Monday, November 9, 2015

Boy Toy

Year: 2004
Director: Don Mancini
Cast: Jennifer Tilly, Brad Dourif, Billy Boyd
Run Time: 1 hour 27 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

Hey, remember when I was reviewing Chucky movies? I must confess, I’ve been consuming media far faster than I’ve been able to produce reviews. Especially with the 12 extra commitments provided by my Halloween retrospective and Cardboard Science crossover, writing this blog has been a little like trying to knock down Mount Everest with a hair dryer.

Luckily, now that Halloween is behind us, my rampage shall slow slightly and I’ll have a chance to catch up with the embarrassing number of flicks that are rolling around in my backlog like cheerios in the bottom of a mom’s purse. Of course, we’re barreling full tilt into the Christmas and end-of-year wrap-up season, so this reprieve is but a brief one. Let’s get started,

Seed of Chucky, the follow-up to the spectacularly successful Bride of Chucky, is the first Chucky flick to actually be directed by longtime series screenwriter Don Mancini. It’s also his first film ever, as you can certainly tell. But while it might have the vibe (and budget) of a TV movie, it’s one of the wettest and wildest Chucky entries yet.

The franchise just hit its 16th year, so puberty is kicking in.

The film opens on Sh*tface (Billy Boyd), the bastard offspring of Chucky (Brad Dourif) and Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly). A living doll that looks more like a Tim Burton reject, he’s been making money as the world’s best ventriloquist dummy. But when he sees a promo for a film detailing the exploits of Chucky and Tiffany, he mistakenly thinks the animatronic recreations are his real parents. He heads to Hollywood and, using the same over-the-top voodoo curse that Dourif probably mumbles in his sleep after all these years, restores their souls into these new bodies.

Thus begins another hunt for human hosts. Tiffany sets her sights on the film’s star, Jennifer Tilly (Jennifer Tilly) while Chucky goes after Redman (Redman), a rapper-cum-director that Tilly is sleeping with in order to get the role of the Virgin Mary in his new Bible epic. By now you already have a grotesquely thorough preview of the film’s sense of humor and have likely already decided whether or not it is for you. Oh, and they try to impregnate Jennifer with doll sperm in order to provide a host body for Sh*tface, whom they have named Glen or Glenda, depending on who you ask. His groinal area is totally Ken doll smooth, so nobody knows what gender to assign him.

As far as I know, this is cinema’s first nonbinary character. In a Chucky movie. This is why I love horror.

Obviously, this gender issue is hardly treated with respect and tenderness in Seed, the film where Chucky jerks off to a Fangoria magazine. But it is approached as a valid decision for Glen/Glenda to make, which is fascinating territory for a slasher film to mine. Of course, as driven by psychosexual penetration as the genre is, there’s nary a shred of doubt that Glen will end up as a boy. But the fact that the discussion is even being entertained is one of the most unique elements I’ve ever seen in a fifth franchise entry.

Of course, the entirety of the film is utterly unique, and not always for the better. Here, the post-Scream self-referential humor of Bride of Chucky is pushed to the braking point. There are some undoubtedly clever moments, including any time Jennifer Tilly and Tiffany interact (to their mutual pleasure), but the whole thing takes on the quality of a zany cartoon. It’s enormously difficult to take Seed seriously as a feature film and not an 11-minute adventure laboriously stretched on the rack to ill 80 minutes.

It’s just downright weird, is what it is. Overlit by what could only be three separate lighting kits, the film’s bright wash renders it flat and stagebound, eliminating any clinging wisp of scariness. But the sheer lengths the movie takes to entertain can’t help but work in spurts and starts. Seed has absolutely no place in the canon of the (admittedly goofy) Chucky movies with its wildly divergent tone, but it stays true to itself and never ceases to be diabolically fascinating. Between a John Waters cameo, Tiffany attempting to become a role model by curbing her urge to commit homicide, and Glen’s assumption of his heritage thanks to a stamp reading “Made in Japan,” Seed is the slasher like you’ve never seen it before. And one gag that calls back to The Shining is the most unexpectedly hilarious moment in perhaps the entire franchise.

You could say that Seed of Chucky is The Shining of… toy films? I got nothing.

As you may have been able to piece together, Seed of Chucky is astoundingly cheap. Double cast actors, low rent rappers, and hellaciously basic lighting plots do not a blockbuster make. This low-fi attitude also unfortunately extends to the puppeteering. Or doll-eteering, I guess. While the Chucky animation effects had been exponentially improving since the original film, Seed oversteps its modest means by attempting to breathe life into three entire plastic creations, forcing the quality to take a quantum leap backwards. Once again, the suspension of disbelief hangs from a gossamer thread, rather than the might iron cables achieved by the Bride crew.

Luckily, we’re not skimped on the gore. Though Chucky and his brood might have the lip elasticity of Tara Reid, the blood is just as gooey and gushy as ever. In fact, there may be more carnage in this flick than ever before. Despite the dolls’ attempts at cutting back on killing, they accomplish a truly impressive array of splatter, including one of the best severed heads I’ve ever seen in a low budget film.

In the finale of Seed, Chucky decides that he doesn’t want to possess a human body. It turns out that he quite likes being Chucky. I think this film has come to that realization as well. Instead of being something it’s not, it flings itself bodily into the cesspool of bawdy, loudmouth humor and zany, drippy murder. It’s far from perfect, but it’s Chucky and Mancini reunited to have a blast and push the envelope. 

This entry is often written off as being the worst of the franchise. Well, that might be true, but in a series as inexplicably consistent as this, that’s not a damning statement. Remove your brain and unbox Seed of Chucky. It might just do you good.

Body Count: 10; the first two occurring in a dream, the third in a movie, and not counting three skeletons hidden in a closet.
  1. Richard is stabbed in the chest.
  2. Mrs. Richard slips and falls in the shower.
  3. Santa has his throat slit.
  4. Mechanic is decapitated with wire.
  5. Britney Spears dies in a car wreck.
  6. Pete gets his head dissolved with acid.
  7. Redman is disemboweled.
  8. Joan is blasted with aerosol fire and falls down stairs.
  9. Stan is stabbed in the chest.
  10. Fulvia is beaten to death with a doll.
TL;DR: Seed of Chucky is zany and ridiculous, but a charming diversion.
Rating: 6/10
Word Count: 1200
Reviews In This Series
Child's Play (Holland, 1988)
Child's Play 2 (Lafia, 1990)
Child's Play 3 (Bender, 1991)
Bride of Chucky (Yu, 1998)
Seed of Chucky (Mancini, 2004)
Curse of Chucky (Mancini, 2013)

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