SEED OF CHUCKY (2004)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 27 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Horror Violence/Gore, Sexual Content and Language

Directed by: Don Mancini

Written by: Don Mancini

Starring: Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Billy Boyd, Redman, Hannah Spearritt, John Waters & Jason Flemyng

1998’s BRIDE OF CHUCKY delivered a refreshingly different tone in the long-running CHILD’S PLAY franchise. The follow-up to BRIDE, 2004’s SEED OF CHUCKY, cranks that over-the-top approach to already silly material up to the friggin’ extreme. SEED takes adds an ultra-meta tongue-in-cheek layer and gross-out sexual humor onto the horror-comedy execution. This results in the fifth CHUCKY flick being quite the unique beast in the series, while occasionally suffering from flaws that don’t work and pacing that drags in spots. There’s something special about a slasher flick that showcases its main killer going through domestic drama.

A big Hollywood movie is in production that features the now-animatronic Chucky (Brad Dourif) and Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly). The infamous plastic couple aren’t the only killer dolls around because Tiffany gave birth to a sharp-toothed offspring at the end of the BRIDE and that doll child is named “Shitface.” After Shitface (Billy Boyd) escapes from an evil ventriloquist (Keith-Lee Castle), he arrives at Hollywood and resurrects his parents. Desperate to inhabit human bodies, Chucky targets rapper Redman (played by Redman himself) and Tiffany eyeballs actress Jennifer Tilly (played by Tilly herself). All the while, poor biologically incorrect Shitface is searching for his gender identity (as son Glen or daughter Glenda) and winds up stuck in the middle of his dysfunctional family’s murder addiction.

SEED OF CHUCKY is the point of the franchise where CHUCKY doesn’t take itself seriously in any way, shape, or form. Sure, BRIDE OF CHUCKY was a rom-com told through a slasher lens, but it still had a semblance of continuity to it and tied itself in with the rest of the franchise. SEED is pretty unclear as to what universe this plot even takes place in, because there are mentions of the cemetery from the last movie and an amulet that was left in Shitface’s possession (somehow). That’s about all the continuity the viewer gets. SEED functions on the viewer not asking to many questions and simply sitting back to enjoy the crazy ride.

Indeed, SEED gets crazy. There’s the constant self-mocking of Jennifer Tilly in her performance as herself and the overly critical Tiffany (who looks up to Tilly as a role model and gets a rude awakening from the actress’s slutty actions). You have to commend Tilly for being willing to make fun of herself in such a ridiculous manner and SEED’s self-degradation towards her hasn’t stunted the actress’s desire to return the role of Tiffany for future roles in the series (popping up as a cameo at the end of CURSE and filling a bigger role in the upcoming CULT). Tilly arguably steals more of the show than Dourif’s expectedly entertaining vocal role of Chucky.

Speaking of which, Dourif is at his funniest as the domesticated version of Chucky. The script revels in the absurdity of placing a slasher killer into everyday family life. That’s what’s so special about the CHUCKY series as a whole. You never see Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Pinhead, or the various incarnations of Ghostface saddled with an angry wife and gender-fluid kid, or dealing with the struggles of dysfunctional family melodrama. You see all of this goofiness with Chucky. Dourif elicits lots of laughs as a result and is especially funny during a later meltdown scene. You see Chucky and Tiffany watching TV in bed together and we see Chucky taking Shitface/Glen/Glenda out on a “hunting” trip that results in one of the weirdest (yet oddly satisfying) cameos in the series. SEED is one hell of a strange slasher flick.

As newcomer Shitface/Glen/Glenda, Billy Boyd (who played Pippin in the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy) lends his voice to the gender-fluid doll child. Shitface’s decision of choosing between the identities of Glen or Glenda remains strangely relevant in today’s political climate of transgender people being more open, whilst also serving as a deliberate nod towards one of director Ed Wood’s best known bad films. The rest of the supporting cast features Redman mocking himself, John Waters (who’s admittedly an avid fan of the series) plays a paparazzi scumbag, Steve Lawton as Tilly’s lovestruck limo driver, and Hannah Spearritt receives one of the film’s best scenes (a confusing phone call with both Tilly and Tiffany) as Tilly’s publicist.

SEED OF CHUCKY has plenty of solid jokes, but noticeably lacks in the kill department this time around. There’s a body count of about six people and only four of those moments really stick out in memorable ways. While those notable kills are fun, they’re over quicker than expected and don’t really milk the gory fun that BRIDE celebrated. Other kills are regulated to dream sequences and a fake movie scene (featuring a cameo from Jason Flemyng for some unknown reason) and these fake deaths feel like a waste of time. Another big complaint is that SEED almost wears out its welcome around the hour mark. Many funny moments elicit laughs, but a handful of references are tired and stale. One scene (in the finale) contains both a nod to THE SHINING and a lame homage to THE MATRIX that is more stupid than funny.

SEED OF CHUCKY is easily the weirdest installment of the CHUCKY series and will likely remain that way. This slasher sequel is ultra-meta, campy beyond belief, and not meant to be taken seriously in any way, shape, or form. It suffers from dull moments, certain jokes that fall flat, and a distinct lack of great kills. However, SEED also gives us a “family life” look at a slasher killer that elicits laughter from its premise alone and revels in the absurdity. I am glad that the sixth installment (the far better-than-expected CURSE OF CHUCKY) took the series back to an effectively creepy note and established strong continuity that ties everything together, but SEED is ridiculous fun for what it’s worth.

Grade: B-

SERIAL MOM (1994)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Satirical Presentation of Strong Violence, Vulgar Language, and Sexual Episodes

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Directed by: John Waters

Written by: John Waters

Starring: Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterston, Ricki Lake, Matthew Lillard, Scott Wesley Morgan, Walt MacPherson & Patricia Dunnock

John Waters is an odd guy. His more than likable behind-the-scenes persona is instantly recognizable, but his filmography is definitely hit-or-miss and aimed at a very specific audience. With severe gross-out exploitation, low-budget satire, and a no-holds-barred sex comedy under his belt, would it be any surprise to discover that John Waters wrote a 50’s-esque serial killer comedy? Not at all. Whether that comedy comes off successfully is another matter entirely as 1994’s SERIAL MOM has its moments, but ultimately falls victim to heavy-handed satire in the final third that simply doesn’t mesh well with the rest of the film.

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On the outside, Beverly Sutphin appears to be your average, suburban mother. She cooks, cleans, and chats with friends. However, this tidy homemaker has a very dark side as she has a secret habit of knocking off anyone who gets on her bad side. Beverly Sutphin is a mother first and a serial killer second. Two local detectives have stumbled across her web of murders and are hot on her trail. Meanwhile, Beverly’s family begins to suspect that there’s something not quite right with her.

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One thing that John Waters really nails down in SERIAL MOM is a picturesque sort of LEAVE IT TO BEAVER suburbia that happens to hold a serial killer. On a budget of 13 million, Waters makes every shot look good. The kills are easily the best parts of the movie as each one is creative and has an over-the-top quirk that makes it funny in spite of all the dark deeds on the screen. The film also has a number of other comedic moments that work very well. The best of these involves Beverly’s harassment of a poor unsuspecting neighbor with extremely obscene phone calls. There are a number of jokes that fall flat though. John Waters seems to want us to laugh merely from him putting a serial killer story in a seemingly peaceful setting. Though that is pretty silly and makes for some good dark comedy (including Beverly trying to clean a murder weapon), that long running joke only works for so long before it becomes a bit tedious.

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Kathleen Turner (THE WAR OF THE ROSES) seems to be having a blast as the title killer/mother. As Beverly, she keeps a chipper smile plastered across her face for a majority of the running time and plays the character as a deranged “do-gooder” in getting rid of her victims (who set her off through minor annoyances like not recycling, stealing parking spots, and failing to rewind VHS tapes). The rest of the family members are played well by Sam Waterston (as the naïve husband), Ricki Lake (as the hopeless romantic daughter) and Matthew Lillard (as the horror-obsessed son). There’s nothing to complain about in these performances, but the script simply doesn’t hand them a lot to work with (especially in the final third of the film).

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While the plot of SERIAL MOM seems very straightforward, the film works well as a decent brand of demented comedy up until a certain point. The film reaches its peak at an hour into the story and there are still 30 minutes of screen time to fill. This is where the film takes a serious nose dive as it becomes a wacky courtroom comedy for the final third. Waters was clearly making an obvious point about how our culture and the media turn murder trials into sensations that light up the country as well as turning the accused into cultural icons. I felt these points weren’t necessarily bad ones to make, but they felt like they belonged in an entirely separate movie (maybe, SERIAL MOM 2). As a result, the plot feels wildly uneven and lacks a lot of the simple laughs during the finale.

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Though I love John Waters as a unique personality in the world of filmmaking, I always find his filmography to be a bit of a mixed bag with hits and misses. SERIAL MOM is a decent enough hit for the first hour and then becomes a disappointing miss in its final act. There are merits to recommend this movie on in that Kathleen Turner is hugely enjoyable as the suburbanite murderer and the cheery atmosphere makes for a unique dark comedy. However, the faults are too big to discount. In the end, SERIAL MOM should serve as passing fun for those with a twisted sense of humor, but I can’t imagine it doing much for anyone else.

Grade: C+

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