A Bloody Good Time 03.27.14: Ranking The Child's Play Movies
Posted by Joseph Lee on 03.27.2014
What would Martha Stewart say?
Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)
Welcome to A Bloody Good Time.
Last week we didn't have an edition of ABGT because I had some important things to take care of. But we're back this week and as promised on Facebook, I'm going to rank all of the Child's Play films. This is something I started when I decided I ran out of ways to praise the big slashers like Jason and Freddy. That doesn't mean a franchise won't come up again, but it won't be the entire subject of a column because I've exhausted all possible ways to look at it. I've since discovered I have one big idea for each (top moments, in case you're wondering) before I stop using them as topics. If you're interested to see how the other shows rank, check out my official lists for Alien and Predator, Hellraiser, Silent Night Deadly Night, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Puppet Master, Friday the 13th and The Amityville Horror. As you can see, I've been busy ever since I started this in 2011. And I've still got a huge three-part ranking of the Godzilla series to come in May!
Before we get to Godzilla though, let's look at Chucky and rank all six of his films. I have to confess that I like all of the movies in this series. Even the one I have ranked as my least favorite is still entertaining to me. I guess that's because even in Chucky's dumbest moments he's still Chucky, played by the always great Brad Dourif and he's still an outstanding achievement in movie-making magic.So just keep in mind if a sequel you like is near the bottom of this list, I still like it. The same could be said for other franchises I've ranked. Even the worst Friday the 13th is better than whatever the next Adam Sandler turd is.
So before we start, I should need to mention that when recapping an entire franchise there will be spoilers. Since one of these is a 2013 film I'm offering a brief warning now.
#6: Child's Play 3 (1991)
For all the hate that Seed of Chucky tends to get, at least it tries something new. This sequel is definitely the laziest of the series and outside of upping Andy's age a little bit and switching the location to a military school, it doesn't really do anything new. The fact that this movie was a success and they still couldn't get another film out until seven years later says a lot about much people cared about Chucky when this was over. I prefer original failure over repetitive success any time. It's probably why I enjoy Jason X so much even though it should by all rights be terrible.
Child's Play 3 isn't bad. Not even close. It's a serviceable horror movie with Chucky being his "Chuckiest". However after coming off two strong films (and being followed by another) it really sticks out. I think the biggest problem with this entry is the fact that they recast Andy. I'm not sure why Alex Vincent didn't return. It could be that the story just required Andy to be older or maybe his parents wanted him to do other things. But Justin Whalin, while decent, is a poor replacement.
Okay, enough bashing. There are some good things about this movie. I like the fact that Chucky getting a brand new body enables him to go after someone else's body if he wants. I like the fact he kills a guy via heart attack. I like how he switches out the paintballs with actual bullets. Chucky hiding in the shadows has always been the best way to have him kill people and this movie does a good job of making him smarter than usual. It kind of makes Tiffany's criticisms in Bride fall flat when we just saw him crush somebody with a garbage truck in the last movie. Child's Play 3's problem is simply that it's not as good as the other movies in the series, but it's still an entertaining way to kill about ninety minutes in its own right.
Plus, only Chucky could say something like, "Chucky's gonna be a bro" and get away with it.
#5: Seed of Chucky (2004)
I've said this before, probably here, but Seed of Chucky, as a horror film, sucks. That's a blunt way to put it but it is in no way scary. Not that Chucky has been very scary in his other appearances but there is no attempt to make him frightening here. However, as a dark comedy with lots of gore and tons of in-jokes, it's quite fun. Some people hate it because it's so gleefully dumb, but I think it's smarter than it appears by taking a character that was already balancing the line between horror and comedy and going full speed ahead into the comedy realm. It's kind of how the Evil Dead series turned out before the "remake".
Seed of Chucky contains numerous shots at Jennifer Tilly, it features some jokes at Hollywood's expense and it features various send-ups to everything from Ed Wood to The Shining. I can understand why some don't like it but as a fan of the intentionally ridiculous I can't help but love this one a little bit. Even Chucky at one point acknowledges just how insane his story has become. Remember when he was just trying to swap souls with a six-year-old boy? Now he's trying to impregnate Hollywood actresses so his gender-swapping son can have a baby to go into.
Obviously this movie isn't scary and some think it's the worst of the Chucky movies. However, it's still really fun to watch and I still like it. It does a better job at horror parody than A Haunted House or Scary Movie 5 could ever do. It's always better when the people parodying the franchise are the people behind the franchise.
#4: Bride of Chucky (1998)
Time hasn't been as kind to this one as you would think (or maybe it's just been more kind to other films in the series) but Bride of Chucky used to be my second favorite in the series. It's still really good and I don't understand some of the backlash its received over the years, but in a series of six, something's going to get ranked lower than you would think.
This movie was riding the post-Scream wave in which every horror film had to have a tendency of self-awareness to it. As a result, it's sort of a product of its time and isn't quite the classic that Scream ended up being. However, it manages to walk the line between horror and comedy perfectly. It has its tongue firmly-planted in its cheek, but it still has some gruesome moments and Chucky is still played as a threat. It's just that they take a few moments here and there to point out how absolutely ridiculous the concept of a killer doll is. Some would say that's not a good way to portray your main character but it worked in this movie.
The film mixed things up by not only moving the focus away from Andy but by bringing in a new character in Tiffany. Tiffany completely changed the direction of this series and it brought a new dynamic to what was previously Chucky stalking and slashing his way into finding a new body. I don't think she would have worked as well if Jennifer Tilly didn't go as gung-ho into the role as Brad Dourif had been doing for years as Chucky. This was a bigger and badder Child's Play movie and still holds up as one of the better ones. Also, there was doll sex.
#3: Curse of Chucky (2013)
I'm still not sure what I was expecting when I sat down to watch Curse of Chucky but I don't think I ever expected it to be half as good as it was, even with the final cameo spoiled for me days in advance. There were many stories coming out before the film's release. Some said that this would ignore Bride and Seed (which I was against), others said it would take place before those too movies. What we got instead was a movie that not only acknowledges those movies exist, but makes clever nods to them.
This movie is a stand-alone sequel in a lot of ways, but only because Chucky has moved on from his crazy life and is now trying to settle old scores. The entire film takes place mostly in one house, giving Chucky the advantage as he has less ground to cover and can go back to hiding in the shows, killing people in secret. Once again, that's where Chucky is at his best. The movie is no stranger to the red stuff, but it's doing it with a killer who is making sure he isn't seen when he moves around. It is like the first one in that no one knows it's a doll doing the killing, only this time we know.
I've mentioned Alex Vincent's cameo before, but Jennifer Tilly's return as Tiffany is also great. I was actually confused at first, since it's later revealed that this takes place after Seed (and Chucky's scars were covered) but I've decided that Tiffany is probably still possessing Jennifer Tilly's body in this world. Thankfully they left Glen/Glenda at home, because I don't think they would have worked in this particular movie. As I said before, Curse of Chucky is both a solid return for the tiny terror but it's also a love letter to the entire series and its fans. Can't go wrong with that.
#2: Child's Play 2 (1990)
I'm actually surprised I love Child's Play 2 as much as I do now. I used to not care for it as much as the first film or Bride, now it's my second-favorite. I think it was my "top Chucky moments" countdown two weeks ago that made me realize just how good this sequel is. It's not just a sequel to a great horror movie, it's kind of a great horror movie in its own right and I think it should be acknowledged as such.
The cat's out of the bag in this movie. We are fully aware that it's Chucky doing the killing and all the mystery used in the original film can't be brought back here. So the movie does exactly what it should do and takes full advantage of that. Now that we know it's Chucky (but the adults don't...that's important), this is the first time we can see Chucky get his kills in motion and still feel a bit of suspense in if our characters will realize it. Andy's foster parents (even Phil) and Kyle are still well-written characters and as such we still care what happens to them. Of course Alex Vincent is still bringing it as Andy so we're on his side once again. The series still hasn't reached the point where Chucky's the only one worth rooting for (another great touch in Curse was to make Nica a very likable heroine).
This movie also featured a much bigger finale inside the Good Guy doll factory and it used the most of its budget to pull off one of the best special effects in horror history. Chucky is in all of his glory here as he stalks his prey. The animatronics work and general use of visual effects are top notch, along with nearly every other aspect of the film. This is is how to do a sequel to a movie that, by all rights, shouldn't have a sequel.
#1: Child's Play (1988)
In the end, there's only one choice for #1. I don't always go with the original as the best but in this case I have to. Not only is it the movie that gave us Chucky, but it's also the most well-made. It's the scariest, it's has the best acting and it's the one that holds up the best even after all this time. Sure, it has its silly moments (that voodoo scene sticks out like a severed thumb) but that's part of the charm. When you have a movie about a killer doll, you're going to have some silly moments. It comes with the territory.
The mystery is lost now and even when I first saw this movie I knew who Chucky was. However, I can appreciate how hard this movie works to convince you that maybe it will be Andy who is killing these people. Killer children are just as likely, if not more likely, as a killer doll in the realm of horror. It plays its mystery very well...giving Andy just enough innocence to have you doubt his guilt and giving him just enough guilt to make you question his story. A child could physically kill people the way Chucky kills Aunt Maggie and Eddie Caputo. It's why until Chucky reveals himself officially that the movie could go either way. I'll always enjoy that fact about the movie.
Child's Play is a classic in the genre and there's a reason it's still fondly remembered 26 years later.
When you're ranking Chucky movies there really isn't any other choice. But if you have an argument for why any of these movies are better than the Chuck's debut I'd love to hear them. That's partially why I do this column, to discuss the genre with my fellow fans.
Closing Logo courtesy of Kyle Morton (get your own custom artwork and commissions at his Etsy account)
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