Robert Horton is a Scarecrow board member and a longtime film critic. He will be contributing a series of “critic’s notes” to the Scarecrow blog—a chance to highlight worthy films playing locally and connecting them to the riches of Scarecrow’s collection.
Seasoned Ticket 196
Hello, Scarecrow Academy fans: We are reanimating the free online discussion series with a new semester, “The Art in Sci-Fi Part 2: Science Fiction and the Director.” We kick off this leg on Saturday October 22 at 2 pm Pacific Time with a conversation about James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein (1935), continuing in that time slot through December 10. This has inspired me to unearth my review of the 1998 film Bride of Chucky, which aside from its other attractions, does contain a clip from Whale’s classic. (As Alfred Hitchcock once said in a different context, this isn’t homage, it’s fromage.)
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Bride of Chucky
There comes a time in every man’s life when he must give up the wanderings of youth, when he should embrace the virtues of fidelity and security in a grown-up relationship. Herewith we have the theme of Bride of Chucky, the fourth installment in the Child’s Play series of slasher-doll movies. Don’t believe those “Chucky Gets Lucky” ads; this is a relationship we’re talking about here.
The blasted remains of the Chucky doll are stolen by the spectacularly bimboesque Jennifer Tilly, who takes the doll to her trailer-park home and brings it back to life. It seems Tilly was the last girlfriend of the homicidal maniac whose spirit passed into the Chucky doll in the first Child’s Play. Chucky (voiced, as always, by Brad Dourif) doesn’t hold any special feelings for his ex. In fact, twenty minutes into the movie, he electrocutes her in the bathtub, as Bride of Frankenstein plays on TV, and her spirit shazams its way into a female doll. In order to restore themselves to full human status again, the dolls must retrieve an amulet from a grave, which means they have to hitch a ride with two brainless teenagers. These kids appear to be rejects from the I Know What You Did Last Summer casting call.
Should the Chuckster settle down and marry? Or simply settle for a quickie in a hotel room at Niagara Falls? (This really happens, shot against a flickering firelight, two stubby plastic bodies consummating something Barbie and Ken can only dream about.) The portrait of domestic bliss is not exactly attractive—”I made Swedish meatballs,” coos the bride, “your favorite.” No wonder Chucky looks especially pissed-off in this one.
It should be clear by now that screenwriter Don Mancini, who wrote the original Child’s Play script, has gone over to the side of comedy. In those terms, the film is reasonably competent B-movie trash. Bride of Chucky has plenty of self-conscious gags, like a Marilyn Manson wannabe (Alexis Arquette) who takes one look at Chucky and dismisses him as “so ’80s.” Or Chucky’s assertion that it would take “three or four sequels” to tell his life story in the movies. The unkindest cut comes when Chucky’s bride mocks him for his ever-present carving knife. “Knives went out with Bundy and Daumer,” she sniffs. “You look like Martha Stewart with that thing.”
The gore seems almost a sidelight now, rendered half-heartedly: a couple sliced up by broken glass, a sheriff (John Ritter) perforated with nails. Chucky is too busy working on the one-liners—he’s ready for Leno—to really keep his talent for mayhem honed. Even the opening theme song by Rob Zombie just sounds like so much pop decoration, the icing on the wedding cake. Horror-movie fans will probably be disappointed in this, but hey—if you believe in love, Bride of Chucky might just bring a tear to the eye.
October 21, 2022
Robert Horton is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.