Brad DourifDakin MatthewsChild's Play
Child's Play 3
Medium: film
Year: 1991
Director: Jack Bender
Writer: Don Mancini
Keywords: horror, slasher
Country: USA, UK
Actor: Justin Whalin, Perrey Reeves, Jeremy Sylvers, Travis Fine, Dean Jacobson, Brad Dourif, Peter Haskell, Dakin Matthews, Andrew Robinson, Burke Byrnes, Matthew Walker, Donna Eskra, Edan Gross, Terry Wills, Richard Marion
Format: 90 minutes
Series: << Child's Play >>
Website category: Horror modern
Review date: 16 September 2008
Which is the worst Child's Play movie, 2 or 3? The box office, many horror fans and even the series writer Don Mancini seem to say 3. Universal had him working on the third film before the second one was even in cinemas and he feels that he was out of ideas. Personally I think that's all horse manure and that 3 is clearly superior. It has better actors, more laughs and a fresher approach to its story.
I'll start with the actors. Andy Barclay's still here, but eight years older and played by Justin Whalin. I knew the face and couldn't place him, so guessed he must have been a young Shia LaBeouf or something. Turns out three years later he'd become Jimmy Olsen in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. That must be it. I'll be damned if I was remembering him from Dungeons and Dragons. Anyway, he's fine. Completely competent, which already puts us ahead of the seven-year-old.
Andy's enrolled in a military academy after living with lots of foster families, which means the rest of the cast is either an inmate or a bastard. (Note: possibly not official military terminology.) One or two of the bastards even manage to be mildly memorable, such as Travis Fine's openly sadistic Cadet Lt. Shelton or Andrew Robinson's cameo as Sergeant Haircut. Even the Andy-substitute child actor is okay. Overall, it's a cast that does its job and comfortably exceeds expectations for a movie called Child's Play 3.
I also appreciate the military academy, which is a livelier setting than the previous film's rehash of the original and provides new opportunities for Chucky havoc. Fun with guns! Brutal sadists! Mindless superior officers more likely to sprout wings and fly than believe stories about a walking doll! Amazingly I didn't mind at all that no one even listens to Andy. That had been occasionally distracting in the first film and downright annoying in the second, but here it's characterisation. You're in the army, boy. I want you to think, I'll ask you first. They're all going to die anyway, so who cares? Admittedly Cadet Lt. Shelton is so openly vile that by the end I'd have been satisfied only by a torture scene involving live rats, but I suppose that counts as a plus point.
No, the only problem with the cast is Perrey Reeves's Kristen De Silva, who's a sharp-shooting Superwoman who's perfect at everything and yet useless during the climactic showdown. I was groaning right from her first scene.
One should also note that even the good guys hadn't been blessed by the IQ fairy. You'd think Andy would be more careful with his pocket knife after seeing a Good Guy doll and a memorably sick "accident", while I see he also hasn't shed his tendency for doing dumb incriminating things while looking for his nemesis. The odd thing is that theoretically the latter should make sense. If someone were trying to kill me, I probably wouldn't be worrying too much about the niceties either. Yet in the movie it still makes the character look like a twat.
However none of that really matters compared with the film's most notable feature: its laughs. I'm not surprised that 4 and 5 would be comedies, since that's basically what the franchise is already. What's unique about Chucky is that he's a brutal mass-murderer with no redeeming features who can nonetheless be squashed, kicked, mutilated and thrown in the back of garbage trucks. This is funny. Passers-by will pick him up by one leg and bash his head against the doorframe without even realising that they've done it. If you think about it, he's technically a eunuch. All this yields an attitude that can at times be downright hilarious. A pissed-off Chucky is wonderful. An eye-rolling kiss scene can be redeemed with a reaction shot and, "You gotta be fucking kidding me." His demise is less flamboyantly protracted than last time, but it's still basically the live-action horror equivalent of Wile E. Coyote.
All this is great and pretty much the reason to watch this film.
As horror, it's pretty much a wash. Some of the kills are remarkably sadistic on the part of the writer and director, but yet again Chucky's trying to put his soul in a young boy's body. That never works. You don't expect it to succeed and it means you're not scared for the boy. I can't think of a worse ongoing plot feature in a horror franchise, with even the daft vampire deaths in Hammer's Dracula series being occasionally amusing. Nevertheless I think this film is better than its predecessor by virtue of being good rather than annoying. Superwoman gets a bit much from time to time, but it's not as if she's a particularly important character. The jokes made me laugh, the acting is acceptable and basically it's fun to see Chucky vs. the Army.
Mind you, we're three films into a 1980s horror franchise and still no nudity. Shocking.