I am someone who considers themselves a horror fan — even though it took me a long time to become one — but there are some franchises I never glommed onto. CHILD’S PLAY’s one of them. I watched the first, maybe the second, and while they never took themselves too seriously, I didn’t find much to intrigue me.
Then I watched BRIDE OF CHUCKY.
Obviously, CHILD’S PLAY is Don Mancini’s babydoll, but it feels like he was a bit tired of the formula after three sequels and thought it was time to shake things up. Consequently, he took inspiration from one the greatest horror films of all time: BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.
While James Whale’s masterpiece is inferred in the title and, hell, even featured in BRIDE OF CHUCKY, Mancini puts his own spin on it, namely making the bride the unbridled star of the show and leaning into outright horror-comedy.
Jennifer Tilly exudes gleeful darkness and mayhem as Tiffany, Chucky’s prior paramour. She’s been pining for him for a decade and finagles Chucky back to life in hopes they’ll get hitched and live happily ever after. Chucky laughs in her face upon hearing her nuptial dream. Tiffany dumps his ass, locks him up with a wedding-dressed doll, and tries to move on. Chucky gets free, kills her, but she ends up trapped in said doll. The two coerce two teen star-crossed lovers into transporting them across state lines to get Chucky’s talisman which will allow them to escape their plastic bodies. Matters hilariously escalate.
BRIDE OF CHUCKY is far, far more irreverent and cutting than prior CHILD’S PLAY films. There are a lot of winks and nods — including one quip from Chucky noting that, if he had to describe the circumstances that got him where he is now, it would take a movie and two or three sequels — but they all are fun, witty, and hilarious. This is a well-steered lark of a film that entertains on every level: great set-pieces (not one, but two grandiose vehicular explosions), savvy dialogue, imaginative kills, and a jaw-dropping ending.
While Brad Dourif gamely reprises his role as the voice of Chucky, the real star here is Jennifer Tilly. I wouldn’t say that Tilly is underrated, but she is often under-utilized, shoehorned into ditzy, insubstantial characters. (Not always, of course. Watch BOUND!) That’s not the case here. Tiffany has agency. She’s the guiding force here. Is she obsessed with serial killers and death and violence and havoc? Yes. However, she is a lot of fun and she takes no shit, she’s determined, she’s smart and capable and she knows how to get what she wants.
Tilly plays every single facet with aplomb, from faux-seducing her weak-willed asshole goth, to making an overstuffed meal of voicing ‘doll Tiffany’. Without her, this film would be forgettable. With her, it’s iconically memorable.
I need to note that this was Rated Q’s October screening. I’ve previously written about Rated Q but, if you are unfamiliar: Rated Q is a monthly film event at Chicago’s Music Box Theatre, organized by local misfit Ramona Slick. They solely program queer and cult films. Each screening features three drag performances that intersect with the film’s fashion and soundtrack. It’s not for everyone but — for me — it’s a chance to revel in joyous performances and be around like-minded individuals and laugh and grin and feel elated for two hours.
I am noting this because these screenings are my favorite monthly event and I will never shut up about them, but also because usually most folks attending these screenings are extremely familiar with the work. That was not the case here. While exiting the theater, I overheard so many folks exclaiming that BRIDE OF CHUCKY was so much better than they expected; far funnier than they’d anticipated; so much smarter than they thought it’d be when they bought a ticket. Everyone left glowing and happy and elated, and that’s exactly the experience Rated Q — and BRIDE OF CHUCKY — provides.