Happy birthday to our favorite beautiful bouncing killer baby boy! Bride of Chucky turned 25 in October. So Happy birthday, Chucky! Happy birthday, Tiffany! Happy birthday to my very favorite film in Don Mancini’s absolutely killer Child’s Play series: Bride of Chucky! It’s a film that I personally find to be a ton of fun. The kills are great, the humor is on point, and it’s just a joy to watch from start to finish. But Bride of Chucky also marks an important turning point in the trajectory of the Child’s Play franchise.
After Child’s Play 3 was released in 1991, it seemed as though the series had run its course. Chucky had terrorized Andy through multiple films, followed him to a foster home and again to military school, only to be vanquished time and time again before he was able to transfer his soul to another human body. The films were all fun and at times scary, but by the time we got to the end of Child’s Play 3, it felt like the series had run out of steam. Yes, Child’s Play 3 offered a new setting and an older Andy (Justin Whalin). It even saw Chucky set his sights on another victim. Instead of trying to move into Andy’s body, he shifted focus and aimed for Andy’s younger, innocent and far more naive classmate Tyler (Jeremy Sylvers). Of course, his plan comes apart at the end in one epic amusement park scene that sees Chucky torn to shreds and our heroes surviving. The film has its strengths, but it was really starting to feel like more of the same.
It would have been a fine place to end the series. Three films is a solid number, and even at the time when every horror film was getting sequel after sequel, not every series was making it to six or seven the way Friday the 13th and Halloween were. The idea of a killer doll was getting a little stale, and as much fun as the films were, it seemed like they had really reached the limit of what they could do with Chucky.
Or had they?
After a seven-year hiatus, Chucky the killer Good Guys doll came back to theaters in a way nobody could possibly have expected when Bride of Chucky opened on October 16th, 1998, and took the series in an entirely new direction.
As the film opens, we see a beautiful goth goddess portrayed by Jennifer Tilly get her hands on the shredded pieces of the Good Guys doll that once housed Chucky’s spirit and painstakingly sew, glue, and staple them back together. We come to learn that this woman is Tiffany, Charles Lee Ray’s long-suffering girlfriend. She has been following the murderous exploits of her lover from afar and is ready to bring him back to life and into her arms. She does a voodoo spell to resurrect his soul and the body he last occupied so they can finally be together forever.
The pair have always had a bit of a rocky relationship, though, and it isn’t long before Chucky murders Tiffany (in a particularly inspired bathtub scene) and throws her soul into a doll as well. They put together a plan that involves kidnapping two young lovers (Jade and Jesse, played by Katherine Heigl and Nick Stabile) and driving cross-country to exhume the body of Charles Lee Ray in order to obtain a magical amulet that will allow them to move their souls into the bodies of their hostages and live happily ever after.
This movie is insanely fun. I love every second of it. Out of the entirety of the Child’s Play franchise, including the television series, this one remains my favorite entry. It’s the right mix of horror and silliness. It embraces a level of levity that the series hadn’t seen yet at this point in its evolution, and between the writing, allowing Dourif to stretch a bit as Chucky, and the supporting cast, this one is a blast from start to finish.
Don Mancini has always been an innovator. He has become famous for keeping this series not only alive but flourishing by taking risks and not being afraid to go in new directions in the name of keeping things fresh. It is something that fans of the Child’s Play films have really come to appreciate. Bride of Chucky marked the first time this level of innovation and risk-taking came into play in the series.
Yes, Chucky’s goal remains the same: getting out of the doll’s body and once again becoming the human killer that he is inside. And how do we do that? Through a magical voodoo amulet that will give him the power to put his soul in any host he wants. Gone are the days where he has to stalk the first person who knew that he was secretly a human soul hiding in the body of a child’s toy. Now we have an item that will streamline the whole process. Is it a little sloppy from a narrative perspective? Sure! But do the fans care? Not a bit. Because the series has never been about the details. It has always been about Chucky. And that is something that Mancini not only recognized but really brought to the forefront with this film.
This movie is all about Chucky and everything that we love about him: his humor, his viciousness, and his bloodthirsty dedication. Brought to life exquisitely by Brad Dourif throughout every entry of this series, that is the thing that really gives Child’s Play life—Chucky’s voice, his anger, and above all, his twisted sense of humor. Mancini has always been good about giving Chucky a darkness and a sarcasm, but this was the film where he really began to play with the comedic element that makes up Chucky’s personality. This Chucky is having FUN. And not just in one or two scenes—he’s having a ball the entire time. And as the voice behind it all, Dourif seems to be reveling in it.
This is the film where Child’s Play shifted from being a horror series with a few comedic moments to being a horror comedy series. And it bounces back and forth along that spectrum as the series continues; some films carry a more serious tone and some are outright hilarious. But with Bride of Chucky, Mancini wholly embraced giving the film an entirely different tone as a way of breathing new life into the series, making something very new while continuing with the franchise’s established mythology.
And of course, how can we talk about Bride of Chucky without talking about the titular bride herself? Friends, this film marked the introduction of Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly) to the cast, and the series hasn’t been the same since. She is just as much a part of this franchise and its success as Chucky is, and it wouldn’t be the same without her. Tiffany oozes humor, sensuality, and a dash of classic American domesticity. She is a fully fledged murderess, but in her heart, all she wants is true love and a little goddamned appreciation.
Tiffany is Chucky’s counterpoint. Not a foil, but more of a full partner, both in comedy and murder. She is just as vicious as Chucky is, and having her around gives him someone to bounce off of. Their interactions are hilarious, full of personality, and it’s refreshing to have someone present to give Chucky the opportunity for dialogue and interaction. Mancini takes care to give Tiffany her own personality, thoughts and wants. She’s there as a fully developed character, and her presence is just as important as Chucky’s.
Dourif and Tilly lead the charge, but the cast is nicely rounded out by the supporting players, including exquisite performances from Alexis Arquette as Tiffany’s try-hard, pseudo goth boyfriend Damien and John Ritter as Jade’s scheming uncle Warren. Both of whom are amazing presences onscreen while getting some of the best death scenes in the entire film. And if I’m being honest, I would rank Uncle Warren’s death one of the best moments in the entire series.
Over the years, the Child’s Play series has also made its mark as one of the few indelibly Queer series in the horror landscape, which has become more and more apparent as time has gone on and additional installments have been released, but it started with Bride of Chucky. Here, we saw the first openly gay character of the series in David (Gordon Michael Woolvett), Jade and Jesse’s best friend. Despite being in a supporting role with limited screen time, David is more than just “the gay friend.” He is smart, supportive, and through a couple of lines of dialogue, he is established as a character who has a fullness and a life that goes behind his existence onscreen. In the years since, Mancini has been able to take this further by introducing more Queer characters, as well as themes of identity, transition and self-love and acceptance, all from a series about a killer doll.
Bride of Chucky is both a phenomenally entertaining film and an important turning point in this series; the first time Mancini really waded out into the waters to explore what could be with this character and this series. He could have easily turned back, stopped with three films, or delivered additional movies that were simply carbon copies of what had come before. But instead, he made something widely different; something fun, full of life and humor, and something that lasts.