Written and Directed by: Don Mancini
Starring: Jennifer Tilly, Brad Dourif, and Redman
Reviewed by: Brett G.
"I'm an Oscar-nominee, for God's sake. Now look at me, I'm fucking a puppet."
The closing moments of 1998's Bride of Chucky promised that the film's title character wasn't the only new addition to the killer doll clan. After the box office success of that film, it was only a matter of time before audiences were graced with the further exploits of Chucky's offspring in the appropriately titled Seed of Chucky. Arriving in 2004 on the heels of the revivals of other horror icons like Jason and Freddy, would the fifth film in the Child's Play franchise be its death knell or would it reinvigorate it much like its predecessor?
After a sperm-laden title sequence, the film opens some time after the events at the end of Bride of Chucky, and the child of Chucky and Tiffany has made his way to England. Dubbed "Shitface" by his ventriloquist keeper, the young doll's life leaves a lot to be desired--he's haunted by macabre nightmares of murder and mayhem, not to mention the fact that he's a living doll who has no idea who his parents are. By chance, he sees an interesting news bit on the television: Hollywood has decided to produce a story based on the alleged exploits of his parents. Shitface makes his way across the pond and ends up resurrecting his parents, who once again set out on finding bodies to inhabit and become fully human again. Their bodies of choice end up being fledgling actress Jennifer Tilly and rapper/director Redman, who is busy developing a movie about the birth of Christ!
If Bride of Chucky moved the franchise into the realm of comedy, then Seed takes it to an entirely new, absurd, and slapstick realm. Whereas Bride still kept a bit of a mean streak, Seed dispenses with this entirely and becomes an absurdist exercise in camp where we're laughing at Chucky and crew as much as we're laughing with them and the horror is pretty much few and far between. In many ways, it feels like the RV scene from the previous film was turned into a feature film because a big source of comedy are the domestic interactions between Chucky and Tiffany, particularly the latter's attempts to convince the former to be a family man for the sake of their child.
While this seems to be on par with Bride, the events and people surrounding Chucky and Tiffany seem just as nuts: Tilly's trying to sleep with Redman to get the part of the Virgin Mary in his film, there's a paparazzo played by camp king John Waters stalking the Hollywood duo, and Chucky's seed can't figure out if he's a boy or a girl. The problem here is that the humor is very much hit or miss, as it ranges from gross out fare (like Chucky masturbating into a cup) to taking a satirical bent towards the tabloid media. It all adds up to feeling like such juvenile fare that's fun at its best and eye-rollingly bad at its worst. That said, I don't think this one ever crosses into "so bad that it's good" territory because it is genuinely funny at times and it's ultimately a fun ride that doesn't completely embarrass the franchise.
Though it's pretty much a comedy, there are still enough horror elements to judge here. Obviously, any sort of suspense goes out the window, but there's enough gore here to remind us of the series' slasher roots. Despite Tiffany's best efforts to keep Chucky domesticated, the little guy just can't help himself as he decides to show his kid the ropes of the family business. It also turns out that Tiffany herself can't heed her own advice, and it all adds up to some murderous mayhem that's full of bloodletting that's more over-the-top than the series has seen before. Besides this, there are some nice nods to other horror films; for example, the opening sequence recreates both of the famous deaths in Psycho in a well done scene that isn't exactly in line with the tone of the rest of the film.
Honestly though, all this horror seems secondary to all the other stuff going on in the script, which is all over the place. You've got the standard story of Chucky trying to become mortal again, Jennifer Tilly's fledgling career, and, last but not least, the title character's relationship with his psychopathic father. The latter story seems to have the most thought put into it, as the story of a androgynous doll struggling not only with his own identity, but also a father who doesn't approve him is obviously interesting to writer/director Don Mancini. While it's not exactly a deep musing on gender identity, it's a better angle than simply throwing Glen (or Glenda) in there with the purpose of killing people alongside his parents. Besides this, the film rolls along quite predictably until the end, which, to its credit, throws a bit of a curveball considering Chucky's main motivation throughout the franchise's history.
Mancini also makes his directorial debut here, and it's a decent debut--the film is polished and flashy at times, but it lacks the overall style of its predecessor and looks a bit more plain than that film. The acting is predictably over the top in a film like this, and Redman is laughable at best, but the stars, Chucky and Tiffany, steal the show. Dourif and Tilly once again bring deranged life to their respective characters, and the animatronic work is again well done. Tilly does an admirable job playing and poking fun at herself as well, and she's without a doubt the film's bright spot acting-wise. Ultimately, the film feels different enough from Bride of Chucky, but it doesn't feel as complete or coherent as that film and never formulates into a cohesive whole. It's still a lot of fun, and it most likely represents Chucky's final outing before he too gets the remake treatment in a couple of years.
Universal released the film on DVD in Rated and Unrated versions, and the difference between the two is literally a few seconds worth of Chucky masturbating and a bit of an extended ending. The film's transfer is well done, and the 5.1 Dolby Digital track is very lively. There's a ton of supplements as well, including 2 commentaries, one featuring Mancini and Tilly, and the other featuring Mancini and puppet master Tony Gardner. There's also a subtitle track that delivers facts about the film as it plays, a deleted scene, a mock interview with Chucky, Tilly's "Tonight Show" appearance, and other assorted press junket materials. Fans should beware that the disc in the "Chucky Killer DVD Collection" only features the rated cut and loses some of these materials, so buyer beware. Ultimately, Seed is a fun time with one of horror's more fun characters, and he's sure come a long way from stalking poor Andy Barclay for three films. Like its predecessor, this is truly a Chucky movie, and, as such, it's worth a viewing on the basis of that alone. Hardcore fans already own it, but everyone else need only spend an evening with Chucky and crew. Rent it!
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