They have taken him apart, they have poured hot plastic over him, they blew him to pieces…
… but now he’s back… again…
Child’s Play 3 (1991) – directed by Jack Bender (Lost, Under the Dome) – sees an older Andy Barclay (Justin Whalin) who gets sent to the Kent Military School. Little does he know that Charles Lee Ray has (again) returned and wants to leave the doll body for good (again). Aside from one narrative twist there is not that much to say about this movie other than that the law of diminishing returns holds true.
How to bring him back?
While Child’s Play 2‘s way of bringing Chucky back was a bit contrived the third entry in the series is even more implausible. At the end of part 2 it seems that they have gotten rid of the puppet for good and it is highly unlikely that the company would reassemble a bleeding plastic body to yet again prove that it is not possessed by the spirit of Charles Lee Ray.
Instead the factory is seen abandoned and full of cobwebs when workers dust it off and restart the machines while they are still cleaning up – because the Play Pals company apparently has no sanitary regulations. And so it happens that a bit of Chucky blood gets thrown into the plastic mix which soon turns into a brand new doll.
And an opening like this is very indicative of the rest of the movie.
No ideas left?
Writer Don Mancini (who has written all of the Chucky movies) openly criticized Child’s Play 3 because he had no more ideas where to take the franchise. And from the opening seconds it is clear what he is talking about. Once again we are treated to a Play Pals meeting where the company discusses their new brand and – as in part 2 – recaps the events from the previous films.
This scene reeks of terrible stereotypical dialog like:
One of the hardest things about this business is that it is a business. It doesn’t matter what we’re selling whether it is cars, nuclear weapons, or, yes, even toys. The bottom line is the bottom line. And what are children after all, but consumer trainees?
Interestingly it is a line that Mancini frequently references in Behind the Scenes videos that this monologue is one of the keystones of what he wanted to create with Chucky. But the problem I have is that the franchise (at this point) was still playing it straight and a caricature like this boss in a horror movie just looks like a bad caricature instead of an over the top satire.
I have to say though that when Chucky attacks the manager in his home full of toys it is quite well made and would have made for enough consumerist satire without needing the “evil monologue” before.
But terrible dialog is not something that is reserved for Play Pals managers as we can see from this scene at Kent Military School which explains the valuable difference between a riffle and a gun:
This is my riffle, this is my gun, this is for shooting and this is for fun!
New body, new (old) rules
The only new twist – sort of – is that because Chucky is in a new body he has a new victim: Tyler (Jeremy Sylvers), a kid who is the first person to find out Chucky’s secret. So in this movie Andy is no longer the victim but the person who opposes Chucky and tries to defeat his plans.
As with Child’s Play 2 we see a lot through Chucky’s eyes and this reduces the tension even more than it did in part 2 since most of the time Chucky has to spend time with little Tyler playing children’s games and cursing. Adding to that is the fact that Tyler acts like 6-year old Andy from Child’s Play even though he goes through the strict military school training.
Chucky is no longer scary and where part 2 at least broke new grounds in vicious territory this entry sees Chucky – and everyone else – going through the motions. The military school backdrop would – in theory – make an interestingly hostile environment. As the trailer promises the school is hell on earth and things couldn’t possibly get any worse but the movie never delivers on the first premise. The strict military tone is there in some scenes but the rest feels like a regular high school movie and instead of school uniforms they are wearing army stuff – there is the love interest, the nerdy guy with glasses, the annoying instructor and so on.
The carnival of fake terror
After two boring acts which feel longer than they actually are we arrive at the finale – which is as dull as the rest of this installment. The annual war games are happening, a simulated combat with fake ammunition, the only twist is that a certain doll might have switched the blanks to actual bullets. It is a premise that wears thin after a few minutes yet the payoff takes about 20 minutes and the execution is an uninspired few seconds. And you know you’re in trouble, when a major moment of suspense is based on the fact that Chucky threatens Andy’s possible girlfriend – to be fair there was only about 2 minutes of “romantic” dialog, so I am not sure what exactly she was.
After this dull affair the movie ends in a haunted house at a nearby carnival. And whatever potential scariness the movie had up to this point is wasted since fake horror houses aren’t really scary.
On top of the safety precautions are even worse than in Child’s Play 2 where the central problem was a lack of security guards and inaccessible emergency exits. The horror house in this movie is a death trap full of razor sharp scythes and extractor fans with rotating knives…
Thankfully the movie then ends, Chucky is killed (again) and the horror is over (again).
Bad music, lazy scary noises, uninspired setup, no tension – Child’s Play 3 is the low point of the franchise. There is nothing special and where Child’s Play 2 still managed some sort of threat the third movie stumbles between the comedic tone of Chucky’s comments and the threatening set-up. If the franchise had ended at this point the series would have been the one-hit success with some good animatronic artistry. Similar to Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street the Chucky movies started to fade because they replicated instead of breaking new ground.
It took 7 years for the franchise to return with Bride of Chucky a movie that would drastically shift the franchise.