translittler.GIF (807 bytes)

And You Call Yourself a AScientist!

translittler.GIF (807 bytes)  

Home: And You Call Yourself a Scientist!

View the Complete Index of Films Reviewed

Genres
Science Fiction
Horror
Fantasy
Cult

Links

Skeletons Out of the Closet:
we’ve made it our mission to unearth everyone’s dirty little secrets

DVD Reviews

Immortal Dialogue

Taglines:
Every film has one. Sometimes they're brilliant, sometimes just mystifying, sometimes so stupid you can't believe someone got paid for thinking it up

Snap Judgements

Science in the Reel World:
It isn’t only science fiction and horror films that have things to say on the subject of science and scientists…

The B-Masters Cabal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home

View the Complete Index of Films Reviewed

Genres
Science Fiction
Horror
Fantasy
Cult

Links

Skeletons Out of the Closet

DVD Reviews

Immortal Dialogue

Taglines

Snap Judgements

Science in the Reel World

The B-Masters Cabal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home

View the Complete Index of Films Reviewed

Genres
Science Fiction
Horror
Fantasy
Cult

Links

Skeletons Out of the Closet

DVD Reviews

Immortal Dialogue

Taglines

Snap Judgements

Science in the Reel World

The B-Masters Cabal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

translittler.GIF (807 bytes)

SEED OF CHUCKY (2004) (unrated version)

“God bless the little people.”

Director: Don Mancini

Starring: Jennifer Tilly, Brad Dourif, Billy Boyd, Redman, John Waters, Hannah Spearritt, Steve Lawton, Keith-Lee Castle, Tony Gardner, Jason Flemyng

Screenplay: Don Mancini

Synopsis:  Rejected for being hideously ugly, a small figure runs through a house in England, slaughtering the inhabitants until, after suffering ridicule from one of its potential victims, it wakes from its nightmare to an even worse reality: as a living doll posing as a ventriloquist’s dummy called “Shitface”. As it unwillingly performs with its captor, Psychs (Keith-Lee Castle), the doll ponders its existence, in particular the ‘Made In Japan’ logo on its wrist, and who and where its parents could be…. In America, a man dressed as Santa Claus walks through a cemetery, where he is attacked by the notorious living killer dolls, Chucky and Tiffany. As Chucky stabs his victim again and again – and again and again – head puppeteer Tony Gardner comes forward to announce apologetically that Chucky is stuck in a loop and will have to be repaired. “Santa” – actor Jason Flemyng – stalks off in disgust, muttering about unprofessionalism, while the rest of the cast and crew of Chucky Goes Psycho take a break, and an on-set reporter broadcasts her story on the “killer doll” urban legend behind the production. Elsewhere on the set, the film’s star, Jennifer Tilly, hides out while sneaking chocolate bars. Later, as she squirms under the praise of her personal assistant, Joan (Hannah Spearritt), for the way she is sticking to her diet, Tilly complains about the direction that her career has taken, and that no-one takes her seriously as an actress. Hearing that hip-hop star turned director Redman is looking for an actress to play the Virgin Mary in his upcoming biblical epic, Tilly determines to reinvent herself. In England, Shitface sees the television report on Chucky Goes Psycho – and stares, overwhelmed, at the ‘Made In Japan’ logo on the wrist of “Chucky”. While still coming to terms with this clue to its identity, Shitface is tormented by Psychs, who tells the doll that it has to learn to be “more scary”. Psychs puts a rat into Shitface’s cage, hoping that the doll will give in to its killer instincts – only to recoil in disgust when it makes a pet of the animal instead. In one last effort to rouse the gentle Shitface, Psychs threatens it with a lighter. The rat bites the ventriloquist on the wrist, and in the ensuing confusion Shitface escapes, riding to freedom in the back of a passing van, and subsequently arranging to be shipped to the set of Chucky Goes Psycho. Back in Hollywood, Jennifer Tilly auditions for the role of the Virgin Mary, assuring her potential director that she will do anything – anything – to win the part. Meanwhile, the package containing Shitface is delivered to the special effects department of Chucky Goes Psycho. The doll frees itself and looks around nervously. Amongst all the models, make-up and drums of stage blood, it discovers the inert figures of “Chucky” and “Tiffany”. Summoning up all its courage, Shitface addresses the puppets as “Dad” and “Mum”, and becomes distraught when they do not respond. Then, with a flash of inspiration, Shitface pulls out the amulet that it has carried all its life, and reads aloud the mysterious inscription on the back. A surge of strange power rips through the room – and Chucky and Tiffany are resurrected….

Comments:  For almost as long as there have been horror movies, there have been horror movie franchises; and for almost as long as there have been horror movie franchises, there have been examples of the bizarre and mind-bending – and frequently desperate – lengths to which studio executives will go in order to keep a profitable series alive. In most cases, these efforts are failures, the string of sequels doing nothing more than illustrating the law of diminishing returns, with ever more perfunctory storylines, lower production values, and worse special effects. Every now and then, however, we encounter an exception to the rule. Child’s Play is one of the eighties’ most fondly remembered horror outings – “fondly remembered”, that is, in the sense that people tend to have a lot more affection for it looking back than the film itself actually warrants. The killer doll is one of the horror genre’s most reliable stand-bys, of course, that rare plot device that is almost impossible to get really wrong. Thus, essentially unsatisfactory outings like the Puppet Master films, or even the big-budget Magic, can succeed in getting a reaction from the viewer, just so long as their animated inanimate stars are on screen; while when the thing is done just right – the Zuni fetish doll, anyone? – the effect can be nothing less than terrifying. Child’s Play sits somewhere between these two extremes, although certainly closer to the former examples. In truth, its only real virtues are its knife-wielding non-human star, the soon-to-be-infamous Chucky, and the virtuoso vocal performance of Brad Dourif that brings the doll to life. The same is true, and to an even greater extent, of the first film’s two obligatory sequels. After 1991’s limp and unconvincing – even by killer doll film standards – Child’s Play 3, it was no surprise to see Chucky fade quietly away.

What was surprising, however, was the doll’s resurrection seven years later in Bride Of Chucky; not for the resurrection itself, of course – if the horror film has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t keep a wise-cracking killer down….no matter how much you might want to – but for it happening in a film that was such an enormous improvement over any of its predecessors. Part of this was due to the wonderfully off-kilter hiring of Ronny Yu to direct, and part to the franchise finally embracing the inherent ludicrousness of its central premise. (Previously, only Chucky himself seemed aware of just how ridiculous he was). Bride Of Chucky is a film that pulls off some interesting shifts in tone, being largely played for laughs, but managing to keep its dolls eerie, occasionally even menacing. Seed Of Chucky, however, takes that inevitable final step, tossing aside any notion that anyone could really find Chucky and Tiffany scary any more, and assaulting the audience as a fully fledged horror-comedy – and a gross-out comedy, at that.

Seed Of Chucky picks up six years after Bride, which closed with the birth of a baby to its no longer so happy couple. The offspring of the killer pair, when we first meet – it (the doll, we learn almost immediately, suffers the crushing shame of being “anatomically incorrect”) – is eking out a living of sorts in England as the stooge of the world’s most unlikely professional ventriloquist, a Motorhead-wannabe named Psychs, and bearing, on account of its unfortunate appearance, the sobriquet “Shitface”. (I don’t know whether the film-makers missed their mark here, but personally I think poor Shitface is adorably cute. On the other hand, I always found the early pre-Chucky “Good Guy” doll unbearably creepy, so maybe it’s just me.) Knowing nothing more of its origins than can be inferred from the brand ‘Made In Japan’ on its wrist, Shitface escapes its miserable existence by dreaming of parents who (cue “generic Japanese chords”) were “Zen masters” or “ninja assassins” who “served the Emperor”. Needless to say, Shitface is in for a bit of a shock. The broadcasting of a puff piece from the set of Chucky Goes Psycho provides the impetus for the doll’s escape from its tormentor, and – in a manoeuvre that the script wisely leaves unexplicated – it manages to get itself boxed, addressed, and shipped to Hollywood. In the special effects department of Chucky Goes Psycho, Shitface finds the heavily cabled, defective puppets that are standing in for its parents in the story of their, uh, lives. Unable to get a response from the inert figures, Shitface suddenly produces from its pocket the “Heart of Damballa”, the unashamedly MacGuffinish amulet that nobody had heard of before Bride Of Chucky, but which in that film suddenly became the crux of the whole soul-transference thing. One brief incantation later, and everyone’s favourite homicidal dolls are up and around and doing what they do best….

Ostensibly, Seed Of Chucky concerns the three dolls’ endless quest to transfer their souls into human bodies. In actuality, the film is a slapdash satire of movie-making in general, and in particular of those turgid “meaningful” family dramas that the Academy voters always feel compelled to pretend that they like, come Oscar time. Hey, Hollywood – you want family values? You got it! Chucky and Tiffany are, not unnaturally, taken aback by the sudden revelation that they are parents, but embrace their new roles with enthusiasm. (A slight difference of opinion does arise between the two over the re-naming of their offspring. Chucky wants a boy, Tiffany a girl; Shitface’s sexual ambiguity allows them both to have their way, with the child dubbed Glen….or Glenda.) Chucky dreams of a real father-son relationship; of a manly little boy that he can take, uh, hunting. Tiffany, recognising that she and her paramour have “a problem with killing”, immediately puts herself into a 12-step rehabilitation program (one that goes remarkably well until it comes to her making amends to the people she has hurt in the past: a victim’s widow is….less than appreciative). Glen/Glenda, no longer a lonely and bereft little orphan, becomes rapturously happy in the new security of a nuclear family – at least until it is somewhat forcibly borne upon him/her that his/her loving parents are a pair of raving psychotics….

Watching your standard Hallmark “quality drama” heart-warming moments and heart-rending conflicts being enacted by a trio of homicidal puppets lends Seed Of Chucky much of its humour, of course. A great deal of the rest lies – inevitably, it seems, in this day and age – in the film’s relentless referencing of other movies. Even the credits are a spoof, enjoyably ridiculing the unbearable cutsieness of the Look Who’s Talking films. All the usual suspects are here: Halloween, Psycho, Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining….along with a few others that one wonders if today’s younger viewers will even get. (Driven to distraction by Chucky and Tiffany’s ceaseless squabbling, Glen/Glenda clutches his/her head in anguish and shrieks, “You’re tearing me apart!”) More specifically, Seed Of Chucky puts a great deal of effort into poking fun at itself. This self-reflexiveness has inevitably drawn comparisons with Scream; but with the film-within-a-film subplot, and the knowingly mocking conversion of the story of Chucky from a “real life” urban legend to the cinematic version of the same, Scream 2 is a much better point of comparison, and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare a better one again. Seed Of Chucky’s two loosely parallel plots collide on the set of Chucky Goes Psycho, in the pivotal character of Jennifer Tilly….played by Jennifer Tilly. In Bride Of Chucky, Tilly – the real Tilly – played the human Tiffany, who was once the girlfriend of Charles Lee Ray back in the days when he was just the good old Lakeshore Strangler, and subsequently (following a bit of soul transference) lent her voice to the doll version of Tiffany. Here Tilly does, not merely double, but triple, even quadruple duty as (let’s get this straight): (1) Jennifer Tilly, the human star of Seed Of Chucky; (2) Jennifer Tilly, the voice of Tiffany; (3) Jennifer Tilly, the in-film star of Chucky Goes Psycho; and (4) Jennifer Tilly, unimaginable good sport.

Actors making fun of themselves onscreen is nothing new, of course, but I can’t honestly think of anyone who has taken it to the lengths that Jennifer Tilly does in Seed Of Chucky, with a performance that rockets straight past mere good sportsmanship into the realm of outright masochism. The “Jennifer Tilly” we see here is a cruel – and let’s be quite clear about this, wholly inaccurate – parody of the real thing: a dim, pathetic, talentless bimbo constantly pouring herself into size-too-small dresses and struggling with her weight; unable to comprehend the unchecked downward spiral of her career (“I was an Oscar nominee, for chrissake, and now I’m fucking a puppet!”), and eternally bitter on the subject of Julia Roberts who, she believes, keep stealing her roles….probably by sleeping with her directors. (There is a lot of spiteful joking about Julia in Seed Of Chucky, but as someone equally mystified and irritated by the magnitude of Ms Roberts’ professional success, it’s a spitefulness I can get behind. And in any case, Tilly’s specific gripe, that she would have made a much more convincing Erin Brockovich – and without any need for a Wonder Bra – is too true even to be considered a joke.) Determined to reinvent herself, Jennifer resolves to win the lead in the new “bible epic” of – and I quote – “hip-hop superstar turned director” Redman, and not to be too fussy how she goes about it. (Or as Tilly’s appalled P.A. puts it, “You’re going to prostitute yourself to play the Virgin Mary!?”) Before taking this desperate step, however, Jennifer fortifies herself by sneaking into the special effects department of Chucky Goes Psycho to retrieve the chocolate bar that she earlier secreted in the overalls of her pint-sized co-star, thus crossing the paths of the newly resurrected Chucky and Tiffany, who immediately decide that she would not only make the perfect surrogate mother of a child into which the soul of Glen/Glenda could be transferred, but an equally perfect repository for Tiffany’s own soul….

The second half of Seed Of Chucky careens from one extraordinarily tasteless moment to the next. Some of this is funny, some of it just disgusting; while in the film’s most notorious sequence…. If Bride Of Chucky was happy to tell the world everything that it wanted to know about the biological functioning of living dolls, Seed Of Chucky takes it to the point where the audience is left begging for mercy. John Waters’ appearance in the film at this stage, playing the “scumbag paparazzo” Pete Peters, is a clear indication of the film-makers’ intention here, which is to mount a serious challenge to the most nauseating section of Pink Flamingos (by which, for the record, I do not mean the doggy-doo scene). They don’t succeed in outdoing, or even matching, their inspiration; nothing could; but it’s enough; more than enough. So calculated a move on the part of Don Mancini can hardly be called a misstep; but Seed Of Chucky definitely crosses the judgement line in the killing of Jennifer Tilly’s P.A., Joan. For the most part this film displays an agreeable level of mean-spiritedness, with rotten things happening to rotten people; but to have the sweet and inoffensive Joan on the receiving end of the film’s worst fate is a real miscalculation, one that takes all the fun out of the revelation that Glen/Glenda has finally become the killer his father always wanted by becoming the daughter her mother always wanted; that is, by evolving from David-Bowie-as-Ziggy-Stardust into Faye-Dunaway-as-Joan-Crawford. With a sufficient number of captive people at their disposal, the time finally arrives for the trio of dolls to take that last giant stride and become fully human….only for Chucky, at long, long last, after four and three-quarter films’ worth of striving, to step back and ask himself – why? Why would he want to be human? Why not go on being just who and what he is: “One of the most notorious slashers in history! Chucky, the killer doll!” But Tiffany, it seems, does want to be human. More than that, she wants to be a star. She wants to be….Jennifer Tilly. Of course she does. What woman wouldn’t? Alas, alas….it all ends in tears….

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Child’s Play/Chucky franchise as a whole is the way that it reverses the usual pattern of degeneration over time. It is a given that over the course of a series of films, the films will get worse, the budgets will get lower, the production values will get more and more shoddy, and the special effects worse and worse. With the first three films, this series certainly looked well on its way downhill….but with both Bride and Seed the trend has been thoroughly inverted, not least because their special effects are remarkably good. Here, Chucky, Tiffany and Glen/Glenda are extraordinarily well-realised, to an extent that lends this entire exercise in absurdity a degree of credibility than many more serious genre films can only dream about. It helps enormously that the dolls are “real”, that is, mechanically- and computer-controlled puppets, not CGI effects; and the puppeteering is just first-class. (As the DVD extras reveal, at any given moment up to nine individuals might be involved in bringing one of the dolls to life. Chucky sure has come a long, long way since they stuck a midget in a doll suit….) Equally good is the vocal work; good enough for the audience to forget that it is listening to “acting”. Brad Dourif returns as Chucky, of course, and it is pleasing to note that he continues here in the more naturalistic tones that he used in Bride Of Chucky, as opposed to the exaggerated style to which he increasingly resorted in an effort to enliven the first three films, which was just too Jack Nicholson for words.

(Speaking of The Shining…. I’m more than a little tired of take-offs of that scene; you know the one I mean; so I’d just like to say, bless Don Mancini for the scene here in which Chucky breaks through a door with an axe, pops his face into the gap….and then comments after a reflective moment, “I can’t think of a thing to say….”)

Jennifer Tilly does sterling work as both Jennifer and Tiffany (the latter comments of the former, “She has the voice of an angel!”, while the former similarly recalls the latter’s less-than-dulcet tones as, “The sweetest voice I ever heard!”), but the real bonus here is the contribution of Scottish actor Billy Boyd as the voice of the sexually indeterminate Glen/Glenda, which is a wonderfully comic – and occasionally even touching – performance. (Billy Boyd has what must be the best recent résumé of anyone working in film today: Master And Commander….the three Lord Of The Rings films….Seed Of Chucky…. Boy, for some people life just gets better and better, doesn’t it?) The gore effects are also generally excellent. Seed Of Chucky’s head puppeteer, Tony Gardner, is among the many people who play themselves here, and is rewarded for it by being on the receiving end of – what else? – a gnarly decapitation. There’s also an incineration, a face-melting acid bath, a ridiculously bloodless disemboweling (deliberately ridiculous, that is), and a wide variety of stabbings, axings and limb-loppings. Ah, good times!

By now, I’m sure I’ve said more than enough to let you know whether Seed Of Chucky is really the film for you. Yes, it’s gross. Yes, it’s puerile. Yes, it’s very frequently extremely stupid. On the other hand, I believe that I can say this with confidence: Seed Of Chucky is one of the best films about familially challenged, sexually active, voodoo animated homicidal dolls that you will ever see.


Material for this review generously provided by Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

SEED OF CHUCKY – Unrated And Fully Extended – released on Region 1 DVD 7th June 2005
Running time:  88 min
Aspect ratio:  1.85:1, anamorphic widescreen
Layers:  Dual
Technical info:  English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround/English DTS 5.1 Surround
Subtitles:  English captions; Spanish and French subtitles

Extras include: 

  • Audio commentaries with writer/director Don Mancini, star Jennifer Tilly and head puppeteer Tony Gardner

  • Conceiving the Seed Of Chucky:  a three-part documentary looks into the legacy of Chucky through nearly two decades, five films, hundreds of gallons of blood, numerous puppeteers and countless victims

  • A storyboard to final feature comparison

  • Heeeere’s Chucky:  Chucky interviewed by Jim Monet

  • Tilly on “The Tonight Show”:  Jennifer Tilly fills in The Tonight Show’s Jay Leno about the blood, sweat and tears that go into working with Chucky and Redman. Particularly the blood.

  • FuZion Up Close with the Seed Of Chucky stars:  behind-the-scenes revealing interviews with Chucky and Tiffany, who speak publicly about their lives as a Hollywood couple

  • Family Hell-iday Slide Show:  Chucky, Tiffany and Glen(da) host the first viewing of their exploits and axe-wounds through Paris, New York and Hollywood, proving that the family that slays together, stays together

  • Slashed Scene:  with commentary by writer/director Don Mancini and actress Debbie Carrington

  • Chucky’s Insider Facts On Demand

Also available on DVD (R Rated, Full Frame and Anamorphic Widescreen) and VHS (R Rated, Full Frame)


"Hell hath no fury like the vast robot armies of a woman scorned."

translittler.GIF (807 bytes)
translittler.GIF (807 bytes)