child’s Play (1988)

Director: David Kirschner

Starring: Brad Dourif, Catherine Hicks, Alex Vincent, Chris Sarandon

“Hi, I’m Chucky. Wanna play?” (Chucky, Child’s Play)

It’s hard to truly appreciate Child’s Play nowadays, since the first 40 minutes of the film are completely ruined. When it was first released it was genuinely chilling, a gripping whodunnit with a paranormal twist. Of course, nowadays everyone already knows ‘whodunnit’ and so the first half of the movie is spent waiting for the film’s characters to catch up and find out what the rest of the world already knows – that the killer is a doll.

Poor little Andy (the adorable Alex Barclay) wanted a Good Guy doll for his birthday, but his mum couldn’t afford one so she just got him clothes and a shitty Good Guys tool kit instead. Noticing his disappointment, Andy’s mum thinks she’s struck it lucky later that day when a peddler near her work is selling knock-off Good Guy dolls stolen from a burnt-out toy shop. She buys one for $30 and is suddenly the greatest mum in the world again.

"And you're sure this operation will work doctor? I really don't want to be a Siamese twin any more"

This doesn’t last, because it soon emerges that this particular doll is possessed by Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif), a serial killer and voodoo nut who transforms his soul into the doll just before he’s killed by a police officer. The doll, Chucky, sets about killing Andy’s babysitter as well as the other criminal chaps who screwed him over before his ‘death’. Cue various explosions and voodoo doll stabbings.

Since it’s the first film, the audience isn’t supposed to know Chucky is the killer. There are plenty of moments where it’s suggested (he leaves footprints on a table, seemingly blows up a building and so forth), but every time someone’s killed Andy’s close by, leaving some doubt in the audience’s mind – isn’t it just Andy doing the killing and blaming it on his doll?

Chucky was amused at the dog licking its balls in the room opposite

The special effects used to create the Chucky doll vary in quality throughout the film. In some scenes where Chucky speaks – most notably when he talks at length with his former voodoo mentor – the lip-syncing doesn’t really work too well due to the limitations of the robotics in the face and as such the illusion is shattered a bit. Other shots, particularly the far ones where Chucky is instead a midget actor wearing a Chucky mask, are far more effective and much creepier because the realistic movement makes it look more like a human in a doll’s body.

Child’s Play shouldn’t really have taken off the way it did. While the cast all put in great performances the kills are fairly dull and the two “he’s dead, or is he” endings are just silly to watch. The reason it was a success, and rightly so, is that Chucky is a fantastic movie monster. He’s a child’s best friend one minute, a foul-mouthed strangler the next and since his target victim is a six-year-old boy there’s something very sinister to him.

"Stop checking my ruddy temperature Margaret, I said I'm fine woman"

In a way, it was Child’s Play‘s own success that ultimately ruined the first movie’s impact. Once Chucky became a household name and every knew Child’s Play as “the film with the killer doll”, it instantly rendered the film’s first 40 minutes useless. Nowadays even the DVD cover has a big photo of Chucky brandishing a knife, making sure you definitely know what the surprise is just in case you’ve managed to avoid it.

If you’re able to forget for a while that Chucky’s the killer and can try to watch the film in its original context, Child’s Play is good fun. Otherwise, the sequels are better because they kick off with the Chucky action right from the start and don’t spend half the movie trying to make you guess what you already know.