Seed of Chucky

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No matter what the final consensus is, SEED OF CHUCKY is a slap in the face to the prudish and a firm handshake to anyone sick of a kinder, gentler nation that is neither kinder nor gentler. It's a sneering backlash against the purveyors of good taste and will be appreciated by a small, but appreciative core of followers.

If you're anything like me, you are more than a little pissed off by the moral crisis we seem to go through every few years. The whole thing reeks of ignorance and hypocrisy. "Values" are what it's called when people start insisting our country is the next Sodom and Gomorrah and we need to instill religion, conservatism and blind faith into everything in order to save ourselves. Often this includes electing people who talk a good game, but have stood for the exact opposite of everything they preach. We need to have peace? Let's go to war. We need to protect marriage? Let's prevent the people who really want to get married from doing so. We want to save jobs at home? Let's give the power to the corporations who sent them overseas in the first place. Terrorism is the sworn enemy, but since we can't seem to stop that, best to just keep that as a boogeyman. But Janet Jackson's breasts, those we can put an end to! And of course, once things get really heavy, the finger-pointing begins. The most vocal people will try to place blame somewhere else, unwilling to admit that they were bullied, that they were duped. And of course, there will be a few who insist they didn't make any wrong choices, hopefully trying to explain that to a grieving family who has just been informed their child was killed in combat.

SEED OF CHUCKY has one message for these people and that is a firm "fuck you." There is no political agenda here. Let's face it, the film never pretends to be that deep. All the same, it is impossible not to notice how much SEED OF CHUCKY goes against the grain, recalling better days when people weren't so worried about hurting each other's feelings.

Still, not everyone will be happy with this installment. The first thing that will strike you when the film begins is that it is completely unlike any of the previous CHILD'S PLAY films. In fact, it's downright weird. Even the over-the-top BRIDE OF CHUCKY (the best installment thus far) is nothing compared to the wild satirical edge of SEED. Although it draws on conceits we've seen in plenty of other films, most notably the blending of the fantasy world with the real one, it somehow mixes satire with the fantastic in a way we haven't really seen before. This will please some filmgoers and completely turn off others, the proof of this being in the mixed reaction it has received amongst fans.

After demonizing the LOOK WHO'S TALKING movies (moreso than they demonized themselves anyway), the film opens not with a Chucky or a Tiffany, but with a Shitface. That is the name given to the title seed, last seen crawling out of his mother's plasticized womb in BRIDE OF CHUCKY. More or less grown up and looking an awful lot like silent actor Conrad Veidt, Shitface (Billy Boyd - Took from the LORD OF THE RINGS films) is part of a sideshow. He is the main attraction of a ventriloquist's act. His charlatan of a straight-man locks him in a cage, abuses him and well, he did name him "Shitface" so he can't be too nice.

Shitface sees the Chucky and Tiffany dolls on TV and believes that his long lost parents have finally resurfaced. He smuggles himself into a Hollywood prop department where the dolls are. The thing is, they aren't his re-animated parents, just animatronic props in a new film CHUCKY GOES PSYCHO. Good thing he has the magic mojo with him to bring his folks back to life, which he does in an odd and bloody FRANKENSTEIN-like scene. Shocked to find they have a child, the first thing they do is give him a new name, for which I imagine the little guy is extremely grateful. The problem is no one can tell whether Shitface is a boy or a girl. So while Chucky (Brad Dourif) calls him "Glen," Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly) decides on - drumroll please, "Glenda." Yes, while other films claim to only recall the masters of cinema, this film makes a blatant and repeated homage to Edward D. Wood, Jr.

The human characters have never been much to cheer for in the CHILD'S PLAY movies. Alex Vincent was annoying, so was Justin Whalin and does anyone really care about those starcross'd lovers from the last one? This time out, they did something interesting. The star is Jennifer Tilly playing herself. And let me tell you, this is one of the most unflattering portrayals of one's self I've seen on film. Tilly acknowledges her career is in deep trouble and considers Julia Roberts her mortal enemy - "I should've played Erin Brokovich. Could have done it without the Wonderbra. I'm an Oscar-nominated actress and now I'm fucking a puppet." She is beginning to gorge herself of sweets and smokes to get through the day. She bosses her underlings around and it looks like she wouldn't be beyond sleeping with someone to get the part. The film also repeatedly puts her in compromising positions - being tied to a bed, dragged across a floor, etc. The only way they could have made Tilly seem less glamorous is by putting her on a toilet. The film puts Tilly back in the spotlight, but I guess you have to be cruel to be kind. Tilly comes off as a good sport through it all, and no matter what they put her through, we can be assured she'll never be as pathetic as Kirstie Alley.

SEED OF CHUCKY also parodies the need for many personalities, especially those in the music industry, to branch out into several separate personas. To that effect, Redman plays himself as a "rapper-turned-director" who is planning an epic on the birth of Christ. Right away, Tilly actively pursues the role of the Virgin Mary and makes it clear she will do anything to get the part.

This is where Chucky, Tiffany and Glen/Glenda come in. Tiffany wants to be reborn into the body of her idol, Jennifer Tilly. "But that voice," Chucky protests. "I know," Tiffany answers, "she sounds like an angel." So the plan is hatched that Tiffany will be born within Jennifer Tilly while Chucky gets Redman. As for Glen/Glenda, they don't want to split up the family. So, the idea is to restrain Jennifer Tilly and artificially inseminate her via a turkey baster with Chucky's sperm! Like I said, the film is weird and a joyfully crude.

SEED OF CHUCKY does mine earlier horrors to create an impact. PSYCHO is a major influence here, as embodied in the homicidal, gender-confused kid. FREAKS is sort of referenced with its colorful cast of characters and action sequences recall everything from THE SHINING to THE BEYOND. That said, the film never goes for a classic feel, gladly wallowing in the most base antics possible. The film lacks any notion of good taste. It even sports the cinema's king of bad taste John Waters in a supporting role.

And so it seems that the film is pretty dumb through and through. But actually, the premise is quite unique. The film manages to blend horror fantasy with real-life Hollywood personalities better than any since WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE. It's the delinquent kid that has somehow snuck onto the Hollywood soundstage. Hence, the plastic dream factory gets lampooned, but almost completely without any fondness for its subjects. This isn't winking at the Hollywood mystique, it's sucker punching it in the gut and kicking it while its down. There does seem to be a moral the mix, it speaks about self-respect directly relating to one's own feelings of success. And so, the whole thing comes off far less hypocritical than TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE. And if you're going to rent an off-color puppet movie, CHUCKY is much funnier.

Quite a few things don't work well in SEED OF CHUCKY, and sadly almost all of them lead right to director Don Mancini. Last year, the creator of BLADE made his directorial debut and completely dropped the ball with his BLADE: TRINITY. Mancini doesn't fare quite so poorly, but one would hope for better results from someone who has spent 17 years with the material. Unless you count writing the script for CELLAR DWELLER and an episode of TALES FROM THE CRYPT, Mancini's film legacy seems completely encompassed by the CHILD'S PLAY movies. And that's fine. Most of the films have been winners and there's nothing wrong with that. Still, one wishes he took a few more pointers from Tom Holland, Ronny Yu and other previous directors in the series.

What's his problem. In short, the film just doesn't look so hot. The oddities in his thoroughly intriguing script are interesting to look at. When you have a doll pleasuring himself, it would be hard not to make it work on screen. But most of the shots just look flat and unappealing. At times, the originality of the story is the only thing that keeps us gripped to the screen. The direction on the other hand looks like a cheap knock-off. With a $12 Million budget, this is not necessarily a cheap knock-off. But you would never know it by what shows up on screen. Too much of it looks sloppy and bland.

Also, things seem to be spread out a bit too thin. We have Chucky, Tiffany, Glen/Glenda, Jennifer Tilly, Redman and a cast of supporting characters all vying for less than 90 minutes of screen time. And to be honest, things seem spread out a bit too thin. Glen will likely get most of the blame from fans. An effete British adolescent is not people who pick this up will be going for. But really, it's not his fault. The problem is there is not enough of the star of the franchise. Let's face it, while we might like the other characters, we're watching this film for Chucky. This is the doll who started the whole CHILD'S PLAY thing and he's the reason we keep coming back for more. In a screening of the film, Chucky still got the most laughs and the biggest applause. As the landscape gets more crowded, there just isn't enough Chucky to go around.

Still, SEED OF CHUCKY manages to be an entertaining bit of revenge, really. It's a film where sex and violence are just the tip of the iceberg. If you're like me, you're tired of the latest return to values, which just happens to coincide with a rotten economy and an unjust war. In that case, you might find SEED OF CHUCKY's outstretched middle finger to all things cheerful and wholesome refreshing.

Reviewed by Scott W. Davis