Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Child’s Play 3 (1991)

It’s been a few years since Child’s Play 2. Andy (now played by Justin Whalin) is sixteen, and he’s had a hard time of it. His mother has never been released from the psychiatric institution she had been dumped in between films number one and two (which is the one plot point of the first three Chucky films I find genuinely horrifying), and Andy’s been going from one foster home to the next, stamped “a troublemaker” by the System. Now, in a move one can only interpret as an attempt to ruin all of his hopes for some sort of normal life forever, Andy’s being interred in a military school where we will never see any actual education going on but a lot of sadistic bullying by older kids being put in charge by the guys supposedly running the school.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the company producing Chucky and his Good Guy Doll non-brethren reintroduces the doll line to the market. In a style rather normal for the company with the least safe production plant not producing crap for Apple/outside of The Mangler, they melt up their old dolls including the dissolved corpse of Chucky to make the new ones. Wouldn’t you know it, Chucky’s serial killer soul (still and always voiced by Brad Dourif, praised be the Gods) revives in one of the MKII Good Guy dolls. His first order of business – after murdering the Good Guy corporation’s CEO for reasons – is to mail himself to the military school to steal Andy’s sweet, sweet body. Don’t ask how he managed to package himself, please.

Anyway, once he’s arrived and has been stolen and unpacked by Tyler (Jeremy Sylvers), a much younger cadet, Chucky very suddenly and conveniently decides that he has got a new doll body, so he doesn’t actually need to possess Andy, but can groom himself a newer, more amiable, and more stupid body. And Tyler is indeed little, and he’s dumb as a rock, so…

However, after one accidentally thwarted attempt at soul transferral into Tyler, Chucky decides to kill people he doesn’t need to kill and makes himself known to the only guy who actually believes in him. He’s a voodoo serial killer in the body of a doll, not a mastermind, after all.

So yeah, the third Child’s Play - this time directed by Jack Bender (of future J.J. Abrams TV show fame) yet still written by Don Mancini - does again, like part two, take place in horror movie land, often letting go of sense (and most probably sensibility) for a joke or plot convenience, leaving the poor audience to ignore these failings as good as possible.

Again like with the second film, and despite my predilection for becoming quite easily annoyed by these needless weaknesses so typical of horror films of this particular era, I actually managed to ignore these parts of the film while watching. For while it is even sillier and more comedic than the last film, Child’s Play 3 also keeps the unpretentious air of its predecessor. So the film features jokes that aren’t meant to demonstrate neither the misanthropy of its makers nor their superiority over their material but are indeed meant to make one chuckle while staying pleasantly macabre. It helps here that Dourif and the new special effects doll are most of the time genuinely funny in a creepy crazy clown way that can still produce a certain feeling of menace in its audience without having to lose itself in contradictions.

Even though the plot is certainly pretty dumb it does set up a handful of fine suspense set pieces realized by Bender with old-fashioned craftsmanship. Sure, nothing happening here will set the world on fire, but there’s more than enough going on to fend off boredom and provide the jaded viewer with a dose of fun. I could imagine a Child’s Play franchise that is much darker, and more interested in the horrible things the original trilogy does to Andy’s mental health, but the one we’ve got is so decent in all the ways that count I find myself liking it more than most other horror franchises by the sheer virtue of every film actually playing as if the filmmakers involved did care about their audience. Plus, the next two films in the series are that most rare beasts, ironic, self-referential 90s horror films I actually like.

No comments: