The fourth proves to be the best
Bride of Chucky
Before I start getting a slew of e-mails bashing me personally for liking this movie (let alone loving it), I want to say that Child's Play was the first horror/slasher film I'd ever seen. When I was a kid, my parents wouldn't allow me to watch any R-rated film. However, one day, I managed to sneak a peek at a horror film, which I had always dreamed of. My friend's parents had a copy of Child's Play and we snuck downstairs for a private viewing of our first R-rated film. To this day, I have feared any sort of doll (not a phobia, mind you). The original frightened me in a way that I had not been used to. Many kids have wild imaginations that can scare them, but the first entry into this series affected me... I was to love the horror genre forever.
And with the rating above, I in no way mean that this film is just as good as, say, Saving Private Ryan. I base my reviews on the merits of the genre that the film falls in. The horror genre has gotten a bad wrap, and is deemed a much worse category than any other (I believe even porn is held up higher). But for me, the horror/slasher genre is a dream come true. It scares you. It knows how to scare you, and it does it well. But BRIDE OF CHUCKY is different. It doesn't use the "jump" moments we all know and tend to love. Instead, it relies on a build of suspense that will make you nervous enough not to even go to sleep at night. That's why I love the horror genre. A drama can't keep you up at night. Neither can a comedy. But a horror film... prepare to be scared.
Critics will definitely bash this film. Heck, it's pretty much screwed itself without a screening for critics prior to its release. But let's face it: have critics ever liked the Child's Play series? It managed to grow into popularity with its cheesy premise and a frightening aspect: a doll was the killer. This is the 90s, so most horror films need to have a mysterious killer. Who could it be? Scream started it, and it continued on. But BRIDE OF CHUCKY needs no mystery because the film revolves around one killer whom everyone has heard of. It's the same as Freddy Krueger, Jason, and Mike Myers. So it is a completely refreshing thing to see a film that doesn't pretend that it will surprise us in the end. We know how it will end and who will prevail. "Getting there is half the fun?" you say. No... getting there is virtually all the fun with this movie.
BRIDE OF CHUCKY begins with a cop breaking into the evidence room and stealing a bag from a locker. In the bag, well, it's Chucky of course. He takes it to a raspy-voiced woman who slits his throat so she won't have to pay him. Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly) reaches into the bag and removes the almost-unrecognizable Chucky doll. Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif, seen in Urban Legend at the beginning of the movie) is stitched up and brought back to life for more terror and bloodshed. However, after he kills Tiffany, she joins him as a doll--a Tiffany doll. First she hates the idea, but soon she begins to think it may not be so bad after all. Despite the joy of being killer dolls, they would rather be humans. In order to accomplish this, they need two humans and an amulet. The amulet is buried with Chucky's human body in a small town in New Jersey. The two humans, however, are even easier to come by.
Jade (Katherine Heigl) and Jesse (Nick Stabile) are in love but her uncle Warren (John Ritter) doesn't like him (gee, that's original). Their best friend, David (Gordon Michael Woolvett), helps them get together, although he's having relationship problems himself with his boyfriend (rather, ex-boyfriend). Warren is the chief of police and controls Jade by using the police force to make sure she doesn't see him. Meanwhile, in a rather convenient plot point, Jesse is being hit on by Tiffany, who loves his body and not much else. But Jesse is planning on marrying Jade, and he gets his chance when Tiffany (as a doll) asks him to deliver two dolls to a cemetery. He picks up Jade and they leave together, unknowing of the danger lurking in their very van.
If this all sounds familiar, it should. It's the same plots from the first three films. However, slasher sequels have never been known for changing a good thing, and BRIDE OF CHUCKY retains the merits of the first three films, drops the poor qualities, and adapts itself to the self-referential style that Scream made famous (despite popular belief, it did not originate that style). It is this comedic element that makes this Chucky film rise above the rest. The first three had humorous moments, but the films took themselves seriously. BRIDE OF CHUCKY goes a different route. Knowing that nobody would ever think of this as a serious horror film, screenwriter Don Mancini intentionally spoofs the series, including one hilarious line by Chucky himself: "If this were a movie, it'd take three or four sequels to tell my story." Another scene has Tiffany trying to resurrect Chucky, using a book entitled "Voodoo for Dummies" (an obvious spoof of the extensive collection of that series of books). In other words, if you dare go in expecting a Scream-like slasher movie, don't go in. If you want to be scared out of your wits, try something else. But if you want to have one of the most entertaining times you'll have at the theaters this year, this is a good choice.
One of the strongest points is the amount of gratuitous gore and violence. Many horror films these days use a lot of realistic violence and gore which tends to make the film more realistic than some people want. But BRIDE OF CHUCKY knows that fictional violence is a lot more entertaining to watch. For example, in one scene, one character has his lip ring ripped out and blood just pours out. It's very unrealistic, but it works in the context of the story. And that's the least gruesome of them all. Also in keeping with the 90s "morality" level, the film has no nudity, save the bare butt of a doll. That bare butt also leads to possibly the most hilarious portrayal of sex on screen. If you don't believe that the film doesn't take itself seriously, just think about the sight of watching two dolls have sex on camera. That alone should make people want to see this one. I haven't laughed that hard since Kingpin.
Director Ronny Yu (who did that awful Warriors of Virtue) is one of many Chinese directors coming to Hollywood. The most noticeable thing about Chinese directors is their astonishing visual sense. BRIDE OF CHUCKY is quite possibly the most viscerally exciting horror film since John Carpenter's Halloween. Filled with wonderful colors that are well known to populate Chinese films, the film sustains an atmosphere that seems almost ripped from the 40s film noir genre. The lighting is technically brilliant, especially in the opening scene as Chucky is introduced. Using black-and-white sensibilities, the lighting almost becomes a character itself. Jennifer Tilly holds the doll in front of her (a wonderfully framed shot, as well), and in the background are magnificent beams of light pouring through the windows. It looks a lot like Citizen Kane's scene in the records room. Yu knows how to work the camera, lighting, and every other technical aspect of a film. And he doesn't stop there. He manages to scare us in the midst of all this.
Katherine Heigl isn't a completely competent actress, but she does a nice job with the material presented to her. Sometimes wooden, but mostly at ease, she develops a character that is likable by both male and female. Newcomer Nick Stabile appeared in TV's "Sunset Beach" but he proves he has major star qualities and acting ability. Granted, horror films aren't likely to get him far, but he's got an impressive physique that Hollywood execs like so much. And he's talented to boot. Brad Dourif is the voice of Chucky, period. Full of attitude and incredibly smart wise-cracks, Dourif creates yet another memorable performance from a piece of plastic. But it is Jennifer Tilly who must balance the film, and she does a great job. Sometimes criticized by her voice alone, one only has to look at her impressive line of work to know she is very talented. An Oscar nomination for Bullets Over Broadway, and a perfect piece of acting in Bound, Tilly is one of the most consistent actresses in Hollywood. Any producer who lands her must be thankful. In smaller roles, John Ritter plays a more serious role, though he still is the worst of the cast. Gordon Michael Woolvett has the obligatory role, but he does it with such panache that liking him isn't hard. Woolvett gives the best performance in the film. And Alexis Arquette makes a brief appearance as a Gothic trying to get in bed with Tilly. Hmm... it's a horror film. I wonder what happens to him. But overall, this cast does a very good job with the material.
Despite the comedy, this is a gruesome horror movie, and that definitely shows. The murders are graphic and violent, and surprisingly original. But it isn't just the killings that are sickening. One birth sequence is extremely unsettling, while the sight of two dolls having sex on screen may make some squirm. And yes, this is definitely not a film for children. The murders themselves usually border the absurd. One involves a character stepping into oncoming freeway traffic and ends up getting splattered. But he doesn't just get hit... he literally explodes. It's a truly vile moment, one that had most people gasping in the theater.
BRIDE OF CHUCKY is rated R for extreme graphic horror violence and gore, language, and some sexual situation. Note the R rating. Do not let young kids see this film. It's an extremely unsettling experience and most kids will not understand the humor, leaving them shocked and frightened. Perhaps they will become critics, and they will like these types of films in the future. Nah... that could never happen. Could it?
**** out of ****
Reviews by Boyd Petrie