Following yesterday’s post about Adaptation, we come to a far less acclaimed example of self-referential humour, with Seed of Chucky (2004) (aka Child’s Play 5).
For those who don’t know, this comedy-horror stars Jennifer Tilly as ‘Jennifer Tilly’, an overweight and empty-headed actress who is so desperate to be taken seriously, she plans to seduce the director of an upcoming Biblical epic (rapper Redman, also playing “himself”) in order to score the plum role of The Virgin Mary. In the meantime, she’s stuck filming Chucky Goes Psycho, an exploitative horror flick loosely based on the “true events” depicted in Bride of Chucky. Meta! Things get even more absurd when her inanimate co-stars are resurrected by their long-lost son (seen being birthed at the end of the previous instalment), who somehow ended up in the possession of an English ventriloquist (Keith-Lee Castle), but has now returned to America for a voodoo-amulet-assisted family reunion. Once again Chucky and Tiffany set their sights on restoring themselves to human form, by transferring their spirits into the bodies of Redman and Tilly… but not before they artificially inseminate the one-time Oscar nominee with Chucky’s baby batter (ew!), so that their newly discovered offspring can transfer with them. Unfortunately, their progeny’s apparent lack of genitalia leads to some confusion over his/her true gender, prompting the couple to bicker over how their son/daughter should be raised, and whether he/she should be called “Glen” or “Glenda”. Reference!
As a comedy vehicle for Tilly, this movie’s actually pretty successful. Despite the self-deprecating jokes about her appearance, she looks stunningly beautiful and super-sexy here. She also gets to show what a good sport she is by trashing her reputation and career, even as her animatronic alter ego swoons over her “angelic” voice. Apparently Tilly is a good friend of writer/creator Don Mancini, and the two of them had planned to include more “in-jokes”, but unfortunately a lot of them were cut by the Powers That Be, both for copyright reasons, and for fear that the whole thing was getting too cliquey. Still, the movie is pretty much wall-to-wall Tilly, and for that I am truly thankful. She also contributes to another highly entertaining and informative commentary track, and provides more pages from her hilarious on-set diary for the DVD. Why some publisher hasn’t already commissioned an autobiography from this woman is beyond me!
On the other hand, as a Chucky movie, it’s a bit of a lame duck. Admittedly the only other entry in the series I’ve seen is Bride, but this supposed sequel just seems woefully small and cheap and silly by comparison. For budgetary reasons the majority of the movie was filmed in Romania, with a predominately British supporting cast, so you never really get a strong sense of place here… sure, there’s the occasional “rear projection” shot of Hollywood, but it all seems very fakey, as if the characters are suspended in a flimsy bubble-reality, that barely resembles our world at all. And the main human characters are such exaggerated celebrity caricatures, that it’s hard to really root for them as “heroes”/”heroines”, or care very much if/when they get gutted. Even the civilian characters are played by the likes of John Waters and Hannah Spearritt (of S Club 7 fame), who are better known for their directing and pop singing respectively, rather than their acting. This sort of stunt casting just makes the victims less relatable and “real”, so the movie is far less scary/horrifying as a result.
I’m not particularly surprised that long-standing Chucky fans were so disappointed by this entry, or that Mancini has now decided to re-reboot the series with a darker, edgier remake of the first flick, allowing him to take advantage of the advances in FX technology that have occurred since 1988. I probably wouldn’t bother to watch a straight, Tilly-less Child’s Play movie myself, but I know there are plenty of folks out there who’d consider it a welcome return to form.