After trying for three films to generate terror out of a maniacal two-foot-tall doll with homicidal tendencies, the Child's Play franchise finally gave up with 1998's Bride Of Chucky and unveiled a surprisingly effective new tactic: playing its demonic-doll protagonist largely for laughs. Seed Of Chucky goes even further toward comedy over horror, but the Chucky-as-comic-antihero gag has grown stale, and the film misses the gothic imagination that Hong Kong veteran Ronny Yu brought to Bride Of Chucky.
In the eight years since Scream, glibly self-referential touches have become nearly as tiresome and ubiquitous in slasher movies as the killer who refuses to die. Seed Of Chucky spoofs Hollywood itself with equally lame results. In her least-dignified role to date, Jennifer Tilly plays a hopefully more pathetic version of herself, as a once-Oscar-nominated sexpot reduced to throwing herself at rapper-turned-director Redman in hopes of landing a role as the Virgin Mary in his upcoming biblical epic. In a dual role that doubles the humiliation, Tilly also provides the voice of a demon-possessed female doll married to the psychotic Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif). Together, they decide that Tilly would make the perfect surrogate mother for their child. Meanwhile, Lord Of The Rings vet Billy Boyd provides the voice of the film's most promising character—a sentient, sexually ambiguous ventriloquist's dummy who resurrects the demonic-doll couple and is embraced as their progeny.
Seed Of Chucky's outrageous premise seems to promise at least intermittent moments of guilty-pleasure fun: John Waters even shows up as a parasitic photographer to offer his benediction on the shenanigans. But Don Mancini's direction is TV-movie flat, and the gags feel leaden and obvious, a misbegotten compendium of gallows humor, winking references, hackneyed digs at desperate actresses and sleazy paparazzi, and fat jokes. Tilly's performance falls especially flat: Mocking her career and ditzy-sexpot image isn't shooting fish in a barrel so much as hurling a hydrogen bomb in the barrel's direction. There's something sad about a quickie horror sequel arriving in theaters a week and a half after Halloween, but the release date isn't the only aspect in which Seed Of Chucky feels ill-conceived.