Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel

Directed by Ronnie Yu. Written by Don Mancini, based on his original characters. Photography, Peter Pau. Editing, David Wu, Randolph K. Bricker. Production design, Alicia Keywan. Art direction, James McAteer. Puppet effects, Kevin Yagher. Music, Graeme Revell. Cast: Jennifer Tilly (Tiffany - also the doll Tiffany's voice), Alexis Arquette (Damien),  Katherine Heigl (Jade), Nick Stabile (Jesse), John Ritter (Chief Warren Kincaid),  Brad Dourif (Voice of Chucky), et al.  A Universal release. 89 minutes. R (violence, language, doll copulation)


"Child's Play," the original Chucky film, came out in 1988, was inventive and scared large sections of its audiences. The sequels of 1990 and 1991 were worthless. The fourth reincarnation of Chucky the killer doll changes the title but not the junk.

Chucky was the transubstantiation of now defunct serial murderer Charles Lee Ray who, as he lay dying, passed on his spirit (?) to an ordinary doll. He also left behind his girlfriend Tiffany.

Tiffany, who gives a new meaning to "trailer trash," is a crude, micro-skirted, chain-smoking dame painted like a wall of graffiti, and with an enormous cleavage that threatens to explode. For years she's been wanting her lover back. Now, as Chucky's bits and pieces are kept in a police repository, the woman bribes a cop who steals the remnants-- and is quickly terminated by Tiffany. She sets about to rebuild the whole Chucky. Drawing the old, reliable mystical pentagram on the impossibly large floor of her trailer, and going through mystical mumbo-jumbo and candle-lit ceremonies, she reconstructs the doll.

She uses an instructions book, "Voodoo for Dummies." This sends an immediate warning: version 4 will mix atrocities with jokes, gags, and "funny" stuff.

The one-piece Chucky dispatches the creep Damien (get the name?), one of Tiffany's lovers, as the latter is waiting in bed for sex with the lady. No problem, because Tiffany, a Martha Stewart devotee, wants to marry, settle down in a dream house, have kids... But Chucky spurns her.

One thing leading (don't ask) to another, Tiffany puts Chucky in a cage, brings him a girl-doll, is electrocuted by Chucky but her spirit is transferred to the other doll. The toy-couple bickers, exchanges barbs, doesn't get along, but, take my word, will follow the cliche of "normal" people: antagonism leading to love -- or at least, sex.

In another couple, the under-18 Jade is an orphan who lives with her uncle Warren, the local Police Chief. Warren (who perhaps unconsciously lusts for the girl), aided by his henchcops, puts all possible impediments between her and her true love Jesse.

The dolls need to go to New Jersey, where there is, in a grave, an amulet that can restore them to their human shape.Tiffany-the-person has already availed herself of the services of her trailer-park neighbor Jesse. Now, as Tiffany-the-doll (she has retained the T-woman's voice) she hires Jesse by phone. For $1,000, he must deliver two dolls to Jersey. Jesse seizes the opportunity to convince Jade to elope and start a new life with him. (A little money goes a long way in the mind of the naive boy!)

The foursome's trip becomes a killing spree for the dolls, complete with explosions, crashes, wrecks, you name it...

What really deserves a rapid death is the film itself. Some funny moments do exist, but all in the context of mayhem, gore, destruction, ugliness --it all feels like the product of a sick imagination that knows no bounds in concocting disgusting scenes. I wondered what kind of public the movie was directed at, and what the viewers' reactions were.

So I did a quick, small investigation. The personnel working at the theater showing it was unanimously positive. "It's not great, but it's funny." "It's for all audiences." "We kids, like that sort of thing." "It's for teenagers." "It's for 20-24 year old people." "I'm 26 and I liked it." "It's great fun." And more along those lines.

Now, I must say that I like good horror pictures, including the old German silent classics, the Draculas and the Frankensteins, the Val Lewton productions (The Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, The Body Snatcher, etc.), Rosemary's Baby... the list is large, and includes parodies such as Love at First Bite. But I loathe bad horror, unintelligent horror for dummies, horror that is essentially visual pornography.

The popularity of this last genre is disturbing. Not for moral reasons. I do not believe that, for example, bad slasher flicks result in copycat imitations in real life-- but I do not doubt that they condition undiscriminating viewers into more and more bad taste. As Stendhal said :" Bad taste leads to crime." And the cultural crimes of the media, are at the very least, a colossal factor of the dumbing of the public from Aden to Zitomir.

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel