Reviewed by Colin Jacobson
Special Edition DVD
Universal, widescreen 1.85:1/16x9, languages: English DD 5.1 [CC], French Dolby Surround, subtitles: Spanish, single side-single layer, 18 chapters, rated R, 89 min., $24.98, street date 3/23/99.
Directed by Ronny Yu. Starring Jennifer Tilly, Katherine Heigl, Nick Stabile, John Ritter, Alexis Arquette, Gordon Woolvett.
For ten years, the tortured soul of serial killer Charles Lee Ray has been imprisoned inside a child's doll. "Chucky" is reborn when his old flame, Tiffany rescues his battered doll parts from a police impound. But Chucky wants his new playmate cut down to size, so he transforms his blushing bride into a stunning little terror. Chucky and Tiffany can't wait to start their own homicidal honeymoon. When this demonic duo hits the road and hooks up with a pair of unsuspecting newlyweds, they leave a trail of murder and mayhem behind them. Chucky's back!
For better or for worse, I grew up during what seems to have been the "Golden Age" of slasher movies. From Halloween in 1978, through Friday the Thirteenth in 1980 and A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984, I was in pretty much the prime viewing demographic as these notables and many other wannabes hit the screens throughout the 1980s.
For a time, I enjoyed these kinds of horror films. Hell, the original Friday... gave me nightmares; that scene at the end where the woman's head gets chopped off freaked me out big time! However, as the decade rolled on, the genre started to fade. New series like Child's Play infused some new life into the body, but as the 1990s started, the slasher genre was pretty much dead.
However, that started to change in 1996 with the release of Scream. This film offered horror for the postmodern ironic Nineties; as with so much of this decade's creative work, it made the concept that the audience was in on the gag part of its appeal. And it succeeded in that regard; Scream was a lot of fun, both as a comedy and as a horror film, and it sparked a mini-resurgence in the genre.
As such, some of the old stalwarts came rushing back into the fold. 1998 saw two sequels to long-dormant series: Halloween H2O and Bride of Chucky. I didn't see the former, but the latter definitely reflected the new "wink-wink-nudge-nudge" bent of horror films in the post-Scream era; this film, the fourth in the Child's Play series, clearly brought Chucky firmly into the Nineties.
I saw at least the first two (and maybe the third) of that series, but it's been so long that I honestly can't provide my thoughts about them. I think I liked the first one okay, but felt that the second one lacked quality. But who knows? It's been about a decade, so your guess is almost as good as mine!
Anyway, this lack of historical remembrance makes it impossible for me to directly compare Bride of Chucky to its predecessors. However, I can definitely say that on its own, it's not much of a movie.
Part of the problem is that while BOC pays lip service to the new ironic method of filmmaking, it still looks like the same old schlock. Scream succeeded because it delighted in the genre's conventions while it mocked them. It also offered a very strong cast who provided solid performances across the board.
BOC, on the other hand, lacks in both regards. Its attempts to demonstrate self-knowledge generally fall flat. For example, at the start of the film we see a police evidence room, and we're shown an array of materials; included in these are the masks worn by Jason of Friday... and Michael of Halloween. Cute, but not terribly witty. A few more self-referential examples happen throughout the film, but not enough to alter the movie's more traditional arc.
Again, Scream celebrated the conventions of horror movies while it also stood them on their ears. BOC offers just more of the same "mysterious killer/let's all just run away" crap. Scream gave us strong and memorable characters as the killer's prey; BOC provides John Ritter and some pretty but generic teens. Okay, Katherine Heigl is extremely hot (no nude scenes, though - DAMN!) but other than that, I could not have cared less about her or any of the other characters.
A lot of the charm of the original Child's Play movie revolved around the anachronistic qualities of the killer. Here was this cute doll who did and said some rather unpleasant things. BOC tries to up the ante by giving us TWO dolls; in addition to Chucky, we get his girlfriend, Tiffany.
There's your sign they were desperate. Rule of thumb: whenever a series adds a major character, it means they're short on ideas. Look what a huge roster Lethal Weapon 4 had, for God's sake! When Lucy had little Ricky, when Wilma had Pebbles, those were signs. They were signs from the writers saying "We don't know what to do! Give us some new characters!"
Now that Tiff's in the fold, it allows us to see all sorts of wacky doll antics. There she is, smoking! A DOLL, SMOKING? Wacky! Ooh, now Tiff and Chucky are GETTING IT ON!!! DOLLS? HAVING SEX? Wacky! She's cooking him dinner! NO WAY! DOLLS CAN'T EAT!!! But there it is!
Get my point? BOC is a pretty professionally done piece of work, and director Ronny Yu seems to do what he can to make it go, but it's a flat piece of cheese. Brad Dourif and Jennifer Tilly offer some decent voice work, but it's too little, too late. They should have left Chucky in the lock up.
As is so depressingly often the case, a bad movie has inspired a pretty terrific DVD. (I can hear the Kubrick fans moaning about their fate already! "A Clockwork Orange gets the shaft, but Bride of Chucky gets the deluxe treatment??!!") First of all, the image presented in BOC looks thoroughly terrific. I could detect no real flaws. It's extremely sharp and clean, with not a pinch of grain in sight. Colors are always accurate and vivid, and the print looked pristine. It's a very fine picture.
The DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is also very good, but more of a mixed bag. It sounds great. All audio is very clear and natural, and it uses the front soundstage broadly and effectively. The rear channels are also utilized pretty actively and a nicely enveloping image results.
My chief complaint stems from the fact that as far as I could tell, there was virtually no split surround usage in this mix. While the rears were active, they appeared to be mono. If any stereo surround usage actually occurs, it's so minimal to be unnoticeable; I know that because I didn't notice any! Audio from the rears also seemed a little more limited than the sound from the fronts. While it's generally a pretty effective mix, a 1998 major studio film should not sound like a glorified Dolby Pro Logic rendition, and that's the impression I got from this movie.
While they apparently don't consider it one of their "Collector's Edition" DVDs, Universal nonetheless have provided a pretty decent batch of supplements for BOC. Easily of the most interest here are the DVD's two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Ronny Yu, and the second includes actors Jennifer Tilly and Brad Dourif and producer/series creator Don Mancini.
Unquestionably, that second commentary is the more interesting of the two. It's really quite delightful, mostly because Tilly helps move things along with lots of fun anecdotes; without her, the track wouldn't have been half as good. Yu's commentary is much drier and more technical, and there are far too many pauses between his comments. It's not a bad track, but it's not very good, either.
In addition, BOC provides a ten minute featurette called "Spotlight on Location." As is generally the case with these programs, this is essentially a glorified trailer, a brief puff piece to promote the film. Nonetheless, it's a bit more interesting and informative than most, and it's worth a look.
The DVD also features a fair amount of printed material on the disc itself. Best of the bunch is Jennifer Tilly's "diary" from the shoot. It's a lot of fun as Tilly writes about various aspects of making the film. It's certainly a nice change from the usual dry production notes. Those are here, too, and they provide a little additional insight into the creation of the picture.
Also given is a "History of Chucky," which offers plot overviews for each of the first three movies; this was a nice touch, and very helpful for those of us who haven't seen them in quite a while. Interesting (?) thought: I noticed that the boy who owned Chucky in the first film (and who was terrorized by Chucky in each of the first two sequels as well) was named Andy. Now, as I watched BOC, I couldn't help but think about that other (vastly superior) "toys comes to life" movie, Toy Story. The name of the boy in it? Andy! Coincidence? Maybe, but I doubt it.
Finally, BOC contains those old standbys: the cast and crew biographies and a theatrical trailer. The bios are decent but nothing unusually strong, and the trailer's okay. Actually, the DVD includes two trailers. You can access the preview for BOC through the main "special features" menu, but there's also a clip for Child's Play 2 hidden in Brad Dourif's bio. Why they tossed in that one but not the ads for 1 or 3, I have no idea, but at least they gave us this one.
Based on the film itself, I cannot recommend Bride Of Chucky. It's a dumb movie that offers far too few moments of wit and creativity to raise it above the normal horror film dreck. Universal have presented it in the form of a pretty nice DVD, however, so if you don't care what I think and you just want to make sure the DVD doesn't suck, then go ahead and get it. Otherwise, you'd be well advised to pass by this one. The fun commentary with Tilly, et al., adds to the DVD's appeal, but the film itself is a dud.
Current as of 7/14/99
Official Site--A typical movie site with sections on the story, cast, photos & clips, and soundtrack.