Thursday, November 7, 2013

Child's Play 3

Child’s Play 3 (1991)
Dir. Jack Bender
Written by Don Mancini
Starring Justin Whalen, Perry Reeves, Jeremy Sylvers, Dakin Matthews, Brad Dourif

Only a year after we’d cut off his arm, burned him up, ripped off his torso, melded him into a squirrel’s nest of doll limbs, and melted him into a twisted pile of molten plastic, Chucky’s back. You can’t keep a good doll down. Turns out that bastard Mr. Sullivan, CEO of the Good Guy Toy Company, didn’t learn his lesson last time with his factory being covered in corpses and doll parts and so forth, and has, for a second time, resurrected Chucky into a new doll body. It will be his last time doing so. Chucky quickly resumes his two favorite activities, murdering people for sport and stalking Andy Barclay, the only person in the world who can get him out of the doll’s body (since he can only transfer his soul into the body of the person to whom he first reveals his true name, boy, that minute detail from the first movie really paid off over the next four hours of sequels).

Since I didn’t see Alex Vincent (who played Andy in parts I and II) in the cast, I went into this assuming that the events of Part 2 had ended the nightmare for the poor kid and that I could imagine he went off to live a happier life. Guess what, no such luck; this movie is set eight years later (presumably in the futuristic year 1998, ironically just in time for BRIDE OF CHUCKY to hit theaters) and Andy is now played by sad-eyed Justin Whalen, which makes sense because Jesus Chucky Christ, this kid has had a fucked up life. Randomly targeted by a serial killer in a doll’s body, framed for murder, separated from his mom when they’re independently sent to the nuthouse for telling the truth about what happened (even though at least two cops know for a fact they were right), then bounced around to foster homes only to have his new parents murdered by the same doll and again getting framed for it, and subsequently sent to military school because no more foster homes will take him, and hey, I don’t see his foster sister from part II around anymore, so I bet there’s a tragic story there, too. This is some straight up fucked Dickensian street orphan shit. If I were him, I’d have turned to voodoo long ago to vent my anger (particularly since Chucky has proved quite a few times how effective it can be), but no, Andy remain a nice guy. He understands no one will ever believe his crazy story, and seems resigned to just take the remaining abuse life has left to throw at him because hey, beats being chased by a killer doll.

Portrait of a kid thinking about FULL METAL JACKET

Alas, his life is about to get a lot worse again, because that fucktard Sullivan apparently has Andy’s new address on a computer in his office (?) and Chucky quickly mails himself to the strict military school where Andy is currently trying unsuccessfully to fit in. Chuck arrives at the school by mail, ready to settle his unfinished business, but there’s a twist: his package is intercepted by tiny, adorable young kid Tyler (Jeremy Sylvers). Chucky suddenly realizes that he’s in a new doll body, he can just tell this new kid his name and presto, chango, steal his corpse. Arguably the life of a two-foot-tall black orphan in military school is an even worse trade than Andy’s shitty life, at least he’s old enough to get laid now. Should have probably thought about this plan while you were killing rich white guy Sullivan, asshole. But you know how Chucky is, he never thinks these things through, so he goes ahead with it but keeps getting interrupted before he can finish the thing. Man, that shit just keeps happening to him, his life is like one of those sex dreams where you always get interrupted before you get to the good stuff.

Anyway, this element introduces a novel twist, because now Andy isn’t the main target anymore, but he knows he’s the only person who can help this poor kid Tyler. He won’t be able to convince any of the asshole authority figures of the danger, and of course Chucky himself is making things difficult by telling poor Tyler that it’s actually ANDY who’s the problem. And Andy has to do all this within the confines of a rigid military school environment, where he’s not gonna exactly be making friends with his weird behavior and pedio/automatonophobia*. The uptight Colonel (Dakin Matthews, Secretary of the Interior John Palmer Usher in LINCOLN!) has no time for his shenanigans, the asshole Cadet Lieutenant (Travis Fine, director of the award-winning 2012 LGBT drama ANY DAY NOW) is, well, just an asshole, and for some reason you got Andrew Robinson (DIRTY HARRY, HELLRAISER, PUMPKINHEAD 2) as a sadistic barber in three scenes? Was this kid born under a lucky sign or what?  

This threesome just got weird.

This is a good premise for a CHILD’S PLAY movie, and I’d say that overall this one is stronger than most of CHILD’S PLAY 2, which was so completely vanilla. Most of the acting here is pretty good, and Whalen convincingly communicates Andy’s desperation and resigned acceptance of his shitty situation. It feels appropriately dark without quite being grim. Don’t worry, Chucky still has plenty of one-liners, but this is a world where children will die just like adults, and the happiest ending you can imagine is that Chucky won’t kill everyone and they can go back to their shitty, depressing lives only slightly worse off than before. Pretty much what I want in a CHILD’S PLAY sequel.

So, pound for pound this one is more competent and better done than part 2, but unfortunately although it’s more consistent it also doesn’t have any big crazy high points like part 2’s finale, either. It’s agreeable enough but is seriously lacking in memorable moments or fun gimmicks**; even the climax in a carnival house of horror doesn’t do much with the setting except use it as an excuse for some intense lighting. The filmmaking is solid but also completely inert, killing any potential for momentum or build. There’s kind of an overwhelming sense of blaise professionalism over the whole thing, people good enough at their jobs not to embarrass themselves, but not particularly inspired to dream big. The only person here who really seems to be striving is Kevin Yagher (director of HELLRAISER IV and creator of the Chucky puppet, who I forgot to mention in my reviews of Parts I and II, sorry Kevin) who gamely tries a few new tricks with his Chucky puppet and succeeds handily; there’s a few genuine “how’d they do that?” shots in here, which used to be something that was fun before computers ruined everything. With Yagher and Brad Dourif manning the Chucky train, there’s usually something at least entertaining every few minutes and the whole enterprise is never in danger of feeling dull.

Cue the Odd Couple theme

Alas, a general low level of competence isn’t really much to recommend a movie on, and this is probably the least necessary of the CHILD’S PLAY sequels (even series writer Don Mancini called this his least favorite, correctly stating that he ran out of ideas in part 2). Still, it’s not the embarassment to the good name of Charles Lee Ray that you might expect a 1991 franchise sequel to be. It’s perfectly good time-filling entertainment for you to catch on cable some Halloween weekend while you’re sobering up from the previous night. Even so, it was clear from this one that this series had about run it’s course. It would be seven years before we would again be reminded why we should not fuck with the Chuck, and by then the series was transmogrified in the post-SCREAM era into a cheeky postmodern comedy. That’s OK, though; CHILD’S PLAY 3 ended the era of serious horror aspirations in the best possible way: dignity intact, but without really making you want to watch another sequel like it. That’s enough earnestness for now; time to bring on the laffs.  

*Look it up.

** OK, I do like the part where a guy has a heart attack upon seeing the killer doll before Chucky can actually get in there and kill him, much to his disappointment.

The Chucky's Play Series:

  3. CHILD’S PLAY 3 


  • SEQUEL: Yep, third of 6 as of this writing.
  • REMAKE: No
  • DECAPITATIONS OR DE-LIMBING: Well, Chucky end up losing a few pieces.
  • SLASHERS: Not a classic slasher, no.
  • CURSES: No
  • (UNCANNY) VALLEY OF THE DOLLS? Chucky again.
  • OBSCURITY LEVEL: Low, theater sequel to well-known original

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