In Defense of Seed of Chucky
By Evan Purcell – The Chucky franchise is as unkillable as its titular doll. It started as the Child’s Play trilogy, then it died. It got resurrected as a duo of horror-comedies, then it died again. And now it’s back, and while its current incarnation is in direct-to-video form, it looks like the redhaired doll will continue to stalk people, and change with the times, and stalk people again. Unlike most other horror franchises, each installment in this series goes for a different tone—ranging from the Gothic horror of Curse of Chucky to the bugnuts metahumor of Seed of Chucky.
Seed is the consensus pick for the worst of the franchise, but that’s less because of its quality and more because of audience expectations. Here are the four biggest complaints against Seed of Chucky, and why each one is wrong.
4 The new characters don’t work.
Seed of Chucky introduces two major characters to the franchise: Jennifer Tilly as herself (as opposed to Jennifer Tilly as Chucky’s girlfriend Tiffany), and Chucky and Tiffany’s gender-neutral child Glen/Glenda. Neither character survives the film. Tilly’s body is eventually possessed by Tiffany, and all the subsequent films reflect that. She remains a presence in the series, even if her soul is lost somewhere in the ether. Glen, on the other hand, is never mentioned again.
Now, Tilly’s character was one of the best-received elements of the franchise. Her ability to tweak her image in increasingly unglamorous ways is probably the best thing about Seed. No complaint there. Jennifer Tilly is just straight-up awesome.
The same can’t be said about Glen. Fans saw him (let’s use the male pronouns, because he eventually chose that gender for himself) as a symbol for everything wrong with the film. He wasn’t scary, and he took the focus away from Chucky. Let’s take these issues one at a time. First, he definitely wasn’t scary. That’s obvious. He wasn’t meant to be, though. He’s a tragic figure—from his early scenes locked up in an inexplicable carnival to his general gender confusion—he’s this poor boy who doesn’t know what he really is. When his murderous parents come into the picture, his descent into insanity and murder comes off as sad, not scary. That was intentional.
People also complained that a new doll character took a lot of the focus away from Chucky. I would argue the exact opposite. His place in the film helps Chucky explore new aspects of himself. He grapples with being both a murderer and a role model, he reevaluates his life goals, and in the end completely changes his place in the world. The whole thing is surprisingly nuanced for such a goofy plot.
3 The jokes aren’t funny.
About halfway through the movie, Chucky drives Britney Spears off the road, killing the pop star in a fiery crash. He cackles, unsurprisingly, and exclaims, “Oops! I did it again!” This moment is awful. It’s the single biggest groaner in the entire franchise, and yet, I appreciate it, because it shows how the movie is completely unafraid to swing for the fences. Seed of Chucky is constantly throwing things at the screen: wild jokes, crazy plot twists, gloopy gore, doll masturbate, anything. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. The experimentation is admirable, because even though it leads to some of the lamest moments in the franchise, it also leads to some of the best.
Without that dumb Spears moment, we wouldn’t have a dozen or so other, better jokes. We wouldn’t have shout-outs to Ed Wood or Erin Brockovich’s cleavage. Humor is subjective, of course, but Seed of Chucky has some of the best meta-humor of any movie. Jennifer Tilly ruthlessly skewers her own persona to the point where every indignity against this poor, Oscar-nominated actress becomes another joke in itself. By the credits, Tilly has been impregnated by a doll, possessed by another doll, mocked by pretty much everyone around her, and repeated concussed. It’s a shame this role didn’t earn her that much-coveted MTV award, because she deserved it. The point, though, is that everything about this film is go-for-broke, and while some of the humor doesn’t land, that’s simply a byproduct of a film that is so willing to try things that no other film would do. It can be a mess, but you can’t say it’s not funny.
2 The kills aren’t scary!
This complaint could be leveled at literally every horror movie ever made. Fear is as subjective as any other emotion, and what scares one person might not scare another person. That said, not every murder scene is meant to fill the audience with dread. Some scenes are played for laughs, some go for the gross-out factor, and some aim for emotional scars. Sometimes, a movie emulates Hitchcock and sometimes it emulates John Waters. On the Hitchcock/Waters spectrum, Seed of Chucky really doesn’t care about suspense.
What makes this film so enjoyable is that it’s always willing to swing for the fences in several different directions. If you look at the John Waters kill, clearly the face-melting gore is meant to disgust the audience. It’s jarring in all the right way, but it leads to a comedic stinger (They basically take a selfie.) that completely undercuts what we’ve just seen. Let’s compare that with Chucky’s final death, which is probably the goriest moment in the movie. Chucky’s son hacks him apart, limb from limb, which is as horrific as it gets. Then you have Chucky’s final line, where he congratulates his son for finally having the balls to turn into a full-on murderer. The moment is twisted, but it’s also poignant. Neither death scene is going for actual suspense or jump scares, but they both use gore to strike at different emotional chords. They’re equally effective, though in different ways. Some critics complain about these scenes, not because the scenes are bad, but because they have a too-narrow definition of what such scenes should accomplish.
1 It’s not a horror movie!
By far the most common complaint against Seed is that it abandoned the horror roots of Child’s Play. It’s not a horror movie. The short answer to this complaint is: You’re right. It’s a comedy. And it should be judged as a comedy.
The long answer is: Even though it’s tone is comedic, it has plenty to offer horror fans. In addition to the kills (just about as gory as this franchise gets), there are frequent homages to the genre. The opening POV sequence is a fun shout-out to Halloween, but it doesn’t sacrifice the jarring horror of the moment for easy laughs. Sure, it ends with urine, but it works because it understands what made that original John Carpenter setpiece so effective. The same can be said for most of the kills. These are moments crafted by real horror fans, and even though the film frequently errs on the side of humor, it never makes the genre the butt of their jokes. One of Chucky’s most memorable moments—when he hacks through a wooden door ala The Shining and completely misses the opportunity to say, “Here’s Johnny!”—isn’t a joke on The Shining. It’s a joke on the character’s constant wisecracks. Most of the humor is metatextual and self-referential, but it’s built on a foundation of horror.
It’s understandable that some horror fans would be dissatisfied with the film, because it’s not the genre they expected. That’s totally fine. But swapping genres doesn’t make Seed worse than the other installments, just different. And if fans don’t want to get on the film’s funky wavelength, then they shouldn’t watch it.
Is Seed of Chucky the best entry in the franchise? Maybe. It depends on your mood. What makes this series so special is that there are seven separate movies that each offer up a different meal. Seed might not be as popular a menu item, especially compared to the more slasher-friendly earlier installments, but it’s not bad. It’s just different. And if you start to crave a horror-comedy about doll sperm, there’s no better choice than Seed.