Reviewing a Cult Franchise – Bride of Chucky (1998)

OK, so it’s been 7 years. ‘Scream’ has come out and smart, self-referential horror is all across the board and doing really well so when it came time to do the fourth Child’s Play film, ‘smart and self-referential’ seemed to be the place to go. Remember the formula for franchises? I written about this before but for new comers who are only here to read about psychotic, killer dolls, I give you the run down.

The first film in a franchise achieves two things. First, it gives the audience a look into the property and two, shows studios the potential for a sequel with the following gained from point one. The second film uses the inevitable bigger budget to expand/continue the story and when the second film is successful, the third film gets a bit too cocky and fucks everything up but they assume that the film will be successful because of the previous two and any failings will be defended by the fan-base. The key is to spot when the films stop being about making a great film and start becoming about money. It’s usually around the third film when the glaring issues start appearing. If the fourth film isn’t a reboot then it becomes around re-kindling the lost audience from the third film and is usually, generally considered to be the best. ‘Bride of Chucky’ was just that.

Plot time.

‘Bride of Chucky’ takes place around ten years after the events of the first film but the events of ‘Child’s Play 2’ and ‘Child’s Play 3’ are suspiciously absent. The only point of continuity present is that the Chucky doll is cut up into pieces from being chopped up by a fan at the end of ‘Child’s Play 3’. Chucky’s dismembered doll is retrieved from the police by Chucky’s former girlfriend, Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly) who stitches the doll back together and performs the bizarre ritual that will return the soul of Charles Lee Ray into the body of the doll. Tiffany is successful and Chucky is revived but their relationship soon turns sour and Chucky kills Tiffany before placing her soul into a ‘bridal-gown clad’ doll.

Meanwhile, Tiffany’s neighbour, Jesse (Nick Stabile) is desperate to marry his girlfriend, Jade (Katherine Heigl) and take her away from her tyrannical, Policeman Chief uncle, Warren (John Ritter). When Chucky and Tiffany need to travel to New Jersey to receive the ‘Heart of Dhambala’, Jesse agrees to transport the dolls, briefly unaware that they are alive. Taking Jade on the road with him, the trail of bodies left behind by Chucky and Tiffany gain the couple some unwanted attention.

The first thing to say about this film is that this was the first film that experimented with the concept of comedy and making Chucky more of a humorous character. This was done in the correct manner by having the comedy come from Chucky and Tiffany and having the surrounding characters playing it straight and being bewildered at the

One way this was achieved was the form of the aforementioned ‘self-referencing’ type of humour. A classic example is the moment when John Ritter’s character is ‘killed’ by Tiffany via several nails to the face, Chucky looks at his body and says ‘Why does that look so familiar?’. Obviously without a visual reference, I’ll just say that the line is a reference to ‘Pinhead’ from ‘Hellraiser’. But if you’ve seen the film then obviously you’ll get the joke. Rather than listing every single example, I’ll go for the largest reference and that’s in Jesse’s van just after Chucky and Tiffany reveal they are both living dolls. Jesse asks Tiffany, ‘How did you end up like this?’ and Chucky responds ‘It’s a long story. In fact if this were a movie, it would take three or four sequels just to do it justice.’.

The most interesting aspect of this instalment of the franchise is the implementation of Tiffany as a recurring character. Of course, they didn’t know that she would be a returning character but it’s not surprising why she is.

When we first meet Tiffany, she’s killing a police officer who she’s blagged into retrieving Chucky’s body from evidence and immediately we know that she’s completely psychotic. We later learn that she is the ‘never before mentioned’ girlfriend of Charles Lee Ray and has been obsessed with the news reports about the events of the first film. It’s then clear that she’s taken the doll so she can ‘resurrect’ Charles Lee Ray and they can continue where they left off.

It’s clear right from the get-go that this franchise in particular is one that no one is meant to think about to strongly. The mythology alone is fairly flimsy but it worked well in ‘Child’s Play’. The amulet or the ‘Heart of Dhambala’ was used to pass Charles Lee Ray’s soul into the ‘Good Guy’ doll so he could escape death and he needed to transfer his soul into a human before he was stuck like that forever. It’s a bit flimsy but works as a good motivator for Chucky. Having said that, I think that the mythology does get broken a bit in this film.

For example, Tiffany resurrects Chucky at the beginning without the amulet and Chucky does the same when he kills Tiffany. With this in mind, why do they need to retrieve that amulet so they can transfer their souls into Jesse and Jade? Does the ritual only work without the amulet on inanimate objects?

Another thing that I just thought of. Why was the amulet buried with Charles Lee Ray’s body? Wouldn’t it have been entered into evidence by the police? You can think too much about these things.

Back to the point.

I think that a large part of why Tiffany was such a successful character was down to the performance by Jennifer Tilly. She brings a sweetness to the role that means that even when Tiffany is doing horrible things, it’s Jennifer Tilly and it’s so hard to not like Jennifer Tilly. The thing about Tiffany is that she has two rather conflicting character traits. On the one hand, she’s very much a romantic. She clung to Chucky for ten years after he was killed because she thought that they were engaged even though that turned out not to be the case. She loves the idea of being married and having a big, fancy, church wedding and seems to want a normal, domestic life if it weren’t for her other glaring character trait which is that she loves killing which you’d think would make Chucky and Tiffany a perfect match. In her own words, ‘I’ll kill anyone but I’ll only sleep with someone I love’. Even her … I wouldn’t even say ‘boyfriend’… ‘acquaintance’, Damien (Alexis Arquette) is desperate for her approval but it doesn’t seem that she’ll sleep with him until he kills someone.

Honestly, the only part I don’t like about this film is Katherine Heigl. I know that she’s become a big star in comedies now but I don’t think she was right for this film. She seems disengaged from the film and as though she’s not that interested. There’s not a great range of emotions being displayed. She’s got the ‘horror movie scream’ down to a fine art but as for the rest of her performance, I’m not that enamoured with it.

As for Nick Stabile, his performance was fairly in-offensive. He was a good romantic lead although it seemed to me that he looked too old to be playing a high school senior.

Back to Chucky and Tiffany

Don Mancini has stated in interviews that ‘Bride of Chucky’ was a parody of romantic comedies and none is this comparison more finer than in the ‘sex scene’. This is about as weird as the film gets. After Tiffany kills a scheming couple (of course), Chucky is overcome with emotion and proposes where-after, Tiffany discovers that she can shed tears. They both find out that they can have sex and proceed to ‘consummate their relationship’ in front of a roaring fire and in silhouette. Did I say that this was the weirdest part of the film? Well I was wrong. The weirdest part comes at the end.

After Chucky ‘kills’ Tiffany and Jade shoots Chucky to death, they are found by a Lieutenant who declares them innocent and sends them on their way. As he approaches Tiffany, she springs to life and screams in agony as a tiny, bloody, plastic creature appears from under her dress and attacks the Lieutenant. If we’re going to talk about breaking the mythology then surely conceiving a child is out of the question. Nevertheless, it happened and it leads onto the next film in the franchise, ‘Seed of Chucky (2005).

With a budget of $25 Million, ‘Bride of Chucky’ made $50.7 Million at the box office and generally more well received than ‘Child’s Play 3’.

For what it’s worth. I really liked ‘Bride of Chucky’. It was funny and scary and successfully introduced a new character who was popular with fans and would appear in future films. I don’t know what more you want me to say? Except that maybe you should check out my book that I wrote and is really good. And written by me. Did I mention that?

 

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