Review Date: June 15, 2005
Released by: Universal
Release date: 6/7/2005
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
It becomes inevitable, when a horror franchise reaches its later stages, that it starts to poke fun at its likeness. Jason sees himself on a billboard in Jason Takes Manhattan
, Johnny Depp plays himself in Freddy’s Dead
, and Michael Myers becomes a reality TV star in Halloween: Resurrection
. But of all the big slasher series, none has done such a playful U-turn like the Child’s Play
franchise. Initially a dark little horror movie, Child’s Play
quickly got more jokey in its initial sequels, and by the time Bride of Chucky
came around, Charles was having wild puppet sex. It seems tough to veer into further parody than that, but Seed of Chucky
plays almost entirely as an insider Hollywood comedy, where Chucky has become an actual movie star. Chucky has now gone to the wink-wink point of no return, where his status as a serious horror icon has been lost to celebrity. Turning the Chucky franchise into an all-out comedy like Seed of Chucky
was a bold move...was it worth it?
The film begins in a first person stalking shot reminiscent of Halloween, the first of many horror references peppered throughout, as a doll makes his way through his new household. After being called ugly, it decides to slice and dice the entire family. Finally, after some virtuoso first person steadicam work, the camera reveals the killer. It ain’t Chuck, it’s the son he never knew he had, tentatively called “Shitface”. After seeing Chucky and Tiffany promoting their new movie, “Chucky Goes Psycho”, on television, he is convinced that he is their child. He escapes his home, and is on a plane to Hollywood.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Tilly is grumbling about having to star in the new Chucky film, complaining that she is never taken seriously any longer as an actress. The perfect role comes up for her though…the role of the Virgin Mary in a new biblical film directed by esteemed indie auteur, Redman. As she sets up a date with Red to assure her a role, Shitface revives his parents from their automaton doll form and into real living dolls once again. When it becomes clear that Shitface is their child, the mother and father debate on what to name it. A pulling down of the pants reveals that Shitface is of indiscriminate gender, so Chucky dubs him “Glen”, Tiffany dubs him “Glenda”, and Don Mancini makes an Ed Wood reference.
With the bonds of family stronger than ever, Chucky and Tiffany vow to convert the family to human form by artificially inseminating Jennifer Tilly. As they wait for the pregnancy to take effect, husband and wife continue to battle over their son’s sexuality, trying to respectively inject machismo and femininity into their child. Jennifer Tilly awakes one morning to realize she is pregnant, which breeds enough fat actress jokes to make even Kirstie Alley proud. Chucky, Tiffany, Glen/da and Jennifer Tilly all face off in the end, but will Chucky finally get his wish to be human, or will something come in the way once again?
Most films falter upon their fifth installment, when the ideas run dry and the story starts to border on the cliché…not Chucky. Seed of Chucky
is best of all Child’s Play
films, no doubt because creator and writer of the entire series, Don Mancini, was finally given creative control to direct his darkly comic vision without any sort of creative tampering. He knows the series best, and he’s realized that with the Cabbage Patch Kids phase long behind him, the familiarity of Chucky as a horror icon and the inherent absurdity of a killer doll, Chucky is no longer scary. But since Chucky has become an icon, why not play upon his celebrity and make an insider look at his career and at the fourth wall of Hollywood?
Taking a horror franchise inside the ins and outs of Hollywood can sometimes come off as pompous and unfocused, as it did in Scream 3
, but Mancini manages to make it work. He offers an acute and comedic look into the life of an aging genre actress, and how she must deal with going from the highs of an Oscar nomination (Bullets Over Broadway
) to being impregnated with a turkey baster filled with Chucky’s semen. In an industry where bust size must always exceed age, Tilly is able to do a fine caricature of herself as she deals with the lulls of an illustrious career. She spiritedly pokes fun at her weight, her lesbian scene in Bound
and her nasally voice, and it’s nice to see an actor have so much fun with their image. Mancini even goes for some potshots at Mel Gibson, Martha Stewart, Julia Roberts and even James Dean, but the jokes never seem trying or out of place like the Jay & Silent Bob cameo in Scream 3
did. Don Mancini has fun in portraying a behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood, but never does he allow that to overwhelm his story.
Most of the in-jokes are reserved for horror films, and Mancini keeps the references and homages relatively subtle. There are nods to Argento with the boldly colored rooms, a sulfuric acid spill worthy of Fulci, DePalma voyeurism gone awry and the film’s best moment, a humorous non-reference to The Shining
as Chucky breaks through the bedroom door with an axe, placing his face through the hole and admitting that he cannot think of anything to say. The ultimate nod to horror geekery comes when Chucky must masturbate to jar, and what magazine does he pick? Fangoria of course! It is clear that Mancini loves the horror genre, and he treats it with respect here, rather than the deprecation usually lambasted towards horror clichés in most new self-referential horror movies. Not only that, but it is nice to see the references extend beyond horror films of the American cultural mainstream, with references to Fulci and Argento to encourage the canonization of foreign horror in the pantheon of great horror movies. But like with the Hollywood in-jokes, Mancini never lets the horror references hijack the focus of the plot, instead peppering in the references for good fun.
Although much time is devoted to the perils of an actress in decline, the focus is where it should be, on good old Charles Lee Ray. Mancini has a lot of fun playing around with family dysfunction, forcing Chucky and Tiffany to admit to their son they have an addiction to murder. The domestic abuse of the finale may seem in poor taste, but considering the film shows a puppet masturbating, all bets are off. The sexual ambiguity of Glen/da starts off as an idea rife with potential humor, but doesn’t go anywhere other than as a thinly veiled account of Mancini’s own homosexuality. These are periphery complaints however, since Chucky is the star and Mancini does his character justice. His character seems to have the greatest arc in this film over the others, as he becomes more than just a maniacal doll hell-bent on becoming human, but instead one that must address marriage, fatherhood and most importantly, the essence of being a doll. He has spent four films trying to become human, and the revelation he experiences in this film is a welcomed change of heart for everyone’s favorite Good Guy doll. When he is not having fun with the Hollywood in-jokes and the witty dialogue, Don Mancini is taking a serious look into the essence of his Child’s Play
series, constantly tweaking the formula bold new ways. And these tweaks work, and remarkably make Chucky seem at his freshest and most interesting.
It may be tough to follow up Seed of Chucky
, since breaking down the fourth wall means that Chucky can no longer be taken seriously as a slasher, and a trip down the self-referential Hollywood well would likely not reap the same fruitful waters a second time. But perhaps it was all worth it, because this is without a doubt the most fresh, original and entertaining film in the entire body of Child’s Play
films. Mancini’s script is his best yet, and for a first time director he shows off a mastery of the medium that could signal a successful directorial career for Mancini in the future. Tilly and Brad Dourif do some stand out voice work, and hell, even Redman isn’t all that bad. It may have taken five years for the film to finally reach fruition, but it is still as fresh as ever. Its quality is no doubt one of the biggest and most welcomed surprises of the year.
It is getting pretty redundant reviewing video transfers of new Hollywood films, since the studios have all pretty much got this aspect down pat. Seed of Chucky
looks great, incredibly sharp with little grain and no print damage whatsoever. Blacks of course look solid, and color definition is distinct, with each of the puppets eye colors standing out from the other. Anamorphic and in 1.85:1, Seed of Chucky
has been given an admirable transfer.
Considering this is more of a comedy than a horror film, I had expected the sound stage to be relatively simplistic and dialogue driven. Like with the film itself though, I was pleasantly surprised with the oomph found in the mixes on this DVD. Presented in either Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1, the track starts off with a real bang during the opening stalking sequence. Pino Donaggio’s score registers on all channels, and the piercing effects of knife swishing, thunder crackling and frenzied screaming all cut with a forceful amplitude. There is not a whole lot of discreet effects in the back speakers, but whenever the film entertains a stalking sequence, the track really shines. The dialogue scenes are understandably less interesting, but are still very clear and lifelike. The sound effects work is best of all, and throughout the film they give it much more punch than a film of this nature is expected to have.
Rogue have done some solid work on their special editions for Shaun of the Dead
and Assault on Precinct 13
, but their work on the Seed of Chucky
disc is without a doubt best of all. In fact, this is likely to be in contention as one of the best horror discs of the year. The extras start off with a wonderful commentary with Don Mancini and Jennifer Tilly, and like the best Carpenter/Russell commentaries, the two balance insight with infectious repartee to create an informative but always entertaining track. Mancini is quick to point out his various horror influences, and Tilly is quick to point out her weight and the whole absurdity of it all. The two are not afraid to speak their minds, like Mancini’s dislike for the set dressing or Tilly’s dislike for having to vomit in her purse. But the two are usually laughing it out the whole time, and I found myself unable to stop the commentary until it had reached completion. The next commentary is with Mancini and puppet master Tony Gardner, and while Gardner lacks the charisma of Tilly, and the subject matter is more technical, the track is still an entertaining listen.
Both commentaries, as well as just the film itself, can be played along with a “Chucky’s Insider Facts on Demand” Pop Up Video-esque feature that reveals many of the references featured in the film. Bubbles are a little spread out, so watching it with the commentary is best. Next up is a deleted scene with optional commentary with Mancini and Debbie Carrington. Carrington, if you recall (nyuk nyuk), was the little person from Total Recall
, and in this scene she gets to play a diva taking over for the Tiffany doll in “Chucky Goes Psycho”. Tiffany of course does not take to well to it, and the whole thing is rather funny. Mancini and Carrington explain that the scene was supposed to be a setup for another scene that was never filmed, so this was left on the test audience floor.
The next batch of supplements are a few little mock-promotional interviews with Chucky, where Chucky speaks with Fuzion Up Close, with Jim Moret about previous screen tests and even with his “family” as they watch a slide-show of their trip across America. All are surprisingly funny, never veering into the boring, empty self-promotion that usually plagues DVD supplements. Each supplement is fun, whether Chucky is auditioning for Scarface
or American Pie
in the “Heeeeere’s Chucky” interview, or killing innocent civilians in the various slideshow pictures. Each supplement only runs a few minutes long, so none over stay their welcome. I laughed quite a bit.
The biggest video based extra is an 18-minute look into the evolution of the Child’s Play
series, entitled “Conceiving The Seed of Chucky
”. It features interviews with Mancini, Tilly, Redman, the puppets and the producers(or should we call them puppeteers?) as they all describe the motivation behind making the film. Mancini gives a good primer as to how the whole series began, and everyone is quick to admit that after Bride of Chucky
it was tough to take the series seriously any longer. Redman is hilarious in describing his awe of the franchise and the puppeteer work, dropping F-bombs like nobody’s business. But more than just your standard rap demographic tie-in, Redman has a general appreciation for the series, and talks of how the series was a huge thing for him and his friends growing up. Behind-the-scenes footage of the puppets in action also make this more than a talking head documentary, and it’s a good window into the movie.
A thirteen minute storyboard-to-screen comparison is also included, highlighting a number of scenes from the film. For those looking for a window into the film production process, this is as good of a teacher as any. A couple of Jennifer Tilly extras follow, with a quickly little vignette for “The Tonight Show” and a text-based diary recounting the production. Tilly continues to have fun with her image in the “Tonight Show” supplement, but surprisingly the diary is the more revealing. It runs several slides, and Tilly is hilarious in describing in detail how she tried to hide her double chin in between takes, and how after each day of shooting, she would retreat to the bar and “consume copious quantities of alcohol”.
The film also has a special DVD easter egg following the feature, with Chucky working on some DVD radio spots, and with the doll family watching Seed of Chucky
on their television. Short but cute. The disc is rounded off with a trailer and a teaser, both enjoyable, as well as a number of cast and crew biographies. Like everything else on this disc, even the biographies are entertaining. There is not a single strike in the supplement department, every extra is enjoyable and humorous, and considering that there are a total of fifteen extras that is a considerable achievement.
Lastly, this version is obviously the unrated version, and a few small bits have been added compared to the theatrical cut. An insert shot of Chucky pullin’ the plastic is included during the masturbation scene, and a few of the gore shots (and the gore is surprisingly bloody and elaborate) run a bit longer than their theatrical brethren. Jennifer Tilly’s finale also has somewhat of a different outcome at the end. Not a big change from the theatrical, but the unrated is obviously the one to get, given it contains many great extras not found in the rated version. The added extras are: the Gardner commentary, the “Heeeere’s Chucky” interview, the deleted scene with commentary, and the “facts on demand” subtitle track. There is a lot to go through on this release, but like the movie, it is oh so fun.
It is the fifth film in the series, it stars Redman, it’s been done by a first-time director and it features Chucky masturbating, but damned if Seed of Chucky
isn’t the best film in the series! Jennifer Tilly has fun mocking her career, the film is peppered with witty jabs at Hollywood, and series brainchild Don Mancini even gives Chucky a satisfying dramatic arc. It really is surprising at how good this movie is, and even more surprising is the top quality of all the extras included. Extras always balance between the funny and the informative, and none ever pander to empty promotion. The video and audio are both stellar, capping off a truly fantastic disc. With Seed of Chucky
, Don Mancini has birthed the best film in the franchise, and Rogue has made the best disc so far this year. Highly recommended.
Movie - A-
Image Quality - A
Sound - B+
Supplements - A
- Running time - 1 hour and 27 minutes
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- English DTS 5.1
- English closed captions
- Spanish subtitles
- French subtitles
- Commentary with writer/director Don Mancini and Jennifer Tilly
- Commentaty with writer/director Don Mancini and puppet master Tony Gardner
- "Facts on Demand" trivia track
- Deleted scene with option commentary with Don Mancini and Debbie Carrington
- "Heeeeere's Chucky" interview with screen tests
- "Conceiving the Seed of Chucky" featurette
- "Tilly on the Tonight Show" vingette
- "Fuzion Up Close with the Seed of Chucky stars" segment
- Chucky's family slide show
- Storyboard-to-screen comparison
- Jennifer Tilly's production diary
- Theatrical trailer
- Teaser trailer
- Cast & Crew biographies