*. I’m not sure why I like Child’s Play 3 as much as I do, since it’s not a great movie. I’m also not sure why I don’t like Bride of Chucky more, since it has a lot going for it.
*. Don Mancini is back as screenwriter, a role he would play in all of the Child’s Play movies before the 2019 reset (he would also direct the next three instalments). Such continuity is rare for any film series, with the only comparable personal commitment I can think of being Don Coscarelli’s, who wrote and directed the first four Phantasm movies (being less involved in Phantasm: Ravager, which he only co-wrote and produced).
*. The script is very knowing in the way that had become obligatory post-Scream. Nods and in-jokes begin with the opening shots of various ’80s horror paraphernalia. It’s all very much of its period and self-aware. Chucky is even dismissed at one point as being too ’80s, and then too ’90s. But what’s interesting is that most of these references have dated less than the ones to Martha Stewart.
*. Brad Dourif is also back as the voice of Chucky, joined this time out by Jennifer Tilly as his girlfriend. The evil duo have a larger role to play and are up to the occasion, as they are given slightly more rounded characters. Meanwhile, the rest of the plot (which gets its impetus from some freshly introduced nonsense about a magic amulet buried with Charles Lee Ray) is surprisingly fresh, involving a road trip with an eloping young couple.
*. John Ritter shows up. Katherine Heigl (only 20) looks sensational. There are lots of good ideas. Chucky needed a new look and his stitched-together face is a great tie-in to the (slightly overworked) Bride of Frankenstein connection. There’s a “bus” scene before Final Destination and puppet sex before Team America: World Police. There’s a bloody, even shocking, coda that sets up the sequel. I enjoyed all of this.
*. And yet there’s something about Bride of Chucky that just doesn’t work for me. Perhaps it’s the way it has all become a joke. Perhaps it’s because Chucky is less of a threat now than he is an anti-hero. We even feel sympathy for him at the end as he complains about how he’ll always come back but dying is such a bitch. This is not necessarily a bad new development, but as I’ve said before horror comedy only works if the horror has some traction, and it doesn’t here. Nothing is at stake.
*. Perhaps Ronny Yu was part of the problem. His background was in action films and you don’t get the sense that he has any feel for directing horror. He’d later go on to direct Freddy vs. Jason, which took another pair of icons and put them in a movie that really wasn’t a horror movie at all.
*. Or perhaps I’m being too hard on this one. As I’ve said, there are a lot of good things going on. And it stands well in comparison with other fourth instalments in classic horror franchises. Technically this is Child’s Play 4, and it’s a better outing than Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers or Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (the fourth part of that series). A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master might have been better though.
*. Anyway, you get the point. It has some energy and creativity, but this time out it’s more about the gags than the kills. These are OK, but I miss the sense of danger and subversion. Chucky as the anti-Martha Stewart feels like a diminished thing.