It’s pretty much a fact that the longer a horror series goes on, the more it will veer toward self-parody. Over the course of six films, Freddy Kruger, for example, went from being a burned-up child molester with evil intentions to being a wise-cracking bogeyman. By the tenth installment in the Friday the 13th series, Jason was in outer space, of all places. Chucky the doll has made perhaps the most precipitous drop into parody. I was no fan of the original Child’s Play movie, but it at least attempted to mine genuine scares from the fact that dolls can be creepy. By the time he got married in Bride of Chucky…well, I admit that I skipped that one.
My best guess is that a kind of desperation eventually sets in. Filmmakers know they’ve emptied their bag of tricks as far as scares go, so they settle for the humorously macabre. Sometimes the damage can be undone; consider Wes Craven nicely reclaiming Freddy Kruger in New Nightmare. That picture took the premise and applied a postmodern twist – Freddy jumped off the movie screen and came after the real Wes Craven. Seed of Chucky tries to do something similar. It’s a Chucky movie within a Chucky movie. Despite a few moments of inspiration, the picture generally falls flat on its face. It’s not funny enough to be a comedy, not scary enough to be a horror movie. It’s too little of everything.
Jennifer Tilly (who also does the voice of Chucky’s wife, Tiffany) plays herself. She’s been reduced to starring in, you guessed it, a Chucky movie. However, she dreams of bigger, meatier roles. Upon hearing that rapper Redman is planning to make his directorial debut with a movie about the Virgin Mary, Tilly sets out to snag the lead role. That film would no doubt be infinitely more interesting than this one. Meanwhile, a British ventriloquist dummy named Shithead (don’t ask) sees an entertainment report about Tilly’s movie and, believing himself to be the offspring of Chucky and Tiffany, heads to Hollywood to find them. The dolls are startled to discover that they are parents, especially to an offspring that is genitalia-free. Yes, the film goes to great pains to let us see that fact.
Shithead is redubbed Glen by Chucky (who wants a boy) and Glenda by Tiffany (who’d prefer a girl). Personally, I thought the thing eerily resembled Christopher Walken in The Dead Zone. The dolls decide to have more children, although Tiffany does not want to bear them. They come up with an idea to impregnate Tilly with Chucky’s sperm. Amazingly, writer-director Don Mancini pretty much shows us the whole thing. We see Chucky masturbating in shadow (to an issue of Fangoria magazine, no less). Moments later, we see him holding a cup of his own semen. The part in which Tiffany uses a turkey baster to fertilize Jennifer Tilly is something I could have lived without seeing.
As I describe Seed of Chucky, I realize that it sounds more interesting than it actually is. Some of the ideas are clever, but the movie never really knows what to do with them. Rather than taking the premise and pumping up the comedic value, Mancini mostly goes for easy gags, such as Chucky leering at Tilly’s breasts. To pull this off, a real sense of comic anarchy would have been needed. Rules would have to have been broken all over the place. Playing it safe or downplaying the most outrageous elements was the wrong way to go. The film taxis down the runway for 86 minutes but never takes off.
Because this is essentially a slasher movie, there are periodic bursts of violence. They, too, fail to deliver a jolt. I cannot imagine anyone actually being scared by anything shown here. Mancini doesn’t even try to scare us. He just randomly tosses in a murder here and there. I’m a believer that horror movies are capable of giving good gore. Last spring’s remake of Dawn of the Dead proved as much. To make that kind of thing work, you have to be willing to really go for it. There’s a fearlessness that accompanies the best horror films. This one is too tame to ever come close to making an impact. Oh, it tries to look badass, but we all know a poseur when we see one, right?
For all the humdrum trash on screen, Seed of Chucky actually had a few things that made me laugh. There’s a sick Martha Stewart joke and a clever parody of The Shining. I also enjoyed seeing the great John Waters portraying a “Celebrities Uncensored”-style paparazzi.
Those bits made me laugh, but for the most part, this movie is just junk. At least it knows it’s junk, unlike the recent Saw, which had annoying pretensions of being art. There are some movies I come out of actively hating, and there are others that are just dumb. This one falls into the “just dumb” category. For me, Chucky remains – as he always has been – a thoroughly underwhelming horror creation.
( 1/2 out of four)
Seed of Chucky is rated R for strong horror violence/gore, sexual content and language. The running time is 1 hour and 26 minutes.
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