Starring: Paul Le Mat, William Hickey, Irene Miracle, Jimmie F Skaggs, Robin Frates, Matt Roe
“Metaphysically speaking, I killed myself.” (Neil, Puppet Master)
Over the past few months many of my reviews have been dedicated to films by Full Moon, one of my favourite B-movie studios.
Full Moon were responsible for a raft of low-budget 80s and 90s horror films and while the majority were as atrocious as you’d expect (hence exhibits A, B, C, D and E here), every so often they’d come up trumps with a gem.
Starring: Carrie Lorraine, Ian Patrick Williams, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Guy Rolfe, Hilary Mason, Stephen Lee, Bunty Bailey, Cassie Stewart
RALPH – “You know, I can remember every toy I had as a kid.”
GABRIEL – “And they remember you, Ralph. Toys are very loyal, and that is a fact.”
This may appear to be your fairly bog-standard review of a cheesy ’80s horror film, but for me this review is a confrontation of my childhood fears and a firm “up yours” to many a sleepless night.
You see, when I was a young sprog of around five or six, I used to go with my dad to the local library to rent videos. Usually I’d end up with something suitably child-friendly but for at least a year there was a cardboard standee in the corner that used to scare the living piss out of me.
The offending display simply showed the poster image you see to the side of this text. The word ‘Dolls‘, along with an image of a doll holding its eyeballs in the air. It was also accompanied by the UK VHS tagline: “They want to play with you”.
Starring: Jennifer Tilly, Katherine Heigl, John Ritter, voice of Brad Dourif
Jesse: “How’d you end up like this?” Tiffany: “It’s a long story.” Chucky: “Let me put it this way. If it were a movie, it would probably take three or four sequels to do it justice.”
A lot can change in seven years. When Child’s Play 3 was released in 1991 the idea of a killer doll was still considered scary. By the time Chucky’s fourth film went into production however horror was in its post-Scream phase and slasher films were being taken less seriously when their killers were human, let alone a tiny ginger plastic midget. Chucky would have stood no chance as a convincing horror star anymore had his fourth film stuck to the super-serious Child’s Play formula, so things would have to change.
And so, rather than following the tried-and-tested “Chucky stalks a young child” routine as seen in the previous three Child’s Play movies, Bride Of Chucky instead became a knowing, tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating movie that knew audiences wouldn’t take killer dolls seriously anymore and so chose not to take itself seriously either.
The film opens with Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly), an ex-girlfriend of Chucky’s when he was still a human, tracking down the remains of the Chucky doll and bringing them home. After performing voodoo on the doll and bringing Chucky back to life, she tells him she’s going to help him find a human body so they can finally get married like they’d planned. Problem is there’s been a little misunderstanding and Chucky never wanted to get married, so a dejected Tiffany locks Chucky in a cage, vowing to keep him in his doll form.
After breaking loose, Chucky decides to give Tiffany a taste of her own medicine and voodoos her soul into the body of a bride doll. The plastic pair grudgingly form an alliance to seek out the corpse of Charles Lee Ray (Chucky’s original form) so they can find the amulet he was buried with and use its power to turn them both human again.
Whereas the Child’s Play trilogy played things out with a stony-faced solemnity as if it were Cape Fear, Bride Of Chucky knows it’s a bit mental and because of this it’s far funnier than Chucky’s previous films. The one-liners come thick and fast and the characters of Chucky and Tiffany play well off each other. They’re an odd couple both literally and figuratively – Tiffany wants a happy home where she bakes cookies for her loving man, while Chucky is a foul-mouthed sleazeball who doesn’t have a romantic bone in his plastic body – so it’s fun watching their personalities clash.
Humour aside, Bride Of Chucky’s level of violence is also brought killing and screaming into the late ‘90s. At one point being told his traditional knife is “too ‘80s”, Chucky is encouraged to improvise new ways of offing his foes and this results in some interesting kills. Safe to say you’ll never sleep in a water bed, break into a car or step into the middle of the motorway again – though if you do the latter you’re sort of asking for it anyway.
Bride Of Chucky may not be to everyone’s taste but it’s really the best direction the series could have taken. Chucky just wasn’t scary anymore by the time this went into production (though the upcoming Child’s Play remake may change that) and so it’s ultimately better to get audiences laughing with him than laughing at him. With this change in tone, what could have become an ‘80s slasher character long forgotten among the Leprechauns, Critters and Ghoulies of this world is now a cult hero among genre fans, with merchandise up the wazoo and a horde of followers. Bride Of Chucky was a big risk but, as the film’s poster says, Chucky got lucky.