Written by: Don Mancini
Directed by: Ronny Yu
Starring: Jennifer Tilly, Brad Dourif, John Ritter, and Katherine Heigl
Reviewed by: Brett G.
"For god's sake Chucky, drag yourself into the 90s. Stabbings went out with Bundy and Dahmer. You look like Martha Stewart with that thing."
In 1998, a horror icon returned to the big screen after a bit of a hiatus. No, I'm not talking about Michael Myers in Halloween H20--I'm talking about everyone's favorite Good Guy Doll: Chucky, the star of the Child's Play series. Last seen being torn apart by a giant fan in 1991, Chucky sat most of the decade out before re-emerging 7 years later. However, the demented doll did not return alone; that's right, Chucky got lucky (or not, depending on your view of marriage), and the world was introduced to the Bride of Chucky!
The film opens some unspecified time after the events of the third Child's Play film, and Tiffany, an old lover and accomplice of Charles Lee Ray, has acquired Chuckyís ďremains.Ē Tiffany stitches the doll back together and attempts to re-enact the voodoo ritual that brought Ray back to life in the first place. The charm eventually works, but Chucky isnít exactly the ladies' man Tiffany expects; in fact, he ends up killing her and transferring her soul into a doll. In true Chucky fashion, it isnít long until heís scheming of returning back to a mortal body, and the only way to accomplish this is to retrieve the magical amulet that was buried with his corpse in New Jersey. The diminutive duo hitches a ride with Jesse and Jade, a young couple that have run off to elope, and a Bonnie and Clyde-like string of violence ensues.
While the first three Childís Play films were fairly straight-laced (for killer doll movies), Bride of Chucky clearly took the series into a more comedic realm. This type of move represents the bane of many a horror fanís existence, but itís a good fit for this series. Plus, the film doesnít really move into truly absurd, eye-rollingly bad territory with the humor, as it ranges from some funny nods to other horror franchises to some good gross-out moments. And, at the end of the day, it still contains Chucky doing what he does best, and the character isnít any different here than he was a decade earlier when he made his debut: heís still the nasty, wise-cracking, murderous little horror icon.
And really, when it gets to this point in pretty much any horror franchise, itís the killer that takes center stage. For me, as long as this aspect is respected and done right, itís hard to go wrong; if the writing, direction, and other characters are good, then itís all a bonus. Fortunately, Bride of Chucky delivers in all three categories. Whereas many horror films from this era exhibited the obvious influence of Scream, Bride of Chucky feels a bit different. Ronny Yu (of Freddy vs. Jason) does deliver some very stylish, polished direction, but the film has a very fantastical look and feel. Plus, the fact that the cast is relatively small and not full of witty teens separates this one from the pack. Jesse and Jade (portrayed by Katherine Heigl way before she got Knocked Up by Seth Rogen) are good characters that are easy to relate to, and the film isnít really filled with obnoxious Chucky fodder. Even the biggest jerk in the film (John Ritter, believe it or not) manages to feel like a real character.
While the story pretty much features the same motivations for Chuckyís character (returning to a mortal body), the filmís script keeps it from feeling too trite and repetitive, perhaps because Chucky actually takes center stage now instead of Andy Barclay. The addition of Tiffany to the mythology sounds like it could be a terrible idea on paper, but it works well and adds another dimension to the film, particularly in the humor department. Chucky and Tiffanyís interactions are generally amusing, particularly when the two have sex or when Tiffany plays housewife for Chucky later in the film. Again, this sounds absurd on paper, but itís really a testament to Mancini and Yu that the movie managed to be so entertaining and well done despite the premise. Operating together, the two make for quite a memorable slasher duo. Brad Dourif once again rules as the voice of Chucky, and Jennifer Tillyís talents (voice and otherwise) are a welcome asset.
And this, ultimately, is what keeps Bride of Chucky from slipping into completely campy territory: when Chuck and Tiffany are slashing, the blood really flows. Thereís a decided mean streak behind all of the deaths, which are kept fairly grounded and arenít too over-the-top. Despite its nutty plot, Bride of Chucky never forgets that itís supposed to be a splatter film, and it delivers in this regard, and it manages to strike just the right balance with all the humor strewn throughout. Plus, the film follows in the seriesí footsteps by having a memorable, suspenseful climax that ends up being a nice homage to Bride of Frankenstein (which should come as no surprise given the filmís title). Effects legend Kevin Yagher returns and delivers the most realistic animatronic effects yet, which is important given the amount of screen time for Chucky and Tiffany.
The 90s are generally looked upon as a disappointing decade by many horror fans. Whether or not it deserves its reputation is a debate for another day, but thereís no doubt that Bride of Chucky is among the most underrated films the decade has to offer. While its turn towards humor no doubt turned off a lot of horror purists, itís my second favorite film in the series because itís got a little bit of everything: it has decent characters, itís funny, has a good amount of splatter and features a reinvigorated horror icon at his height (or lack thereof). The film is such an entertaining ride, and, to be honest, I was hooked during the opening minute when Leatherfaceís chainsaw, Jason and Michael's masks, Freddyís glove, and Toulonís puppets appear in police evidence lockers. As the movie progresses, it continues to be a love-letter towards the genre, and, while itís different from its predecessors, it still manages to capture and respect the tone of those films at times. Even the demonic slobbering that Rob Zombie refers to as "music" doesn't sink this one.
Interestingly enough, even the promotion for this one was unique and memorable, as Chucky terrorized ďThe Dog-Faced Gremlin,Ē Rick Steiner on WCW programming in the weeks leading up to the filmís release. Yep. Like the other sequels, Universal is responsible for distributing Bride of Chucky on home video. Their stand-alone release contains an excellent anamorphic transfer and an engaging 5.1 soundtrack. Notable extras include two separate commentary tracks (one with Yu, one with Tilly, Dourif, and Mancini), ďJenniferís Diary,Ē which features Tillyís recollections during production. This release has been packaged along with parts 2 and 3 in ďThe Chucky Collection,Ē which is not to be confused with the ďChucky: Killer DVD Collection,Ē which features all four Childís Play sequels on two discs. No matter which way you go, you canít go wrong with this cult classic, which manages to breathe fresh air into a franchise and take it in a new and satisfying direction. Buy it!
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