While there are humorous components to all of the seven movies in the Child’s Play series, these are the only two which feel like comedy horror movies.
Another note: I have not seen the Child’s Play remake.
In Bride of Chucky, Tiff busts Chucky’s body out of evidence locker and uses voodoo to return Chucky to it. When she finds out that he never actually had any intention of marrying her, she imprisons him, but that doesn’t last long. She ends up dead and in order to avenge his imprisonment, he puts her soul into a doll as well. The two then try to get to an amulet they need to transfer themselves into new bodies.
In Seed of Chucky, the gender dysphoric child of Chucky and Tiff, Glen, has ended up as a ventriloquist doll, while a movie of Chucky’s and Tiff’s murder sprees is being made. Glen sees the puppets on TV and mistakes them for their parents. Glen escapes and finds their way to the set, where they use voodoo to summon the souls of his parents to these new bodies. As Jennifer Tilly happens to be a part of the production, Tiff comes up with the idea to steal the body of Tilly and Chucky can have Redman, who Tilly is in the process of landing a role with.
Is the series good? Not really. Is it fun? Yes. While the idea of a murderous child’s toy is in itself comedic, the movies besides these two don’t really go for comedy as a genre. The rest exist in a weird place. They take the premise fairly seriously, but while the movements of the doll are pretty good for late 80s to early 90s, they are still jerky and kind of funny. While other comparable horror franchises (and Bride of Chucky enforces such a comparison by showing artifacts from those other franchises early in the film) have had continuous changes in various creative roles, this series has had at least one constant: Don Mancini has written all seven movies in the original series. He also directed the last three.
The basic concept of having outwardly innocous object in our home, which secretly wants to kill and kill a lot, is scary. But otherwise the mvoies almost seem child-friendly. There’s a little bit of nudity in Seed of Chucky, but otherwise they are pretty tame in the sex department. Even the violence is often fast, because you can’t have a cumbersome doll in those scenes for very long. These are not the first choice of horror movies to show to kids, but they are not very far either.
For some reason I’ve seen Bride of Chucky many, many times. I guess local TV channels used to show it frequently. It was also the first of the movies I saw and it’s the movie which first introduces the iconic (at least to me) stitched face of Chucky. With this image of him, the doll used in the earlier movies just doesn’t really feel very intimidating. Not that it’s that intimidating even with the stitches, but at least he seems like a monster of sorts.
This is also the first movie where Brad Dourif gets a star heaading. He has been the voice of Chucky since the beginning, but as simply the voice of a character, he was pushed down the credits over other, less important characters. At least from the point of view of the franchise. I guess it would have been weird that Chucky is now in the name of the movie, but not the star (the three previous movies were Child’s play I through III). He is still behind Jennifer Tilly, but I guess that can be explained by the fact that she is the actual Bride. The fact that he hasn’t been recognized is kind of a shame. Dourif is a very good actor, who has plenty of interesting roles. I guess we do need these actors, who can handle all sorts of weird roles with professionalism.
Bride of Chucky was also the high point of the franchise budget-wise by that point. $25 million might not seem like much in the overall picture, but it’s actually pretty high for a horror movie. Movies from the Halloween and Friday the 13th franchises had much smaller budgets around that that era. This probably means that somebody actually believed in this concept, which was kind of weird, as the previous movies had quickly spiraled in revenues. Of course, there was a seven year hiatus between the third and fourth installments. I guess this did pretty well, as there was another sequel, which had even a higher budget of $29 million, but failed pretty badly. The final two sequels ended up as straight-to-DVD.
Seed of Chucky embraces the comedy, but this also makes it feel like a jump-the-shark moment for the series. It feels also like a poor comedy with random murders in it. Jennifer Tilly is playing herself without fear. It’s a caricature of everything a gossip magazine might speculate about her.
I don’t really know how to feel about this movie. The kills here are better than before and I do like Tilly’s willingness to have fun with her own image, but at the same time the movie is… problematic. I guess the use of voodoo has always been quite insensitive, but on the other hand, I guess many people don’t understand how it relates to the actual religions practiced by actual people. Then there’s the gender dysphoria angle. Glen is very kind and sensitive, while Glenda is basically psychotic. There has been a long tradition of movies where crossdressers are the villains. This just plays into that. At least in a way. Turns out that these actually seem to be two different souls in one body. Is that better? Probably not.
On the other hand, and I can’t believe that I’m sort of defending the film on this, but the parents are sort of accepting. They might have their own uneducated views on the subject, each sort of pushing their child into what they want, but at the same time the parents do come to terms with their kid not being that sure of their own gender identity. Not that we actually need the serial killers to feel a specific way on this subject…
Weirdly, the series actually gets good after these movies when the series went into straight-to-DVD productions, but they actually became better by exploring the possibilities presented by the concept of a possessed doll. Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky are actually the two best movies out of the seven.