SEED OF CHUCKY - HD DVD review

...the Child's Play franchise is beyond life support. It is time to pull the plug gentlemen.

DeanWink

Don Mancini is an openly gay man who is also the writer and creator of the "Child's Play" series of films. For the first four films of the "Child's Play" series, Mancini served as writer or co-writer. For the fifth entry, "Seed of Chucky," Mancini steps behind the camera and brings a new direction to the Chucky series. Taking a page from Wes Craven's 1994 attempt at re-invigorating his "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise with the film "Wes Craven's New Nightmare," and Chucky has gone to Hollywood. Mancini not only brings the real world to his series, but also uses the film as a platform to portray sexual ambiguity and the acceptance of a sexual confused child in a dysfunctional family. By taking over the directorial duties, Mancini seems to be attempting to make "Seed of Chucky" a more personal venture. This latest installment of the "Child's Play" continues with its own ambiguity of whether or not to be a horror film or a comedy, but "Seed of Chucky" seems to be getting quite comfortable with trying to make people laugh and has given up on providing frights.

Brad Dourif returns as the voice of Chucky. Jennifer Tilly also returns as the voice of Tiffany. In this second appearance in a Chucky film, Tilly also stars as herself; an actress having a career slump and being persistently passed over for roles by Julia Roberts. When the film begins, Chucky and Tiffany are simply reproduced puppets for a feature film about the two killer dolls. Jennifer Tilly is set to play the human Tiffany. She certainly wants more out of her career, but starring in a movie about two killer dolls is the best she can muster. Away from the film's production, Chucky and Tiffany's son (Billy Boyd) has been forced to work in a ventriloquist show. The ventriloquist is abusive to the calm and tormented puppet boy and tries to force him to kill a rat that the boy doll would rather pet. He eventually frees himself from captivity and sets the stage for the film's primary plotline.

When the boy appears at the production site of the fictional film "Chucky Goes Psycho," he uses a voodoo amulet to allow the spirits of Tiffany and Chucky take possession of their Hollywood replicas. The murderous pair are happy to see their son, but confused over the lack of gender exhibited by the boy. Chucky decides he is a boy and names him Glen and argues that his lack of genitalia is simply because he has not had his growth spurt. Tiffany completely disagrees and sets up a running gag by stating the puppet is actually a girl and names her Glenda. Ed Wood fans may feel free to moan and groan over Mancini's use of the Ed Wood film "Glen or Glenda" as an important plot device in "Child's Play" franchise. I, myself am not decided on whether or not sitting through any more "Child's Play" movies is more painful than sitting through a marathon of Ed Wood films. So, Glen/Glenda now has a chronic problem with urinating himself, depression over not having the necessary boy parts and two murderous parents who are torn on what their expectations of him should be.

Somewhere, somehow, Chucky decides that he could use the soul of a new baby to his advantage. It could allow him and Tiffany to enter the human realm and leave their manufactured bodies behind. Or, it could serve to help Glen/Glenda be the desired sex. It's bad enough the poor ventriloquist dummy doesn't know its own sexual orientation, but now the parents are making matters worse and having young Glen/Glenda become a child cross dresser. Tiffany has had enough baby manufacturing and they decide they need to find a surrogate mother. With Tiffany's obsession over the busty Jennifer Tilly, they agree that Tilly should be Chucky's next baby machine. To facilitate this, a completely unnecessary sequence of scenes involving Chucky masturbating into a cup is introduced.

Speaking of unnecessary, a subplot involving rapper Redman is included in the film. The rapper is producing a film where a role exists that Tilly tried out for. Redman thanks her, but tells her he will go with his first choice, Julia Roberts. The sexy vixen offers herself to Redman and they end up at Tilly's home for an evening tryst. Later in the film, Tilly states she had not gotten laid for a year and that her overly promiscuous behavior is an act. Also later in the film, Redman's intestines are spilled on the floor when Tiffany decides to see what he ate for dinner in what is perhaps the only grisly sequence in the film. Anyhow, Tilly is taken from Redman and strapped to a bed. Tiffany takes a turkey baster and impregnates Tilly with Chucky's… do I really have to go on with this review? You get the picture.

Anyhow, Tilly spits out twin demonic Chucky spawn in a matter of a couple of days (it is explained that voodoo babies gestate quickly). Poor Glen/Glenda must fight his own sexual ambiguity and decide if he prefers to be a boy or a girl. He must also decide if he wants to be a murderer or to be a gentle soul. Eventually, he sides with being a murderous female, which may be a statement by the openly gay Mancini that women are evil and hence, he is gay. I'm willing to side with the director that women truly can be evil and that once poor Glen/Glenda decided to become Glenda, murder was only second nature. Joking aside, Chucky and Tiffany struggle with how to be parents and Tiffany becomes the voice of tranquility, while Chucky decides that killing is fun. So by becoming a murderous wench, Glen/Glenda satisfied his mother by giving her a daughter, but satisfied dear old dad by embracing his murderous ways. A few more things happen and after an hour and a half, the movie ends.

There were a few things I found to be humorous in this latest and most wretched Chucky film. Mancini has introduced a number of pop culture references that were nicely done. Seeing Britney Spears (Nadia Dina Arigat) plow into flames with Chucky offering up the one-liner "Oops, I did it again" was funny in a cheesy way. See Chucky hack through a door with an axe and give a perfect facsimile of Jack Nicholson's iconic "The Shining" moment and then stating "You know, I can't think of a thing to say. F2k it." was also priceless. Although I moaned at the continual stream of Julia Roberts jokes, I'd much rather see Tilly than Roberts in nearly any film. The pushup bra joke was perfect as well. The Ed Wood references were mildly humorous and it does take somebody with a little film knowledge to appreciate that particular reference. John Waters' cameo was a nice touch and one could say that Mancini borrowed a little from Waters in the making of this film. However, in this one little paragraph I think I've covered all of the redeeming qualities of the movie.

Mancini does deserve a little credit with trying to infuse the topics of sexual orientation, ambiguity and broken families into a film. However, trying to do so in a "Child's Play" movie just felt wrong. People typically went to cineplexes to watch Chucky slice and dice innocent victims. They didn't come to see Pinocchio debate whether or not he wanted to wear a dress or pee standing up (which he routinely did when frightened or made uncomfortable). "Child's Play" is not exactly a forum for films depicting parental abuse or poor parenting. These are wonderful topics and I applaud Mancini for trying something differently, but I feel he would have been more at home making a sequel to "Glen or Glenda" with these topics than he would have been forcing "Glen or Glenda" into a former horror franchise. Should I kill? Should I wear a dress? Should I be a boy? Should I not harm people or furry animals in any manner? These are great questions, but not for a Chucky's spawn to be asking?

The first entry in this franchise was a slasher film. It was designed to scare its viewers. Since that first outing, Chucky has come up with Freddy Krueger syndrome and finally come full circle by heavily borrowing from "Wes Craven's New Nightmare." Every film has consistently gotten sillier and less frightful. There was hardly a moment to even feel a scare might be coming. Sure, the acidic face burning, decapitation, dismemberment and disembowelment were not the prettiest things to see, but they were hardly frightening and with so many other films featuring gore and spooks, the blood and guts lacks any impact in "Seed of Chucky." About the only frightening sequence was watching John Waters make comments while Chucky was filling up a cup with baby juice. And I apologize with that horrendous play on words.

I'm going to have to suggest a pass on "Seed of Chucky." There are so many better films out there on HD-DVD and a couple does a far better job of mixing horror and comedy. You'd be better of picking up the incredible "Shaun of the Dead" or even "An American Werewolf in London" than this dreadful mess. Those films are far more entertaining. Neither are terribly scary, but they both contain a solid story and some rather nice moments. "Seed of Chucky" has a few redeeming moments, but as an entire package, it is sorely lacking. With only a handful of jokes, no frights and one or two gory moments worth watching, "Seed of Chucky" is a failed attempt by Don Mancini to reinvent and reinvigorate his franchise. It didn't work for Freddy and it sure won't work for Chucky. I'd have to say that the My Buddy commercials were far scarier than anything cooked up here and they at least benefited from a catchy jingle.

Video:

"Seed of Chucky" was shot for just $12 million. This definitely qualifies for low budget. However, the 1.85:1 framed film looks far better than one would expect on HD-DVD for such a low cost picture. The film is nicely detailed and colorful. I won't suggest that "Seed of Chucky" is a stellar looking title and all things considering, the HD-DVD looks average. Average isn't always a bad thing as the level of detail shows each hair on Chucky and Tiffany's head. Detail isn't as sharp as the top tier releases, but it is strong enough to never be distracting. The film is neither soft nor strong, but ‘average' is definitely a good word to use. Color is very strong and helps the picture look better because of the natural look and spot-on saturation of the colors. Greens are lush and the sky is blue. Chucky's colorful clothing is as colorful as ever. Detail may not be exceptional, but colors are quite good. Black levels are fairly strong, but the film does possess a minor layer of grain that is more apparent during darker scenes. This results in average shadow delineation. There is a minor amount of edge enhancement that can be seen around very dark and very light colored edges, but the rest of the digital transfer is strong.

Sound:

It is starting to seem more common than not that Universal is including Dolby TrueHD with their catalog titles. "Seed of Chucky" benefits from having a decent sounding TrueHD mix that is lively enough when the film's rare moments of excitement occur, but the track maintains a natural sound throughout the mix. Considering much of the film takes place in the Romanian set that poses as Jennifer Tilly's house, there is not a lot of environmental noise, but the director has thrown in as much ambient sound as possible. Rear surrounds are used, but with not a lot of great effect because the sound design simply does not allow for much. Where the soundtrack does excel is in the reproduction of Pino Donaggio's musical score. The .1 LFE soundtrack bellows deep in bass, but echoes with sharp high ends that bring back memories of Hitchcock's sound usage in "Psycho." Dialogue is clean and clear. I still don't feel the thapping noise while Chucky was preparing to impregnate Jennifer Tilly should have sounded so clear, but the soundtrack delivers very nicely for what sound design it possesses.

Extras:

"Seed of Chucky" comes equipped with more supplements than "Bound" references. The Feature Commentary with Writer-Director Don Mancini and Actress Jennifer Tilly is more entertaining than the picture. Mancini and Tilly laugh and discuss the film at great length and give a nice in-depth discussion about the film and share many funny anecdotes about the film. The two have worked on two "Child's Play" films and their chemistry shows in this commentary. It truly is more interesting than the film they discuss. A second Feature Commentary with Writer-Director Don Mancini and Puppet Master Tony Gardner is drier and more detailed about the actual production of the film than the first track and there are a number of long verbal pauses in the film, but if anybody wants to know about the meat and potatoes of the film, this track is for them. A third feature exists to run in tandem with the film. The Chucky's Insider Facts on Demand feature some rather ugly pop up boxes that detail many little tidbits about the film, such as warning messages stating that Britney Spears did not actually appear in the film.

Some supplements also exist that do no require additional views of the film. The Slashed Scene with Audio Commentary by Director Dan Mancini and Deborah Carrington (3:18) shows the Deborah Carrington cameo that was removed from the film. Carrington has appeared in a few horror and science fiction films and may most be remembered as Thumbelina in "Total Recall." Her scene is interesting, but it is best watched with the commentary track on. Heeeere's Chucky! (2:19) is actually titled "Chucky Unleashed" and a mock interview with Chucky. This was mildly humorous, but quite odd. The Family Hell-iday Slideshow (3:31) is another interesting vignette that takes place in the fictional world of Chucky and features Chucky and his family watching some slides and Chucky wanting pork rinds. The slides are often from the production of the film, but Brad Dourif's voice work is funny stuff at times. The frighteningly titled Conceiving the Seed of Chucky (18:44) isn't about Chucky conceiving his seed, but a typical promotional piece that looks at the making of the film and the history of the franchise. This was actually nicely done, but Brad Dourif's performance as Chucky made this worth watching. He was great on "Deadwood," but Dourif shines as Chucky.

Jennifer Tilly is featured in a few supplements. Tilly on The Tonight Show (2:20) features Tilly writing a fictional letter to Jay Leno about her visit to Romania. This was another oddly interesting feature. The followup feature, Jennifer Tilly's Diary is an interactive Diary with notes from the busty actress. It isn't a bad read. The FuZion Up Close mun2 with the Seed of Chucky stars (4:25) is a bit from some show called FuZion. I'm clueless, but this fluff piece is worth passing over. The third and final page of supplements includes a not-so-brief Storyboard to Final Feature Comparison (13:55). With the real footage shown in the top window and the storyboards in the bottom window, this was one of the nicer supplements on the disc. The Theatrical Trailer and Teaser Trailer that were used to lore theater-goers into multiplexes is also contained. I remember them. They told me to not see the film in theaters.

Closing Comments:

"Seed of Chucky" was intended to be the direct sequel to "Bride of Chucky." It was also meant to reinvigorate the franchise and take it to new directions. It was also very cheaply made. Between the prohibitive cost and Writer/Director Don Mancini's desire to make "Seed of Chucky" a film that explored the theme's of sexual ambiguity, abusive families and anatomically incorrect dolls, "Seed of Chucky" only goes to show that the "Child's Play" franchise is beyond life support. It is time to pull the plug gentlemen. The film does have a few humorous moments, but is mostly unfunny and uninteresting. The HD-DVD features a pretty good transfer that does the absolute best it can with the limited source materials. The supplements provided are humorous and Brad Dourif is far funnier in the supplements than he was in the film. I question why Universal did not release "Bride of Chucky" first, but Chucky's seed came before the wedding. You have these things.

Ratings

Video
7
Audio
8
Extras
6
Film Value
5