Jennifer TillyBrad DourifJohn RitterChild's Play
Bride of Chucky
Medium: film
Year: 1998
Director: Ronny Yu
Writer: Don Mancini
Keywords: horror, slasher
Country: USA, Canada
Actor: Jennifer Tilly, Brad Dourif, Katherine Heigl, Nick Stabile, Alexis Arquette, Gordon Michael Woolvett, John Ritter, Lawrence Dane, Michael Johnson, James Gallanders, Janet Kidder, Vince Corazza, Kathy Najimy, Park Bench, Emily Weedon, Ben Bass
Format: 89 minutes
Series: << Child's Play >>
Website category: Horror modern
Review date: 2 October 2008
The most financially successful Chucky film to date, beating out even the original. Is it scary? Not a chance. Is it laugh-out-loud funny? You betcha.
What's interesting about the comedy here is that it's not just the slapstick we got in the previous sequels. Pour boiling plastic on Chucky and watch him become goo. That'll never get old. I'd expected the series to go on plugging away at a winning formula, but instead it takes a completely new direction. The jokes here are character-based, albeit with an undercurrent of Scream-inspired humour. (Scream = 1996. Scream 2 = 1997. Bride of Chucky = 1998.) The police evidence room contains Freddy's glove, Leatherface's chainsaw, the masks of Jason and Michael Myers and more obscure horror references to boot. Chucky shoots twenty nails into someone's head, making him look like Hellraiser's Pinhead, then wonders why he looks familiar.
However this film's big shake-up involves Tiffany, a psycho goth who's sweet on Charles Lee Ray and enjoys murder. She eats up the screen, at once romantic, vulnerable and homicidal, but furthermore she completely overturns the series formula. Chucky had always been a one-man show, but here he has a girlfriend! She'll get angry at him for not doing the dishes. She'll take things personally and go curl up next to the fresh corpse of their latest victim. She's played by Jennifer Tilly and she might just be the best thing to happen to any horror series ever. I honestly can't think of another franchise that reinvigorated itself so simply and successfully.
Tiffany starts off by patching up Chucky into a scarred road-accident version of himself. Inevitably she then falls out with him, locks him in a playpen and torments him until he kills her. Yup, it's doll time. This is of course one of the stupidest courses of action ever committed to celluloid, but brilliantly you don't even scream at her for being an idiot in doing so. Stupidity only breaks a movie if you can't believe that the characters would do that. Here it's just Tiffany being Tiffany. She's such a completely realised character that you accept it. She's following her heart. She's a romantic. She cries when watching Karloff's Bride of Frankenstein and says things like, "My mother always told me love would set me free." Meanwhile Chucky hasn't changed a bit, of course. He's as diplomatic as a pre-emptive nuclear strike and as romantic as an axe blow to the groin, so together they're quite a double act.
What's more, it's part of a theme about marriage. There's a human couple who represent everything that Chucky and Tiffany aren't. They're pretty, kind-hearted and thinking about their future. They're trying to do everything right. However they're also teenagers and Chucky might have a point when he says, "I give them six months. Three if she gains weight." When the deaths begin, they start suspecting each other and running off for secret phone calls to their mutual friend, although in fairness they'd have had to be insane to suspect the truth. They're fine, but of course the dolls are the stars. "Why can't I ever get it on with the real good guys?" asks Tiffany at one point. This deserves to be carved in stone as a monument to self-delusion, but we've all been there.
Admittedly having two dolls briefly turns the film into Thunderbirds, but only until they get out the goth make-up. Furthermore, there's nudity! In a Chucky film! Yes, you glimpse a doll's bare plastic backside. Although having said that, Jennifer Tilly is quite the eyeful. Bottle blonde, leather micro-dress and heaving maxi-cleavage. She changes her outfit regularly and yet we're at the 25-minute mark before she finds one that's not displaying 80% of her bosom. Don't expect to see anything when she's in the bath, though.
Ronny Yu gives it plenty of energy. Some fearless music choices for the soundtrack and a determination to go for fun over fear. He'd go on to do Freddy vs. Jason, which is working on exactly the same principle. It's easily the bloodiest in the series, but the kills are done in a spirit of happy fun and mayhem. The set pieces are imaginative. The gags can be gross, although I also laughed at Voodoo for Dummies. The Marilyn Manson wannabe is amusing too.
Another clever thing Ronny Yu does is to bring in Peter Pau as his director of photography, two years before the guy won an Oscar for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The script is by the usual guy, mind you. That would be Don Mancini, who'd incidentally direct both the next sequel and the upcoming remake.
I have a nitpick or two. A little more than halfway through, the police get to a crime scene, find a dropped cigarette lighter, identify it as belonging to an unrelated victim and say as much on television in less time than it took me to write that. There's also a pompous police chief played by John Ritter who's the legal guardian of one of our heroes. You know he's a police chief because he's always in uniform, even late at night, at home.
This film is a blast. It's even funnier than its predecessors and I was laughing out loud at them. Horror-comedy is a hellishly difficult thing to pull off, but almost by accident this film manages to be one of the purest examples I've ever seen of the genre. Young Frankenstein and even Shaun of the Dead aren't horror, to my mind. This however is a gleeful gorefest that just happens to star two characters who could make you laugh just trying to cross the road. Incidentally Rob "Halloween 2007" Zombie did the opening song, which to my surprise I liked a lot. Chucky at one point says "it's showtime," but then again we all knew he was a dick. Overall, a bloodbathful of fun. Besides... DOLL SEX.