CHILD'S PLAY 3, 1991
Director: Jack Bender
Stars: Justin Whalin, Perrey Reeves and Jeremy Sylvers
Review by Mark Engberg
Chucky, the doll possessed by a serial killer, returns for revenge against Andy, the young boy that defeated him and has since become adult.
“Where is the wisdom in putting the Good Guy doll back on the market?” asks one of Play Pals Toy Company's executives in the boardroom.
It's a valid question, given that his company is responsible for two separate murder sprees committed by one of their brand-name products. The answer, of course, can best be supplied by Box Office Mojo, which reports that the original “Child's Play” took home over $33 million in domestic earnings. Its first sequel didn't do so bad either, with gross earnings totaling $28.5 million.
During these days of hundred-million-dollar blockbusters, those numbers may sound like small business for the movie industry. But back in the early 90's, there was enormous wisdom in putting Chucky and his moderately priced production budget back on the big screen. The premise may have been ridiculous, but there was no denying that the public wanted more Chuck for the buck.
Unfortunately for Chucky, the third installment in the franchise was a financial disappointment, making less than half of the original's box office returns. As a result, Universal Pictures, which retrieved the intellectual property from United Artists after the first film generated so much controversy, abandoned the series on the toy shelves and would not return for another seven years with “Bride of Chucky”, which was basically a self-reflexive comedy.
But before Chucky could tear down the fourth wall and start sharing screen time with John Ritter, the horror trilogy had to be complete with this third chapter, which takes place in a military school eight years after the conclusion of the second film. By now, public outrage has miraculously died down regarding the murderous defects these Good Guy dolls seem to possess. Cue the executive to question the morality of putting these deadly playthings back in toy stores.
Andy Barclay, the blameworthy kid from the first two pictures, is now a Dylan McKay-lookalike teenager absorbing onslaught from his superior officers in scenes that resemble “The Lords of Discipline”. And since Andy is the key to transferring his soul into a living body, Chucky makes his way to the military academy.
Even though I love the “Child's Play” movies, I must admit that the Voodoo logic somewhat confuses me. According to John Simonsen, Chucky's witch-doctor instructor from the first film, his doll body is becoming more human the longer his soul resides in its plastic skin. This accounts for all the times that Chucky bleeds and feels pain when he gets shot or stabbed or whatever. But if this opportunity to repossess a human body exists only as a short window, why is he even bothering with Andy? Why doesn't he take over that old guy he kills in the first Act and spend the rest of his life as a drunk, rich Republican who runs a toy business?
And while I'm asking stupid questions, don't the filmmakers know that Paintball guns are incapable of firing live artillery? Don't get me wrong, Chucky's plan to sabotage the school's war games with real ammunition is hilariously diabolical . . . if somewhat unmotivated. But as anyone who has ever played Paintball knows, it would never work . . . even in a movie about a killer doll.
But as far as horror fanfare goes, “Child's Play 3” is explorative and demented in its depiction of brutal death. In addition to the crabby old businessman, Chucky takes down a bullying upperclassman, a garbageman, a demented barber, and most unsettling of all, Andy's wimpish roommate, Whitehurst (played by Dean Jacobson)..
Now, a word about Whitehurst. Horror movies bring out the absolute worst in me. If you are a character in a slasher flick, then I probably want you to die in as grisly and barbaric a fashion as an R-rating will allow. When Chucky causes the school commandant to suffer a fatal heart attack, I was literally stuffing popcorn into my mouth to muffle the inappropriate sound of my laughter.
But a strange thing happened when Whitehurst overcame his fear of death and leapt on top of a grenade that Chucky tossed into the crowd. He wasn't spared. He wasn't granted a life-saving reprieve. He simply died with his shattered spectacles lying broken on his bloody face. . . and it was truly SAD.
Andy and his new girl, De Silva (Perrey Reeves) bit their lips, cried a little, and carried on with the chase sequence. But I was truly amazed at my own grief. I was watching a movie about a possessed killer doll who infiltrates a military school in order to steal the body of a child, and I'm choking back tears because the stereotypical nerd sacrificed his own life for the sake of his fellow cadets.
I've spent decades watching mindless horror films and television programs. And I have to admit that “Child's Play 3” is one of the only horror flicks to feature a character whose death actually earned my sympathy.
It seems ridiculous, I know. But the death of Whitehurst was extraordinary to me since it featured a vivid degree of character depth and mortality. It is something I had not experienced before or since in my lifetime of horror fanfare.
And for all other reasons, “Child's Play 3” is an enjoyable foray into anarchistic fun. The producers at Universal might not think so since it made the least amount of money. As a matter of fact, Chucky's own creator Don Mancini declared this entry his least favorite in the series, blaming the studio for not giving him enough time after the second one to come up with better ideas. I guess Whitehurst's death didn't affect him the same way it did me.