Bride of Chucky (1998)
Directed by Ronny Yu
Cast: Jennifer Tilly, Katherine Heigl, Nick Stabile, John Ritter, Alexis Arquette, Kathy Najimy; voice of Brad Dourif.
1998 90 minutes
Rated: (for violence, gore, profanity, and doll sex).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, October 17, 1998.
Although the original "Child's Play" was an intelligent, surprisingly well-crafted horror film, I have never been that big a fan of the series. I mean, it's hard to make a 3-foot doll scary, and by the time 1991's "Child's Play 3" rolled around, the series felt pretty much dead and buried. But old slasher series' die hard, and since there has been a recent horror resurgence, it was inevitable that Chucky would indeed be back for a third sequel.
"Bride of Chucky" has a genuinely goofy premise, and is far more original than the other sequels. The film starts off with Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly), a bit of trailer-park trash, who gets ahold of the remains of the mostly destroyed Chucky doll, which holds the soul of her old boyfriend, Charles Lee Ray. She sews the parts back together and resurrects Chucky who, in exchange, murders Tiffany and transports her soul into a female doll. They realize that in order to get out of the doll bodies, they have to get a necklace that Charles is buried with in a small town in New Jersey. Through a series of circumstances, these two murderous, feuding dolls hitch a ride with a teenage couple, Jude (Katherine Heigl) and Jesse (Nick Stabile), who have run away to be together. Did you follow all that?
"Bride of Chucky" has one of the most absurd plots of the year, and some sequences are downright silly (a sex scene involving the Chucky and Tiffany dolls immediately springs to mind), but I have to admit that I do admire the filmmakers for trying something a little bit different, rather than recycling the same exact storyline for each sequel. In fact, the film is basically a "Chucky" road movie, which is actually quite intriguing, but it never really follows through with its aspirations. Just as in the recent, "Halloween: H20," the movie felt much too short, as if there was a rush to get to the ending. If another ten to fifteen minutes had been added to the running time, it would have been much more satisfying.
I must honestly admit, however, that there is a lot to like in the film. For one, the screenplay is far more sharply written than the other sequels in the series, and there are a lot of clever in-jokes and sharp lines of dialogue. The beginning, for example, is set in a building where all of history's killers' remains are locked up, and before we get to Chucky, the camera passes by a hockey mask and the Michael Myers mask.
Another element I liked in the film is the realistic love-hate relationship between Chucky and Tiffany. Even though they are dolls, they act exactly like humans do, and are always fighting, but still love each other. They are some very funny exchanges between the two throughout, particularly a conversation where they discuss Martha Stewart.
For being a third sequel in a reputable slasher series, it is amazing some of the talent they were able to get. Director Ronny Yu is highly-acclaimed in China, and this is his American debut. Tilly is almost always a wonderful actress (and has even been nominated for an Academy Award), and she brings a lot of energy to the first act of the film, when she is in human form. The cinematography by Peter Pau is richly textured and well-done.
But if you look at "Bride of Chucky" as a horror film, which it is, that is where the film fails. There is so much zaniness in the story and dialogue that it is not the least bit scary or suspenseful (except for one scene involving Tilly and Alexis Arquette, as her gothic boyfriend). The movie also never takes off the way it should, and although it was surely on its way to getting to that next plateau, it never made it because it was simply too abrupt. If you are looking for a scary horror film during this Halloween season, then my recommendation would be to see "Urban Legend," which is far, far better. Although the filmmakers wanted "Bride of Chucky" to be more along the lines of recent genre-bending horror flicks, such as "Scream," what they basically have made is yet another 80's slasher film. You know, the type that usually wouldn't even get grandma's ticker going.
©1998 by Dustin Putman