The third movie in a slasher series is often the movie that has the potential to make or break the franchise. Friday the 13th Part III firmly established Jason as a horror icon with the debut of his hockey mask. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors put Freddy back on track after being nearly derailed by part two. Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a fine movie on its own, but the damage done to Michael Myers’ momentum within the franchise is something that the character never seemed to recover from. Child’s Play 3, like the third Halloween film, is a misstep in the series. It makes even less sense than Child’s Play 2, and it’s neither terribly fun nor terribly scary.
Child’s Play 3 takes place eight years after the events of the previous film (even though there were only about nine months between the release dates of both movies). Andy Barclay, played by Justin Whalen rather than Alex Vincent, is now sixteen years old. After being shifted from foster home to foster home in the years since he last encountered Chucky, Andy ends up being enrolled in a military academy. Jumping so far forward in time could have been a good thing for the story since it would change the dynamic between Chucky and a much more mature and capable Andy, but the necessity of having to cast another actor in the role of Andy makes the character feel completely different and new. Even though the filmmakers tried to continue Andy’s story, that connection to the previous films is lost. At least for me it is.
Like in Child’s Play 2, while Andy is adjusting to his new home, the Play Pals toy company has once again decided to restart production of Good Guy dolls. When the remains of Chucky are carried away in the factory, blood from his corpse drips into a vat of melted plastic, transferring the soul of Charles Lee Ray into one of the new dolls created from the vat. Back from the dead once more, Chucky then murders his way to finding where Andy has gone and begins to stalk the boy again. This time though, Chucky’s new body means that he doesn’t have to possess Andy, a realization Chucky comes to when his entry into the military academy is intercepted by a young cadet named Tyler.
I appreciate the attempt to keep things fresh by turning Andy into a protector rather than being the person chased, but ultimately, Tyler is simply a replacement for the role Andy played in the previous films. With the focus on Andy and Chucky, it kind of takes away from any fear the viewer might have for Tyler’s well-being. Don’t get me wrong, Tyler is a nice kid, but there’s not nearly the same amount of time spent on making the audience feel close to or feel sympathy for Tyler as there was for Andy in either of the previous movies. On top of that, the actor playing Tyler seems too old to be so infatuated with Good Guy dolls and so willing to accept it when Chucky immediately starts acting in odd and menacing ways.
Character issues aren’t just related to Tyler though. Andy’s academy is filled with flat, stereotypical characters. The school’s commandant is hard-nosed and skeptical. Andy’s lieutenant colonel is an obnoxious bully for no apparent reason. Andy’s roommate is nerdy and passive. The school’s barber is strangely obsessed with cutting hair. They’re all over-the-top to varying degrees, and none of them really have a story arc that would flesh out their character and help them connect with the audience.
Without any emotional attachment to the characters, all that’s left for Child’s Play 3 to be an entertaining movie is the action and violence. Unfortunately, none of it is very memorable. The kills aren’t horrible, but they’re not great either. As pointless as they were, I can think of multiple death scenes from part two that were more fun than any of the killings in part three. Also, Chucky is even less focused on what he sets out to do in this movie than in part two. He continues the trend started in part two of killing people for no good reason, but he is much less concerned about revealing himself to people than he ever has been before. At one point in the movie he even orchestrates a situation where he reveals himself to a huge group of people even though he gains no advantage by doing so, yet he just laughs about it. Chucky’s advantage is somewhat lost when everyone knows about him, so Chucky’s actions don’t make any sense.
As I stated in my review of Child’s Play 2, in order to enjoy that movie you kind of had to turn your brain off, but it’s even worse in part three. The plot goes from illogical to contrived. Series creator Don Mancini even admits that pieces of the script were contrived just so the movie would feel different than what’s come before. I understand the intent, but it makes the movie feel uninspired. It feels like they just made the movie to cash in on Chucky’s popularity and were running out of ideas. Trying to crank out another movie so close to the previous one didn’t do the Child’s Play franchise any favors, and it would be many years before another movie in the series was released.
I can’t really recommend Child’s Play 3. I like that it tried to continue the series while taking it new directions, but it only succeeds in feeling like a tired retread of what we’ve seen before while being disconnected from the character of Andy that we’ve come to pull for. Brad Dourif’s consistently entertaining portrayal of Chucky is easily the best part of this movie that is otherwise not a great slasher on its own, and not a great sequel in the Child’s Play series.
4 – Pretty Bad
Even most fans of the series could probably skip Child’s Play 3. It barely feels like part of the series that came before, and the following movies take a completely new approach to Chucky. Die-hard fans of Chucky or of slashers in general will probably want to watch this one, but they might not be very impressed.
RECOMMENDATION FOR FURTHER WATCHING
Also taking place at a military academy, Evilspeak features Clint Howard as a cadet who summons Satan through a computer. If you need more incentive than that, this movie also made it onto the UK’s “video nasty” list in the early eighties.
Title: Child’s Play 3
Director: Jack Bender
Writer: Don Mancini
Featured Cast: Brad Dourif, Justin Whalin, Travis Fine, Perrey Reeves, Jeremy Sylvers, Dean Jacobson
Run Time: 90 minutes
Availability: DVD, Blu-ray, VOD