The greatest thing about the Child’s Play franchise can also be one of the most alienating things to fans, and that’s the fact that every entry is a completely different kind of movie than the last. The original is about a family being stalked around their apartment, very similar to Trilogy of Terror. The second is more of a suburban nightmare, the third embraces an Omen II-esque military setting, the fourth is a road movie, and then there’s Seed of Chucky.
Seed was the one that nobody really expected. No one thought it would be as different as it was, as over-the-top as it was, and it wound up becoming the most maligned entry in the whole franchise. But just like the others, it has a very singular execution. It goes in a specific direction with very particular inspirations that are fitting for the story it’s trying to tell, but are not what anyone expected from a Chucky film.
In essence, Seed of Chucky is a John Waters movie. And though it is my least favorite of the six, I think it absolutely succeeds at that. It’s a vibrantly colored living cartoon, lewd and often gross just for the sake of being gross. It embraces trashiness while exploring deep, sincere themes like sexuality and gender identity. Hell, John Waters is even in it, playing a sleazy paparazzi.
The main character of the piece is not Chucky or even Tiffany, but their child, which picks up from the ending of Bride of Chucky. Sometimes he’s Glen, sometimes she’s Glenda. That in itself is a terrific nod to infamous “world’s worst director” Ed Wood and his movie Glen or Glenda. Glen’s identity, both in terms of their gender and in terms of coming to grips with whether or not they are a killer, is the driving theme of the movie.
All of that is wrapped up in an attempt to satirize Hollywood and the entire movie business, which is where the film gets a little lost. It gets muddled, I’ll admit, bogged down by jokes about Hollywood and jokes about parenting and the usual jokes about being a mass-murdering doll. But none of these jokes have anything to do with one another, so it gets distracting.
Some of the great ideas inherent in that examination of Hollywood are just dealt with too quickly. Seed just keeps moving on from one thing to the next without a care in the world, which is both frustrating and respectable. We’ve got Jennifer Tilly playing herself now, with a hilarious subplot about auditioning for the role of the Virgin Mary that gets cut too short.
Dropping Chucky—and family—in the middle of Hollywood is a great way to explore its ridiculous, exploitative, ugly but darkly amusing side, because we’re already seeing it through a ridiculous lens. When the series started, everything had to be more grounded to sell the believability of the killer doll. At this point, though, the fact that there are now three killer dolls in the mix allows for everything else to be heightened as well.
Sure, Seed of Chucky can be grating, but there are also moments that are genuinely funny. It plays up a sense of absurdity that had gradually been building over time. Each Child’s Play sequel got more comedic until Bride launched into a full-blown horror comedy. Seed goes even further. It’s so over-the-top that people just found it alienating.
It’s also the cheapest of the franchise and isn’t really great at hiding that fact. But in some ways, that’s perfect. For it to be the John Waters version of Chucky, it almost would have been a mistake if it had too high of a budget and too many resources to work with. I’m sure nobody was thinking of that when they were scrambling to get the film done on schedule with the money they had, but it does kind of benefit the final product.
The very fact that we’ve got a movie where Chucky is attempting to hang up the knife in order to be a better parent is hilarious. That’s an amazingly absurd concept and those moments between Chucky and Tiffany, those scenes of “falling off the wagon,” those are the bits that truly sell Seed of Chucky. They ultimately work better than the Hollywood stuff, which is very funny in places, but also really drags on and on.
It’s amazing that any slasher franchise would devote a whole sequel to questioning identity, sexuality and gender. Seed of Chucky has to be commended for its attempt at that. While there are so many things going on in it that are weird and bizarre and completely goofy, Glen’s journey of self-discovery is surprisingly earnest. There’s genuine heart in that. Even if their struggles with being a boy or girl are tied into a dissociative identity disorder, they’re still all aspects of one individual. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 gained a gay following for having so many clear homoerotic undertones.
There’s nothing under the surface in Seed of Chucky. Everything is dealt with bluntly, nothing is left to be explored or questioned. While it’s still a mess and completely uneven, that aspect shines clear and works wonderfully. Seed might be the least loved sequel in its franchise, but it does have some passionate fans. Director Don Mancini is even among them, citing it as his personal favorite of the franchise. Which is important, because he’s written or co-written every single Chucky movie.
Ultimately, Seed is completely uneven and can get pretty messy. There are moments when you’ll laugh out loud and moments when you’ll be rolling your eyes, but that’s kind of part of the overall charm. It’s a sleazy, over-the-top picture. Chucky by way of Pink Flamingoes. That’s practically the definition of “not for everyone.” But for the people that does work for, it’s something they’ve come to cherish.