Monday, November 12, 2012

WINTER OF DISCONTENT: Bride of Chucky


Poor old Jesse (Nick Stabile). All he wants to do is skip town with his poor-little-rich-girl sweetheart Jade (Katherine Heigl) and leave behind his trailer park roots. Hell, he’s so hung up on the girl that he even turns down the buxom charms of white trash cougar Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly). But there are obstacles. The chief one being Jade’s uncle and legal guardian Warren Kincaid (John Ritter). And chief is the operative word. The dude’s chief of police. Obstacles two and three are: Norton (Michael Louis Johnson), Kincaid’s deputy who’s been assigned ongoing hassle Jesse duties; and Jesse’s total lack of funds.

Still, Tiffany’s not so miffed at Jesse’s rejection that she can’t offer him $1,000 to drive a couple of dolls from her oddball collection across country, and Jesse eagerly seizes upon the opportunity, finally convincing Jade to run away with him. Only, whaddaya know, there’s another obstacle. See, Tiffany’s been electrocuted in the bath by this point and her soul has transferred into a squat, ugly talking bride doll …


It should come as no surprise between the title and the synopsis above that Tiffany happens to be the former consort of one Charles Lee Ray, a gentleman of psychotic temperament who similarly found his essence trapped in the limited physicality of a plastic doll in Tom Holland’s superlative character drama grubby little slasher ‘Child’s Play’.

The ‘Child’s Play’ franchise limped along for three instalments, winding up with no small degree of contrivance at a military academy, before it received a thorough (and thoroughly unjustified) castigation at the hands of the British press after the gut-wrenchingly horrible killing, in 1993, of two-year-old James Bulger by two boys who were only ten years of age themselves. Just as the tabloids led a witch-hunt against ‘First Blood’ after the Hungerford massacre six years earlier – without any real evidence – so ‘Child’s Play 3’ bore the brunt of tabloid proselytizing and calls for it to be banned.

The seven-year hiatus between ‘Child’s Play 3’ and the revival of the saga with ‘Bride of Chucky’ speaks for itself. Ditto the jettisoning of the ‘Child’s Play’ brand the elevation of Chucky’s name to title-card identifier.


Oh, and there’s also the matter of writer Don Mancini (who has had a creative hand in all the Chucky films to date) re-imagining the whole thing as outright comedy. Sure, Chucky had dealt in pithy one-liners – what stalk ‘n’ slash anti-hero debuting in the 80s didn’t? – but the first three opuses were generally played straight.

Mancini and director Ronnie Yu did us all a favour conceiving of ‘Bride of Chucky’ as a delivery system for bad taste laughs. And they played a blinder in casting Jennifer Tilly. Although Tiffany is consigned to the bride doll’s body less than a third of the way into the film and her performance – like Brad Dourif’s as Chucky – is thereafter voice-over work, her live action turn for those first twenty five minutes is a showstopper. And even afterwards, her verbal sparring with Dourif is priceless.


Stabile and Heigl, however, are bland. Fortunately, Ritter and Johnson as their badge-and-gun wearing nemeses are suitably hissable. Chucky’s targeting of Chief Kincaid gives the film is best visual pun, an homage to 80s horror that is foreshadowed in an enjoyably over-egged evidence room theft sequence early in the film which tips its hat to Jason, Michael and Freddy.

The popularity of ‘Bride of Chucky’ led – inevitably, given the icky final reel hint as to the direction a follow-up might take – to a fifth outing, a few years later: ‘Seed of Chucky’. Then it was all quiet on the killer doll front for almost a decade. But the sneeringly murderous li’l fella’s back next year, though early word suggests (unpromisingly) that it’ll be a DTV release, in ‘Curse of Chucky’. “Chucky’s so Eighties,” someone scornfully, and unwisely, observes after clapping eyes on the doll. That’s as maybe, and his filmography is intermittent at best, but with the Chuckmeister about to embrace his fourth decade as a bona fide genre icon there’s no doubting his durability.

2 comments:

The Film Connoisseur said...

I think this one is one of my favorite of the whole franchise, it's got laughs, action, gore...and it moves at a brisk pace, agree, they did the right thing by going down the comedy route. I liked the serious tone of the first one, but its just that Chucky is a character that is perfect for one liners and jokes within the horror context. I actually kind of miss characters like these in horror movies!

Neil Fulwood said...

Agreed. There's a lot of jokes in the movie about Chucky being "so Eighties", but I'll admit it left me a bit nostalgic for the traditional 80s horror movie villain with a flare for inventive killing and an inexhaustible supply of one-liners.