Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Chucky Week: 'Bride of Chucky' (1998)

If Child's Play 3 was evidence that Chucky creator Don Mancini was out of ideas, then Bride of Chucky finds him reinvigorated, with a new direction for the series and a new take on Chucky himself. Some fans were apparently annoyed at the overtly comedic tone of Bride, but for me it was the movie that really made me love the Chucky franchise. Before going back to the beginning for this project, I would have named Bride as my favorite Chucky movie, although now I think I prefer Child's Play 2, which has the strongest mix of humor, horror and visual style. Still, Bride is a lot of fun, and it introduces a great addition to the Chucky mythos in Jennifer Tilly's Tiffany.

It also jettisons poor Andy Barclay, which to me is a welcome change but was another thing that bothered some longtime fans. I found Andy to be an annoying wet blanket no matter which actor played him, so this movie's focus on the relationship between the Chucky and Tiffany dolls worked much better for me, since it meant that the human characters didn't have to carry the movie. Even so, Katherine Heigl and Nick Stabile as doomed teenage lovers Jade and Jesse are more compelling than Andy ever was, and their forbidden love is much more enjoyable to watch than the bland romance teenage Andy had in Child's Play 3.

But the movie really belongs to Jennifer Tilly as Tiffany. She's great as the overheated but ruthless sexpot in the first half hour when she's onscreen in the flesh, and she's also great as the voice of the Tiffany doll, who more fully embraces Chucky's homicidal worldview. Sure, Chucky's motivations for changing Tiffany into a doll in the first place are a little unclear, and sure, the entire plot hinges on an amulet that was never deemed important in the previous movies, but it's all just an excuse for silly one-liners and gruesome murders, anyway, so that didn't bother me too much.

It would be one more movie before Mancini finally got the chance to direct his own creation, but Hong Kong action director Ronny Yu does justice to Chucky, bringing some impressive visual flair to this chapter of the series. In addition to staging amusingly gruesome death scenes, Yu amps up the sense of dread and disorientation with a number of striking deep-focus shots, and he imbues the relationship between two animatronic dolls with genuine nastiness and intensity (aided by Tilly and, of course, Brad Dourif as Chucky).

Although there are plenty of winking references to other horror movies (especially in the opening shots of the police evidence locker that holds Chucky's remains, where accessories from other horror icons like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers are stored as well), Bride isn't a meta-horror film like Scream. It may be comedic, but it takes its own premise at face value, turning Chucky and Tiffany into antiheroes of a sort as they go on a killing spree that gets attributed to their hapless human hosts. Only at the very end does the movie return to the idea of Chucky (and now Tiffany, too) attempting to take over a human body, and it feels a little rote by this point. Mancini and the audience have figured out that Chucky is better off as a doll, and with his acceptance and embracing of Tiffany, it seems like maybe Chucky has, too.

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