Take a Drink: at every self-referential piece of dialogue.
Take a Drink: every time Tiffany starts a sentence with “my mother always said…”
Take a Drink: at every Martha Stewart mention.
Take a Drink: whenever there is a reference to another horror franchise.
Take a Drink: every time Chucky and Tiffany bicker like an old married couple.
Do a Shot: for every kill.
By: BabyRuth (Two Beers) –
By the mid-nineties, the horror landscape had gotten pretty stale. Most of the slasher franchises that ruled the eighties were several sequels in and beginning to feel tired. Audiences were getting bored too and box office numbers were down. Then in 1996, Scream changed everything forever with the meta-horror (though 1986’s April Fool’s Day and 1994’s Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, both criminally underrated, deserve a mention as well). Self-aware while still following the rules it satirized, Scream reinvigorated the horror genre.
One franchise ripe for a revamping was the Child’s Play series featuring everybody’s favorite killer doll, Chucky. By the second sequel, the formula was starting to feel played out with Chucky once again terrorizing Andy, this time following him to military school. Creator Don Mancini wisely decided to not only take Andy out of the equation for the follow-up but to completely overhaul the series.
Bride of Chucky begins shortly after the events of Child Play 3. As you may remember (or not, because the actual time between films was seven years) Chucky (Brad Dourif) is in pieces after once again biting it, this time in a giant fan. His remains are stored in an evidence room (keep your eye out for some of the other items) and are stolen by a corrupt cop. Someone wants those doll parts and is willing to pay. The officer meets his briber and his demise while we meet Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly), the girlfriend of Charles Lee Ray, the serial killer whose spirit inhabits Chucky.
After sewing the shredded doll back together, Tiffany uses a handy “Voodoo for Dummies” guide to resurrect Chucky. Chucky and Tiff are like peas and carrots once again but the reunion quickly goes sour once Tiffany learns Chucky had no intention of proposing to her before his death. Infuriated, she decides to keep Chucky locked up like a pet. Chucky soon breaks free and gets his revenge, killing Tiffany and transferring her soul into a female bride doll.
Still more wholesome-looking than a Bratz Doll.
The two must then work together to get the Heart of Damballa amulet, which Ray was wearing at the time of his death and is buried with him. This amulet will allow Chucky and Tiffany to transfer their souls into human bodies.
But where to find two human bodies, not to mention a ride to the cemetery in Hackensack, New Jersey?
Katherine Heigl’s best film.
Two dumb teenagers, of course! Tiffany’s neighbor Jessie (Nick Stabile) and his girlfriend Jade (a young Katherine Heigl) are looking to escape Jade’s overprotective police officer uncle (the always wonderful and gone too soon John Ritter) and jump at the chance to drive two dolls to New Jersey for a couple grand (via Tiffany’s phone request).
Along the way, the body count begins to add up and Jesse and Jade start to suspect each other of the crimes. Who else could be committing all these murders?
This film split fans of the franchise into two groups – those that loved the switch to a more self-aware, comedic movie and those that hated it and felt it betrayed the tone of the first three films. The ones that hate it are wrong. Bride of Chucky is goddamn genius and not only the best of the series, but one of the best horror-comedies of all time.
This is what I say to anyone that disagrees.
The thing with Chucky is that in addition to being terrifying, he’s also funny. The whole idea is funny. A maniacal, foul-mouthed, two-foot living doll running around and slashing people is a silly concept and it lends itself to comedy very well.
(Photo Credit: Sue Schneider_MGP Agency)
The man behind it all, Don Mancini, deserves a huge toast for realizing this potential. He knew taking the beloved series in a new direction was a huge risk. But he had faith in his vision, his fans, and in everyone involved in the making of this movie.
That “everyone” is led, of course, by Brad Dourif, who as always, does phenomenal voice-work as Chucky. He gets a lot more dialogue and funny zingers than in the past and runs with them in the way only he can. And Chucky gets more to do than just kill. He has an actual relationship and partner in crime this time around.
Which leads me to Jennifer Tilly. The wonderful, luminous, amazing, Jennifer Tilly. This is the role she was born to play. She’s fantastic as both human and doll characters and is a perfect addition to the Chucky universe. Tiffany is a vicious, demented person, yet there’s a sympathetic quality to her that makes her likeable. Tilly’s voice acting gets all this across masterfully, making Tiffany a surprisingly layered character.
The chemistry between Tilly and Dourif, and strange as it sounds, between Chucky and Tiffany: the dolls, is what makes this movie so great. The pair is so brilliant together it almost makes the viewer root for the bad guys because it’s so much fun to watch them interact that you don’t want it to end.
The humor is smart and most of the jokes hit. There are some inspired bits with Chucky coaching newly reincarnated Tiffany on how to convincingly act like a doll. The shot of the two “acting natural” is a laugh out loud moment. Later, Tiffany criticizes Chucky’s old school methods of killing. “For god’s sake Chucky, drag yourself into the 90s. Stabbings went out with Bundy and Dahmer.”
The film even has a few sweet moments, twisted, but sweet. When Chucky finally declares his love for Tiffany after she commits an impressive and grisly kill, it’s more emotionally genuine than anything in a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. And then there’s the sex scene, hilariously ad-libbed by Dourif and Tilly, which I’d be willing to bet gave Matt Stone and Trey Parker the idea for a similar scene years later in Team America: World Police.
I’m not sure what it says about me that I thought this was romantic.
But at its core, this is still a horror movie, and a damn good one at that. The killings are inventive and gory enough to satisfy slasher fans. There’s a great surprise moment that still makes me jump even knowing when it’s coming.
The human co-stars all fit in well too. It’s unfair to pair Katherine Heigl and Nick Stabile with the scene-stealing Dourif and Tilly, but they are suitably effective as our two lovestruck heroes. The late John Ritter seems to have a blast with his character. Alexis Arquette is hilarious as Tiffany’s dim-witted goth suitor. Gordon Michael Woolvett plays Jesse and Jade’s friend David, the most likeable person in the movie, and it’s refreshing to see a gay character in the horror genre (and not be the butt of a joke).
The animatronics and puppetry are impressive even 16 years later, and are such a treat to watch in these days of lazy CGI. It’s also a great-looking film, more stylized than previous installments, likely due to the involvement of Hong Kong director Ronny Yu, known mostly at the time for martial arts films (he went on to direct Freddy vs. Jason).
Finally, the music perfectly matches the tone of the film. From the beginning credits set to Rob Zombie’s “Living Dead Girl”, to Blondie’s “Call Me” makeover montage, the rock/metal soundtrack works well with the dark, sleek, visuals and overall attitude of the film. I’d even put it beside the soundtracks of The Crow and Singles as one of the best of the 90s.
I know, I know, the Heart of Damballa amulet doesn’t exist in the realm of the first three movies.
Whatever. It’s a MacGuffin. I’ll give it a beer for the purists, but anyone that would let it take away from the sheer joy that this film is needs to lighten up.
Or light up.
I wholeheartedly, unabashedly, unironically, LOVE this movie. It’s just what the series needed at the time and has aged extremely well. It’s a smart self-aware comedy, a slasher pic, a road-trip buddy film, and even a love story, all in one, and somehow it works on every single level. Like Scream, it expertly mocks the genre while still respecting it. It’s one of those fun movies you can watch over and over again (which I do, especially this time of year).