Child's Play 3 might be the least of the series, but only because it lacks the energy and innovation of the other films. It's still a fine little melodramatic chiller on its own terms, though. Part 3 sees Chucky remade/rebuilt again and chasing the now grown Andy (Justin Whalin replacing Alex Vincent) to a military academy where he goes about his usual beat of trying to transfer his soul into the kid. The opening credits are melty, weird and great. The rest of the movie is fun. But it's fairly restrained and pedestrian by comparison to its stranger and slicker sisters.
Hardcore Child's Play fans were bummed out by Bride's shift to absurd comedy but, seen as Mancini rebelling against the safety of the third film, Bride is positively punk rock. It's beautifully directed by Ronny Yu and boasts the organic special effect of actress Jennifer Tilley, whose glorious bosom is matched by her outrageous, scene-stealing turn as Chucky/Charles Lee Ray's lover Tiffany, who is turned into a doll with bloodlust to match her man. Kind of like an exploitation riff on Natural Born Killers, with plenty of hard metal rock music on the soundtrack, oodles of gory FX and a great appearance by late comedy legend John Ritter. Smutty, silly and generally riotous fun.
Curse of Chucky is Mancini and co-producer David Kirschner's attempt to rebound from Seed of Chucky's insanity and deliver a more serious, straightforward horror film like the first picture. But Mancini does something better. Here is a guy who lives and breathes cinema making a classic "woman in jeopardy" thriller, the kind that used to leak out of old Hollywood and later, in the wonderful wave of Gothic TV movies of the 1970s, and inserting Chucky into it. And it works. Beautifully directed and shot and often rather eerie, Mancini had the deft idea to cast Brad Dourif's daughter Fiona as the paraplegic damsel in distress who is inexplicably sent a "Good Guys" doll in the mail. Then people start to die. Violently. A classy, elegant noir with a creepy Joseph LoDuca score.
When Bride of Chucky became a hit and then, with further success on home video, a cult film, Mancini stepped back in - this time as writer and director - and said "f*ck it" and simply made the John Waters movie he'd always wanted to make. Hell, John Waters is IN the movie! If you hate Seed of Chucky, you're watching it wrong. This is one of the funniest, sickest and opulent works of pop trash ever made, a movie that goes so far off the edge that you either ride with it off a cliff, laughing maniacally before smashing operatically on the rocks below, or just jump out of the car and marvel at the mess. I worship this movie. Chucky uses a turkey baster filled with his jizz on Jennifer Tilley, while the gorgeous strains of Pino Donaggio's orchestra blast in the background and hip hop artist Redman looks on. Meanwhile, Chucky and Tiffany's son Glen (as in Glen or Glenda?) has an identity crisis. This movie feels beamed in from another dimension and god bless it for its transgressive spirit!
Mancini was fresh off the Charles Band/Empire Pictures flick Cellar Dweller (ironically Band would find major fame with another killer doll franchise in the Puppetmaster films) when his Child's Play script (co-written by John Lafia and massaged by director Tom Holland) was picked up by MGM/UA and given to Fright Night director Tom Holland. The collaboration worked. Child's Play is a major work of weirdness, domestic drama and suspense with ace performances and plenty of nasty violence. And it still holds up beautifully as a stand alone thriller.
This might be a controversial choice for top spot, but who cares. Child's Play 2 is a brilliant, berserk and totally twisted accidental masterwork of cult cinema. Taking all that was great about the first film, you can feel Manicini's eccentricities shine through here, resulting in a perverse, leering and jaw-droppingly inventive slab of nasty psychodrama. From those first wild and silly moments when Chucky is "repackaged" to the legendary conveyor-belt climax, the John Lafia directed horror film flips the bird to conventions, making an exploitation opera without peer that's still a skillfully made thriller. And that cast! Jenny Agutter and Gerrit Graham as husband and wife? Come on!