BRIDE OF CHUCKY (1998)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 29 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Horror Violence and Gore, Language, some Sexual Content and brief Drug Use

Directed by: Ronny Yu

Written by: Don Mancini

Starring: Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Katherine Heigl, Nick Stabile, Alexis Arquette, Gordon Michael Woolvett, John Ritter, Lawrence Dane & Michael Louis Johnson

In 1988, CHILD’S PLAY introduced the iconic killer doll known as “Chucky.” Though CHILD’S PLAY 2 and CHILD’S PLAY 3 were fun follow-ups to that first slasher flick, they were both a step below the original. Ten years after its creation, the CHUCKY series returned to its former quality 1998’s BRIDE OF CHUCKY. This fourth installment had a distinct change in tone from previous CHUCKY entries. While the pint-sized plastic serial killer had previously made goofy quips and cheesy one-liners in the past, those pieces of humor are nothing compared to the deliberately over-the-top nature of BRIDE OF CHUCKY. This is straight-up horror comedy that has loads of laughs, some of the best kills in the series, and also pays homage to old school Universal monster movie BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. To put it quite bluntly, BRIDE OF CHUCKY is one of the best films in the consistently entertaining CHILD’S PLAY series.

A few months after the events of CHILD’S PLAY 3, long-deceased serial killer Charles Lee Ray’s former girlfriend Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly) collects the bits and pieces of his Chucky doll form. With a little black magic and lots of stitches, Tiffany puts Chucky back together and brings him to life once again. However, things don’t quite work out as planned because Tiffany winds up dead and her soul is thrown into a female doll. As a result, Chucky and Tiffany road trip to Charles Lee Ray’s grave to recover a voodoo amulet that can transfer their souls into human hosts and they’re eyeballing naïve young couple Jesse (Nick Stabile) and Jade (Katherine Heigl) as potentially nubile new bodies.

BRIDE OF CHUCKY is far more clever than most folks might expect. Series creator and constant screenwriter Don Mancini structured his fourth CHUCKY installment as a romantic comedy with killer dolls and gory kills. This means that there are lots of misunderstandings that lead to funny hijinks alongside a developing relationship between couples Jade and Jesse…and Chucky and Tiffany. The way that these subplots weave in and out of each other is pretty damn entertaining to watch. There are also long awkwardly humorous moments where Jade and Jesse suspect each other of possibly being a serial killer, because bloody corpses are left in their wake. This is all very reminiscent of Bonnie and Clyde…but with killer puppets, voodoo, and doll sex (yes, you correctly read that last bit).

To boot, BRIDE OF CHUCKY is directed in a fast paced manner that has plenty of style. The entire film looks slick and there’s a creepy atmosphere to it, even though the events are as ridiculous as you could possibly imagine from the film’s premise. Director Ronny Yu later went on to take the reigns of the long-anticipated FREDDY VS. JASON (another very fun slasher sequel) and his early sense for gory giddiness was showcased here. BRIDE’s soundtrack is also phenomenal with lots of rock and metal from groups like: Rob Zombie, Monster Magnet, Kidneythieves, Slayer, Stabbing Westward, Motorhead, Judas Priest, and more. This is one of the few movie soundtracks that I went to the trouble of purchasing during my teenage years and the rockin songs are incorporated in ways that perfectly jive with the film’s flow.

Brad Dourif is especially fun as Chucky in this fourth go-round, because he’s given extra room to goof off and kill to his heart’s content. The animatronics on Chucky (and Tiffany) are amazing and make you feel like you’re watching an actual performance…when it’s just one big bloody puppet show. It’s also worth noting that Chucky’s stitched-up, mutilated look is far nastier and cooler than his early clean-cut “Good Guy” appearance. Jennifer Tilly is perfectly cast as Chucky’s love-interest Tiffany. This colorful antagonist is a sadistic serial killer who finds a role model in Martha Stewart and maintains a sensitive side. The chemistry between Dourif’s Chucky and Tilly’s Tiffany is believable as these two psycho killers seem (literally) made for each other, resulting in lots of laughs and an ever-changing relationship dynamic. Also, there’s doll sex (which paves the way for 2004’s comedic SEED OF CHUCKY).

As far as the human characters go, Katherine Heigl is the biggest name here and this role was very early in her career. Heigl is fun as Jade, while Nick Stabile (who hasn’t been in many movies since this debut performance) is convincing enough as Jesse. The story’s main focus is on Tiffany and Chucky, whilst Jesse and Jade happen to be unwittingly stuck in the middle of the doll couple’s road trip/killing spree. The rest of the victims, er…I mean supporting characters, are all fun in their small bits of screen time. We get corrupt cops, a pair of swindling swingers, an over-the-top annoying goth, and a few more. There’s also a stoner (who regrettably doesn’t get offed) and he delivers one of the funniest scenes in the film.

As for the kills, BRIDE OF CHUCKY far excels above its predecessors. There’s loads of creativity thrown into each demise and specific scenes pay homage to past horror classics. From a darkly comedic electrocution set to BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN playing on the murder weapon (a TV) to a literal blood bath and one hilarious nod to a certain Clive Barker flick, horror fans are bound to have a great time in watching Chucky “getting lucky” (according to the poster’s tagline). BRIDE OF CHUCKY clearly wasn’t meant to be taken seriously and winds up as a very fun slasher sequel as a result. The 89-minute running time flies by and CHUCKY fans (who enjoy the goofier side of this already silly series) are sure to have a blast watching BRIDE!

Grade: B

VALENTINE (2001)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 36 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Horror Violence, some Sexuality and Language

Valentine poster

Directed by: Jamie Blanks

Written by: Donna Powers, Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts

(based on the novel VALENTINE by Tom Savage)

Starring: David Boreanaz, Marley Shelton, Jessica Capshaw, Hedy Burress, Jessica Cauffiel, Katherine Heigl & Denise Richards

I occasionally stumble across films that were panned by both critics and audiences alike, but somehow works right for me as pure entertainment. VALENTINE is such a film. Essentially an 80’s slasher that just happened to be made in the 2000’s, VALENTINE is an underrated flick fueled by cool death scenes, a considerable body count, and many silly red herrings. This 96-minute dose of cheesy fun is currently the best Valentine’s Day slasher in existence (it’s head and shoulders above both MY BLOODY VALENTINE installments). While that doesn’t exactly sound like high praise, I imagine that many horror aficionados will find quite a bit to like here. It’s a welcomed gory alternative to Nicholas Spark’s generic chick flicks for this any V-Day!

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In 1988, four popular girls cruelly humiliated a geeky preteen at their junior high Valentine’s dance. Years later, those popular girls have grown into superficial women with varying relationship issues. Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and the women all receive a series of menacing cards. These pink valentines do not only contain rhymes and hearts, but hold not-so-subtle death threats too. When bodies begin to pile up, it’s clear that a killer in a cupid mask has bloody revenge in mind. Could the horrible deed at the junior high dance be coming back to bite everyone in the ass or is someone just out for a bloody revenge?

Valentine 2

I won’t sit here and pretend that VALENTINE is a perfect horror flick, but it’s a damn fun slasher. To go into specific details about the characters would be a waste of time as most them simply exist to die. I will say that a couple are likable enough, but the rest range from annoying to downright hateable. Normally, this would be considered a bad thing in any other subgenre of horror. However, this is a slasher. We came here to watch these victims meet their creative demises and they do exactly that. The cupid-masked murderer has some very interesting ways of dispatching people around him. The kills are where VALENTINE truly shines as some actual suspense is built up during a few of the death scenes (an opening chase milks one moment for all that it’s worth). The gory set pieces are also creative for the most part. My personal favorite moments involve a stalking scene at an art show and one elaborate kill in a hot tub (that actually got a vocal “oh, shit!” out of me).

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Even when the killer isn’t on the screen, VALENTINE remains an enjoyable watch. The despicable characters manage to be entertaining in spite of their sheer unlikable nature. When most of them bite it in particularly painful ways, the viewer can’t help but get a sort of satisfaction out of it. The dynamic between the four flawed relationships make for a lot of dark humor and many red herrings. The script makes it tough to correctly predict the identity of the masked killer as it lays out a long list of potential suspects. When it’s finally revealed (in a legitimately well-executed finale), it makes for a nice little send-off to a creepy, cool, and overlooked slasher flick.

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VALENTINE is far from high art. It’s a straight-up slasher and suffers from flaws that come with the gory by-the-numbers territory. There are stupid character decisions and ridiculous moments that come out of nowhere. The performances are far from great and poorly written lines of dialogue don’t help the cast either. However, the death scenes and sheer entertainment value are what really count in a film like this. While it definitely has its faults (most of them being more than obvious), VALENTINE is a rare example of a 2000’s slasher that feels like it would be right at home in the 80’s. I mean this in the best way possible. If this sounds like something that’s up your alley, then give this gory guilty pleasure a watch!

Grade: B

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