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Horror in the 90's: 'Child's Play 3'

Chucky the Anti-Capitalist Icon

By Sean PatrickPublished 17 days ago 6 min read
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Child's Play 3 (1991)

Directed by Jack Bender

Written by Don Mancini

Starring Brad Dourif, Justin Whalin, Perrey Reeves, Jeremy Sylvers

Release Date August 30th, 1991

Box Office $20.5 million

The first 15 minutes of Child's Play 3 is a brief meditation on corporate greed. After nearly a decade away from making their Good Guy dolls, the Play Pals company have re-opened the factory and, inadvertently, they have rebuilt Chucky, the malevolent doll body inhabited by the spirit of serial murderer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif). Here, we watch as corporate titan, Mr. Sullivan (Peter Haskell), ignores the warnings from his underlings about re-starting the Good Guys line. Sullivan's greed will be his downfall.

As Sullivan is alone in his office, after the rest of the staff have called it a day, he's attacked by Chucky and brutally murdered. Though his death at the plastic hands of Charles Lee Ray is based more in Ray's single-minded obsession with killing Andy (Justin Whalin) and taking Andy's youthful body for his own, the underlying anti-capitalist message is clear. Without the dedicated greed of Sullivan and his corporate lackeys, the Good Guy doll would have languished, perhaps it would have have even been destroyed, and with it, the final vestiges of Charles lee Ray. But, because of their greed, evil flourishes and shows no mercy, even when confronting the evil that gave it back its life.

That is perhaps, far too deep a reading of Child's Play 3, but it's a satisfying read. The idea of Chucky as the anti-hero of the socialist set is kind of fun. The notion that a corporately owned and crafted vehicle like Child's Play 3, itself a product of greed, even unintentionally calling out and punishing unchecked corporate greed, is part of the naive charm of Child's Play 3. It's a vague sort of self-awareness that makes the movie just a little more interesting than the average third sequel to an ATM style franchise intended on mining nostalgia for profits.

Whether or not you believe Chucky is an allegory calling for the deathly punishment of greedy capitalist pig-dogs, you have to admit, the movie leans on the idea of Sullivan as an evil impresario of greed. He knows that he's going to be profiting from the actual blood of Andy Barclay's's family and he's perfectly okay with that because his Gollum-esque pursuit of unending profit is his only trait. It's the only trait that the movie gives him aside from the haughty pomposity of the actor portraying Sullivan. What else could we take away from the death of a character we aren't intended to like than being content that he's dead, seemingly punished for the sin of Greed.

Chucky is not an anti-hero in the rest of Child's Play 3, even as he has a few more less than good people to kill. Chucky's single minded obsession with getting out of his doll body and into that of Andy Barclay or the nearest child he can find, places Chucky unquestionably into the villain category. That said, as horror franchises age and the central focus remains on the villain at the center of the action, there is a natural creep in our sentiments. Characters like Chucky and Freddy have to have a certain appeal for us to want to keep coming back to the theater to see them.

Is giving Chucky an avenging angel of sin moment a sop to the idea of Chucky being a likable antagonist? Is this perhaps a way to expand on Chucky's appeal? Is the idea that Chucky might start killing people we are invited to dislike a way to keep Chucky viable as a leading man? Perhaps but let's not forget the necessity of this scene. We need to get Chucky to Andy for the rest of the movie. It's more than likely that this opening sequence is merely functional. Sullivan is an obstacle, a roadblock to Chucky's goal of getting to Andy. Sullivan has the means, a computer, that will allow the ever clever Chucky to reach his goal. Killing Sullivan is just an efficient way of getting Chucky to his goal.

That's likely the answer to why this sequence exists but I don't care. I like the idea of anti-capitalist Chucky. I like the idea that if you commit yourself to sin, there is a chance that your sin could come back around to get you. I also prefer this line of thinking because there isn't much else to think about while watching Child's Play 3. Once the action shifts to teenage Andy Barkley at military school, Child's Play 3 becomes distinctly less interesting. Chucky tries to take over the body of a kid, Andy stops him. Chucky is shredded by a giant industrial fan and the movie ends.

Of course, we know that if Child's Play 3 is successful, Chucky will survive his fan blade related shredding. In an ironic twist, the capitalism that Chucky metaphorically murders in the opening of Child's Play 3 is also what sustains the character. Greed, an overwhelming dedication to profits, renders Chucky deathless. Even in killing his seeming creator, Chucky himself becomes a deathless tool of the capitalist machine, resurrected at will until he becomes less than profitable. That seemingly hasn't happened yet.

As of this writing, Chucky is still going. More than 35 years after he was created, Chucky is a merchandising icon, a TV star, and the subject of a documentary film. He's been rebooted, retooled, and re-imagined. Chucky got married, had a family, and became almost domesticated. Chucky is now a capitalistic machine, a pop monolith of a modest size. He's his own corporation and product. That he was once an accidental critique of capitalist greed is now a minor footnote in the journey of Chucky becoming a capitalist machine, a pop institution printing money to this day.

This article on Child's Play 3, part review part playful interpretation, is part of my ongoing book project Horror in the 90s. I am working my way through watching the theatrically released, and notable, horror movies of the 1990s to find a sort of consensus about the genre during this unique decade. I grew up in the 90s not loving horror movies. It wasn't until well into adulthood that I came around on the genre. Now, I am looking back to see what I missed during my formative years and it's been an enlightening journey thus far. If you'd like to support that journey, a journey toward an actual book about horror movies in the 90s, you can do so by making a monthly pledge here on Vocal or by leaving a one time tip. Thanks!

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About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast I am a voting member of the Critics Choice Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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