Rankfest: Child’s Play
The interesting thing about the Child’s Play/Bride of/Seed of/Curse of/Management Appraisal of/Grocery List of Chucky movies is that none of them are legitimately bad. Sure, some went for a very campy approach with in-jokes surely only Don Mancini and Jennifer Tilly were in on, but if they weren’t scary, they were at the very least funny.
Mancini’s unwavering commitment to the series also deserves a lot of respect. Most creators turned away from their projects when they didn’t get the critical acclaim they hungered for, but Mancini stayed with Chucky, ensuring that the continuity of the films has been maintained almost flawlessly.
How do they stack up?
7th best: Seed of Chucky (2004)
Probably waiting a bit too long to cash-in on the success of Bride, this fifth go-round was only a modest success, and represents the only strand in the canon to go unresolved in the form of Glen/Glenda, the offspring of Chucky and Tiffany, who travels to Hollywood in the hope of finding them on the set of Chucky Goes Psycho, starring Jennifer Tilly.
A huge amount of in-the-know jokes abound at the expense of horror, making the film a comedy first. That said, in this sense it at least succeeds in being an absolute riot, with some hilarious setups and cameos.
Best bit: Chucky runs Britney Spears off the road: “Oops! I did it again!”
6th: Cult of Chucky (2017)
The enthusiasm with which Curse was met didn’t quite carry over into the next straight-to-DVD/VOD feature, which reverted to the comedy>horror structure, but at least moves the story forward significantly by the end.
The concept of Charles Lee Ray’s spirit inhabiting several dolls at once ices the film with an amusing blood-red frosting, allowing for a veritable Doomsday Book of gags, but some gruesome demises too. Mancini’s ability to bring back in characters from previous installments must be pretty much unequalled in horror.
Best bit: A twisted revisit to the ceiling mirror slaying from Bride.
5th: Curse of Chucky (2013)
I got to see the European premiere of this at FrightFest and it was definitely a crowd pleaser. An effort to take the concept back to its more sinister roots. Here, Chucky is delivered to the home of an old acquaintance and wreaks havoc during a wake.
The smart move here was keeping Chucky’s movements off camera for a good portion of the running time, rewinding things back to the is it/isn’t it questions posed by the original. It runs a little too long given the small cast and setting.
Best bit: “It’s a doll. What’s the worst that could happen?”
4th: Child’s Play 3 (1991)
There’s no such thing as bad publicity, the saying goes. In the early 90s, various UK tabloid “news”papers decided to blame the murder of a toddler on a film his pair of 10-year-old killers supposedly watched (but it later turned out, didn’t), rather than look to greater problems in society, parenting, or the kind of right-wing bullshit they pedalled every day. They also took credit for the film being banned, which it never was.
Teenage Andy is packed off to a military academy just as Good Guy dolls are ready to go back into production. Chucky succeeds in mailing himself to the academy and the usual occurs. The setting is original and there are some good ideas, but Mancini later admitted he was forced to churn out a script he wasn’t altogether satisfied with.
Best bit: Garbage disposal demise.
3rd: The Original (1988)
Third!? Yes. I’d already seen a couple of the sequels by the time this came around and I was slightly underwhelmed, expecting an overarching classic that the follow-ups were but poor imitations of. Hell, I saw Dolly Dearest before I saw this!
I guess like any first-in-a-series horror movie, there’s a restraint that is accompanied by the thicker depths of storytelling – the canvas needs to be established before we draw all over it. I just find Child’s Play a bit… inaccessible. Whereas, I can slot into any of the sequels at any given time, I feel I owe more to watching this one (and also the originals of any other given franchise).
2nd: Child’s Play 2 (1990)
My first foray into Chucky-dom was this one, played repeatedly on cable back in the 90s, which is probably the most straight-up slasher of the lot. I can never remember if it’s supposed to pick up straight after the first one, or a year or two later, but Alex Vincent has, of course, sprouted.
Chucky rampages through various unfortunates in his bid to ‘hide his soul’ in Andy, and in doing so notches up some of the more memorable sequences of the franchise: The mean teacher beaten with a ruler, that guy from Ally McBeal asphyxiated, and the gloopy factory finale, where the doll just keeeeeeps on comin’ back.
1st: Bride of Chucky (1998)
The combination of depleting box office returns and the scandal around the third movie pretty much finished off Chucky as a horror force in the 90s, but then Scream came and tossed the salad, giving a series about a killer doll plenty of self-referential gags to chew on and spit out. Best idea? Give Chucky a pal.
Casting Jennifer Tilly as Tiffany was a masterstroke and once dolled, it seems strange to imagine the series without her and Dourif bouncing off one another. Adding in John Ritter as an overbearing patriarch also lends well to the comedic feel employed by Ronny Yu’s direction, which helped him land the Freddy vs Jason gig a few years later.