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Seed of Chucky Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 March 2008
ImageYoung, childlike doll, Shitface, is haunted by recurring nightmares where he brutally murders people. A sad, gentle soul, Shitface (voiced by Billy Boyd), is a living doll being exploited by phony punk ventriloquist, Psychs (Keith-Lee Castle), who keeps him caged when he’s not using him in his stage act. After appearing at the Glastonbury Ventriloquist Festival, Shitface sees a TV show, featuring a backstage glimpse of an upcoming horror movie starring talking dolls Chucky and Tiffany (voiced by Brad Dourif and Meg Tilly), and notices that Chucky has the same birthmark as him—a “Made in Japan” stamp, branded onto his wrist. After escaping from Psychs, Shitface ships himself off to the Hollywood set, via international mail, determined to find the two horror stars, whom he’s certain are his parents.

Unfortunately for Shitface, when he arrives in Hollywood, he finds that the two dolls are inanimate, but he quickly discovers that reading the inscription on an old medallion that he has carried with him as a family heirloom, brings them to life. The two psychotic terrors are surprised to discover that they have a son, but are proud, even though his gentle nature runs contrary to their murderous ones. Adding much confusion to the mix are Chucky and Tiffany’s reaction to Shitface’s lack of defining genitilia. Chucky determines that he’s a boy and renames him Glen, while Tiffany feels that their child is a girl and pulls him in the opposite direction, calling him Glenda. As Tiffany is a fan of actress Jennifer Tilly (who plays herself), the two dolls concoct a scheme to impregnate Tilly with Chucky’s sperm (?!) and transfer Glen/Glenda’s soul into the fetus, while Chucky and Tiffany plan to inhabit Tilly’s body and that of her limo driver, Stan (Steve Lawton), in an effort to escape their polyurethane prisons.
“Seed of Chucky,” the fifth of the “Child’s Play” franchise, follows the hit “Bride of Chucky” and aims mostly for laughs via parody and self-awareness. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t go far enough and while it establishes itself as a Hollywood-centered story, it almost immediately jumps out of that environment, and the ripe opportunities for humor in it, and ends up bogged down in a series of generic horror set-pieces, spending far too much time at the Jennifer Tilly character’s abode.

Director Don Mancini conceived the Chucky character and wrote all of the “Child’s Play” films, so his jump to the director’s chair is certainly well-earned, but the story is creatively hampered by production necessities. Nearly the entire movie was filmed in Romania, forcibly reducing the amount of Hollywood and Los Angeles locations, a key element for this type of comedy. Also eliminated, out of necessity, was an elaborate homage-filled doll stalking sequence that was going to occur on the Universal Studios backlot. As a result, “Seed of Chucky” is a bit of a schizophrenic enterprise-- it’s not scary enough to function as a straight-laced horror movie, but doesn’t fulfill enough of its comedic potential to function on that level either.

As a fifth installment of a running franchise, a fresh approach and attitude was required to breath some life into the formula and the comedic, self-reflexive approach isn’t utilized enough to do it. There are a few scattered laughs, but Chucky’s trademark nasty witticisms, delivered as a coup de grace to murder victims, are real groaners (sub- “Crypt Keeper” level puns) and are more mean-spirited than funny. The doll manipulation effects have evolved by leaps and bounds in the decades since the first film, but occasionally the lip movement synchronization isn’t quite as precise as it could be.

On film, close-ups of faces always display an increased level of clarity and detail and the imagery on the “Seed of Chucky” HD DVD benefits from a prevalence of close-ups of the doll characters’ smooth, plastic faces, which are presented with razor-sharp clarity. There’s also an appreciable level of detail in wider shots, a pleasing, stable image and vivid colors. Blacks are dense, though scenes with dim, more limited lighting are less impressive, but it appears to be a spot-on, accurate representation of the original photography. The audio track is also presented in a high definition Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track. It’s a welcome inclusion from Universal, whose HD DVD releases thus far have tended to use Dolby Digital Plus instead of one of the high definition audio formats. The TrueHD track presents the film’s involving sound mix with crispness, clarity and solid bass presence. The thunder effects, as in the opening storm sequence and others, have a nice weight and the music is well-presented, showcasing strong stereo separation.

Jennifer Tilly’s appearance on “The Tonight Show” is a funny video diary she sent in, relating her experiences on the “glamorous” locations in Romania. It’s a brief, cute little piece. The “Family Hell-iday Slide Show” is a series of carnage-filled holiday photos, featuring the family of homicidal dolls on vacation. The “Slashed scene” is set in the movie studio’s dressing room, featuring actress Debbie Carrington, as she gets dressed and ready to play Tiffany in the film-within-the-film. This scene was meant to setup the stalking sequence previously mentioned, but when that scene was dropped from the schedule, this scene became superfluous. The idea of Tiffany calling “murder rehab” was later lifted and put in another scene within the film. The featurettes are quite brief and are more comedic, than in-depth. There are two commentaries, both featuring writer/director Don Mancini. In one he shares the microphone with Jennifer Tilly whose self deprecating sense of humor sets a bemused tone and makes her repartee with Don Mancini into a frank and entertaining track. Mancini’s commentary with puppet master Tony Gardner is more technical, as they discuss both Mancini’s original conceptions and how Gardner and his team executed them on set. It’s quite clear that Mancini gets along well with Gardner, which makes for a lively, interesting dialogue between the two. The text commentary features short pieces of factual trivia that pop-up throughout the film, which is best viewed while listening to one of the audio commentaries. While Universal’s decision to release this film on HD DVD ahead of the more financially successful “Bride of Chucky,” is a bit baffling, the resultant disc is easy to recommend for fans of the film.

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