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Child's Play 3 (1991)
It happens to every successful horror franchise: the one film that creators and fans alike wish never found its way to celluloid; a black cinematic hole so deep, even other lackluster entries in a given series can’t approach its awfulness. Friday the 13th fans have A New Beginning, Nightmare on Elm Street aficionados have Freddy’s Revenge, Halloween diehards have Season of the Witch, and those of us who enjoy the perverse pleasures of obscene plaything Chucky have Child’s Play 3. With two gangbuster predecessors, this film isn’t just bad, it’s a shocking misstep in an otherwise engrossing series.
Released a mere nine months after Child’s Play 2, and obviously rushed to maximize profits (it didn’t pay off), Child’s Play 3 finds Andy Barclay (here played by Justin Whalin, Serial Mom) many years older but none the wiser. After a string of numerous foster homes, Andy is shipped to military school; that’s right, military school: last resort for parents, last resort for overworked screenwriters. Meanwhile, the Good Guy doll is put back into production after its manufacturer decides enough time has passed between the gruesome, unexplained events of the first two films and the current narrative. Somehow, Chucky’s bloody remains are incorporated into one of the new dolls and--poof!--he lives again.
Chucky wastes precious little time tracking down Andy, but upon his arrival at the military school, the murderous doll decides he’d rather target a young student named Tyler. Andy is forced to protect Tyler from Chucky’s violent advances while attempting to cope with overbearing instructors, a pileup of dead bodies, and a new woman in his life.
Whereas the first two Child’s Play films relied on clever plot elements, witty dialogue, boo moments, and genuine suspense to strike gold in the crowded cinescape of the horror genre, Child’s Play 3 settles for gruesome, unoriginal slasher motifs and clichés. Even a somewhat entertaining climax through a monster-themed amusement park can’t compare with Child’s Play 2’s whip-smart factory finale.
The film is doomed to suffer in light of its predecessors because it tries to outdo them at every turn, by effect enhancing the tired elements and inadvertently burying the good stuff. Sure, the body count’s higher, the effects are better, and there’s more Chucky, but all the pomp and circumstance leaves little room for characters, plot, or remotely interesting dialogue. Even the majority of Chucky’s campy one-liners fail to impress.
There’s very little to recommend about Child’s Play 3, but a few things spring to mind: Hellraiser’s Andrew Robinson pops up for a brutal cameo as a slimy barber with a fetish for clippers, a morbidly creative game of paint ball ensues when Chucky replaces paint rounds with live ammunition, and the film’s third act approaches at least some of the magic of the first Child’s Play entries. Unfortunately, the film ends just as creative salvation looms on the horizon.
As-is, Chucky’s third demonic adventure is a woeful failure. Devoid of any charm, burdened by a director who doesn’t seem to understand the appeal or comedy of the series, strung together by an absurd plot, and hampered by an inadequate production length, it’s a real shame that for eight years this film existed as the swan song of horror’s favorite little SOB. Luckily, Universal Studios got their act straight and followed this dusty video store placeholder with the immensely more entertaining Bride of Chucky.