Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 14, 2019)
For better or for worse, I grew up the "Golden Age" of slasher movies. From Halloween in 1978 through Friday the 13th in 1980 and A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984, I was in pretty much the prime viewing demographic when these notables and many other wannabes hit the screens.
For a time, I enjoyed these kinds of horror films, but as the decade rolled on, the genre started to fade. New series like Child’s Play infused some life into the ailing 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. That film offered horror for the postmodern ironic 1990s.
As with so much of the 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, as 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. The latter definitely reflected the new "wink-wink-nudge-nudge" bent of horror films in the post-Scream era, so it clearly brought Chucky firmly into the era’s standards.
After his murderous antics in prior movies, authorities hold the dismembered remains of the Chucky doll (Brad Dourif) under lock and key. In his human form, Chucky paired with girlfriend Tiffany Valentine (Jennifer Tilly), and she manages to stitch him back together and restore his life.
Tiffany believes Chucky wanted to marry her, but he rejects that notion. Irate over this, Tiffany keeps Chucky confined to a playpen and taunts him with a “bride doll” as a friend.
Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t sit well with Chucky. He escapes from his prison, murders Tiffany and gets her spirit sucked into the female doll. The pair then embark on a violent mission to restore their souls to human bodies.
While Bride 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 strong cast who provided solid performances across the board.
Bride, on the other hand, lacks in both regards, and 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.
These include the masks worn by Friday’s Jason and Halloween’s Michael. While cute, this doesn’t seem 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. Bride offers just more of the same "mysterious killer" nonsense.
Scream gave us strong and memorable characters as the killer's prey. Bride provides John Ritter and some attractive but generic teens, none of whom ever develop the audience’s interest.
A lot of the charm of the original Child's Play revolved around the anachronistic qualities of the killer. In that film, we we found a cute doll who did and said some rather unpleasant things.
Bride ups the ante by giving us two dolls, a sign the filmmakers felt desperate for inspiration. Rule of thumb: whenever a series adds a major character, it means they're short on ideas.
Now that Tiffany's in the fold, it allows us to see all sorts of wacky doll antics. There she is, 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! Wacky!
At least Bride goes down a different narrative path than the first three. We finally get no sign of Andy, the tormented boy from those flicks, and the story heads down different avenues.
In addition, Bride offers a professional piece of work, and director Ronny Yu does what he can to make it go. Unfortunately, it's a flat piece of cheese.
Brad Dourif and Jennifer Tilly offer some decent voice work, but it's not enough. They should have left Chucky in the lock up.