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

FREDDY VS. JASON (2003)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Pervasive Strong Horror Violence/Gore, Gruesome Images, Sexuality, Drug Use and Language

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Directed by: Ronny Yu

Written by: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift

Starring: Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, Monica Keena, Jason Ritter, Kelly Rowland, Chris Marquette, Brendan Fletcher, Katharine Isabelle, Lochlyn Munro, Kyle Labine

In the world of cinematic villains, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees have much in common. Both were born out of the 80’s slasher craze brought on by John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN. Both have killed many hapless teenagers in creative ways. Both were eventually bought by New Line Cinema. Respectively, both also jumped the shark multiple times (e.g. Jason went to Space and New York, while Freddy got a 3D makeover). At the conclusion of the absolutely terrible JASON GOES TO HELL, there was a hint that a possible crossover between both characters. Fans would have to wait for nearly a decade for that to happen though. Writers and directors were changed, many possible scripts were floating out there, but the real question remained: Why did the devoted fans of either series think this showdown would be remotely good or even serviceable? The bad films outweigh the good in both the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise and the FRIDAY THE 13TH name. It’s sincerely surprising that this fight between two slasher killers turned out to be this well-done!

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We pick up years after the events of both Freddy’s last nightmare and Jason’s last murder frenzy. The adults on Elm Street have found a way to suppress the memories of Freddy Krueger and an entire generation of their children have no idea who he even is. Without their fear keeping his legend alive, Freddy finds himself rotting in Hell with no way to kill. This is when the scarred maniac comes across the dreams of another undead psycho named Jason Voorhees. Freddy tricks Jason into traveling to Elm Street in order to off some young people and re-instill fear into a new generation of potential victims. The body count rises and soon Freddy finds himself strong enough to kill again, but there’s one tiny issue. Jason keeps stealing all of Freddy’s possible kills and this pisses Krueger off beyond reason. Meanwhile, the newly endangered group of Elm Street teens try to figure out a way to pit both killers against each other, before they wind up dead.

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I am not doing justice to just how clever the whole story is. This is a dead teenager movie that does all it can to be different from the pack of generic slashers, while also delivering the gory goods. Though the real stars of the movie are not the cast of young faces, but the two horror titans on display. This doesn’t mean that the potential victims aren’t fleshed out a little bit. The script actually has a coherent plot that plays by the rules of both series and melds them together seamlessly. Robert Englund also delivers his final portrayal of Freddy Krueger and gives the character a fine swan song.

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In a movie featuring two iconic psychopaths, one would expect a whole lot of violence and FREDDY VS. JASON delivers in spades in that department. I saw a total body count of 21 dead teenagers (both main cast and poor saps in the background), while others are killed off-screen as well. In all honesty, the movie takes a good amount of time before getting to the actual showdown between Freddy and Jason. In retrospect though, a 98 minute movie that is filled with 20 minutes of set-up and over an hour of fights would quickly get very dull. The script for FREDDY VS. JASON is the best thing about the film, because it respects the mythologies of both characters while also creating an entire new story that closes off both series nicely.

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While Jason hulks around crushing, slicing, and even electrocuting over a dozen victims, Freddy haunts the dream realm. The nightmare sequences in this movie are the only actual scares. The set design in these moments is top-notch and there are some pretty disturbing images on display. Simply put, these are some of the best nightmare sequences in all of Freddy’s eight (nine, if count the remake) films. The kills on display here are also some of the best in Jason’s twelve movie career as a slasher. From the Elm Street to Camp Crystal Lake to the dream world and the real world, FREDDY VS. JASON is quite clever and well-constructed for a slasher flick.

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That’s not to say that it isn’t without some typical flaws that come with this territory though. Some of the characters are merely stereotypes (e.g. the stoner who looks like Jay and the abusive boyfriend/abused girlfriend). There are some bad one-liners courtesy of Freddy. A fight between him and Jason in his realm also gets a little too goofy at first, but slowly finds some creepy ground later on. The CGI here is also spotty in some places. I understand the movie is now a decade old, but there were better effects than this available at the time.

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If I were to sum up FREDDY VS. JASON in two words, they would be: Cool and Fun. This is a pretty clever movie for a slasher and it features two of the most iconic boogeymen to ever grace the screen. The kills are creative. There is real entertainment to be had here. It’s also a solid way of closing off the original run of both franchises. FREDDY VS. JASON isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s not trying to be. This is a film made by fans for fans and you can tell while watching it. In the end, it’s far better than many of Freddy’s or Jason’s movies. Check it out, if you’re a fan of this kind of thing.

Grade: B

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