Child’s Play is pretty well regarded as one of the major horror franchises. It ranks right up there with A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and Friday the 13th. Chucky is a worldwide icon and a major figure in the horror genre. He’s been scaring and entertaining audiences for over twenty-five years now. The franchise is unique in that it is one of the few horror series in which every entry has been penned or co-pened by the same writer, that being Don Mancini. This has done a lot to keep the series fresh. Each movie stands apart from the others. None of them repeat themselves and they all take the story in new directions.
Child’s Play is, naturally, the immortal classic. Child’s Play 2 is widely considered to be a strong follow up with some of the most fondly remembered scenes in the whole series, including the showdown in the toy factory. Bride of Chucky divides fans a little bit, but it has more admirers than detractors and most enjoy the black sense of humor and the way it works in comedy without losing sight of the horror. Seed of Chucky is pretty much universally panned, with most people feeling that it went too far in the direction of comedy and completely lost sight of the horror. Curse of Chucky is praised as being the entry that took Chucky back to his roots and got the series back on track.
On this spectrum, in the overall scope of the franchise, Child’s Play 3 is just kind of there. It came out less than a year after the second and most people felt it was a bit rushed. While this is probably true, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s one of the best entries in the series. Don Mancini has never been a huge fan of it, but I think there are things that come through in the writing that—even if he didn’t plan on them—work really well. It’s more than simply “Chucky Goes to Military School.” Instead, it examines the concept of a Chucky film set at a military academy from every possible angle.
This has never been an overtly macho franchise, and Child’s Play 3 comments on that. It’s about a killer doll, an ambiguous toy that could be played with by either boys or girls and Chucky’s aggressive need to hold onto his masculinity despite his appearance has been a part of the doll’s character from the very beginning. Now, there’s really a whole movie based around it. With everything thrown in his way to keep him from achieving his goal, it’s not until somebody actually puts lipstick on the doll that Chucky utters the words “This means war.”
Even though it may be a silly sequel to a movie about a killer doll, Child’s Play 3 is inherently about the nature of masculinity and gender roles in general. We have a supporting cast of guys who all think they’re the toughest badass on the block. Yet our central characters are Andy, who is as far from a macho hero as you can get, Tyler, a young boy who still plays with dolls despite being older than Andy was in the original, and then there’s the meek and mousey Whitehurst who is afraid to act on anything until he winds up sacrificing himself to save the others. The only truly capable character in the entire movie is De Silva, who is a girl. She’s the one who can handle pretty much everything. She’s the actual macho hero who shows Andy his own inner strength as the feature builds to its climax.
The men at the military academy may think they’re as tough as it gets, but they can’t find a way to survive the killer doll in their midst. The point is made especially clear when Colonel Cochran, the hardass man who runs this place and has survived multiple tours in Vietnam, takes one look at Chucky and then promptly has a heart attack and dies. Then you have the barber, who’s entire job is based on providing these young men with a traditionally masculine appearance, who attempts to play with the doll when no one is around to watch him.
It’s definitely worth pointing out that Child’s Play 3 is the only major slasher film in which no female characters die. Yes, people might point out that it’s a military school and a male cast, but there are female characters present and all of them survive. Only the guys are killed.
On top of the smart script and the surprising social commentary, Child’s Play 3 is simply a fun and entertaining horror movie. Chucky is at his meanest and scariest here. Replacing paintball ammo with real ammo is still one of the cruelest things the little doll has ever done. The fantastic climax, set at a carnival, is just as good as the Good Guy factory ending of Child’s Play 2. There’s no real reason for this one to fall by the wayside. It’s one of the better slasher sequels of the ‘90’s, and definitely deserves way more praise than it seems to get. At the very least, it doesn’t deserve to be the forgotten entry in the series, because there’s a lot here that’s worth remembering.