Bride of Chucky is a 1998 American black comedy slasher film written by Don Mancini and directed by Ronny Yu. The fourth installment in the Child's Play franchise, it stars Jennifer Tilly, Brad Dourif, John Ritter, Katherine Heigl, and Nick Stabile. Unlike the first three films, Bride of Chucky takes a markedly humorous turn towards self-referential parody. It also departs from the Andy Barclay storyline of the first three films, focusing mainly on series villain Chucky, a doll possessed by a serial killer, and his former lover and accomplice Tiffany, whose soul is also transferred into a doll.
Bride of Chucky was released on October 16, 1998. The film grossed over $50 million worldwide on a budget of $25 million and received mixed reviews from critics. A sequel, Seed of Chucky, was released in 2004.
In Lockport, New York in 1998, Tiffany Valentine, Chucky's former lover and accomplice, bribes police officer Bailey into selling her Chucky's remains. After murdering Bailey, Tiffany repairs the doll and performs a voodoo ritual to revive him. Tiffany's goth admirer Damien arrives at her trailer, wanting to have sex with her; Tiffany is delighted when Chucky animates and suffocates him.
Chucky and Tiffany get into an argument when Tiffany mentions that she mistakenly believed they were going to get married before he originally died. When Chucky laughs at the prospect of marrying Tiffany, she becomes angry and locks him in a playpen, and later taunts him by giving him a wedding-themed bride doll. Chucky escapes from the playpen and electrocutes Tiffany to death before using a voodoo spell to transfer her soul into the bride doll as a form of revenge.
Chucky explains that if they want to escape their current doll bodies, they must retrieve a magical amulet called the Heart of Damballa that was buried with his human body. They decide the best bodies to inhabit are Tiffany's neighbor Jesse, whom she is attracted to, and his girlfriend Jade. Tiffany calls Jesse and asks him to take the two dolls to Hackensack, New Jersey, where Chucky's body is buried, in exchange for a thousand dollars. Eager to marry Jade, Jesse accepts the offer.
Jade's strict uncle, police chief Warren Kincaid, plants a bag of marijuana in Jesse's van to frame him. Chucky and Tiffany rig a trap which embeds several nails into Warren's face, then hide his body within the van. Jesse and Jade begin their trip. The two are later pulled over by Officer Norton, who finds the marijuana in Jesse's van. After Norton returns to his patrol car to report it, Chucky ignites the car's gas tank, blowing it up and killing Norton. Jesse and Jade flee the scene.
They begin to suspect each other of killing Norton. Despite their issues, Jesse and Jade get married. While at a hotel, another couple steals Jesse's wallet as Tiffany secretly watches in disgust. Tiffany later murders them by skewering them with broken shards of mirror. Seeing this, Chucky realizes he's in love with Tiffany. He proposes to Tiffany and they have sex.
The following morning, Jesse and Jade flee with their friend David, who came to the hotel after they both called him separately the previous night. David informs Jesse and Jade that they are the prime suspects for the deaths, but says he believes them to both be innocent. After finding Warren's body, David makes them stop the van at gunpoint, convinced they are both murderers. However, when Chucky and Tiffany reveal they're alive, a startled David backs up and is hit by a truck, killing him.
Chucky and Tiffany steal an RV to evade the police. Jesse and Jade instigate an argument between Chucky and Tiffany. In the commotion, Jade kicks Tiffany into the RV's oven while Jesse pushes Chucky out the window. Jesse loses control of the RV, crashing it. Chucky forces Jade to take him to his grave while Jesse follows with Tiffany. Jade retrieves the amulet from the casket. Jesse then appears with Tiffany, and they trade hostages, but Chucky manages to recapture the two almost immediately.
As Chucky begins the ritual, Tiffany has a change of heart and decides she doesn't want to hurt Jesse and Jade, and tries to kill Chucky. After a brief struggle, Chucky fatally stabs her. Jesse knocks Chucky into his own grave with a shovel. Private investigator Lt. Preston, who has been following the case, arrives and sees Chucky alive in the grave, shocking him. Jade grabs Preston's gun and shoots Chucky several times in the chest, killing him.
After contacting the police and declaring the teens innocent, Preston sends the couple on their way home. As he inspects Tiffany's body, she springs briefly back to life and starts screaming, giving birth to a baby doll which attacks Preston.
After the release of Child's Play 3, Don Mancini and David Kirschner decided that the series required a new direction, and decided against returning the character of Andy Barclay. Work on the film began in 1996, with the working title Child's Play 4: The Return of Chucky, inspired by the release of Scream. Mancini said, "Like most genres, the horror genre goes in cycles and I think we can thank Kevin Williamson and Scream for reinvigorating the market. Over the years, I had been imagining new scenarios for this series. With his previous successes, we knew it was just a matter of time before we'd be bringing Chucky back and David Kirschner and I both felt that it was important to bring him back in a new way -- we wanted to elevate the series and re-invent it, go beyond what we'd done before. And what we've ended up with is—incredibly—part horror, part comedy, part romance and part road movie. It's a really cool blend of the genuinely creepy and the really funny." Ronny Yu was hired to direct the film after Kirschner and Mancini were "amazed" by his film The Bride with White Hair, and was allowed to use his creative freedom and the ability to hire his collaborators Peter Pau and David Wu from Hong Kong. The inspiration to create a girlfriend for Chucky came from David Kirschner after he saw a copy of the classic Bride of Frankenstein in a video store. Mancini loved the idea and created Tiffany. He said, "After all, two dolls running around the country together and killing people a la Natural Born Killer Dolls or Barbie and Clyde is really pretty funny." Mancini chose Tilly as his first choice to play Tiffany, after being impressed with her in Bound and Bullets Over Broadway. Gina Gershon, Tilly's co-star in Bound, encouraged her to take the role. In retrospect, Mancini commented: "Once we introduced Jennifer Tilly's character [...] that brought a certain comedic camp vibe [to the franchise], which I think is kind of historically a hallmark of gay culture," referring to the increasing use of LGBTQ+ characters in later Chucky films and TV series. Several months before production actually began on the film, Kevin Yagher and his team began to create animatronic puppets for Chucky and Tiffany. For Chucky alone, nine different puppets were used.
Jennifer Tilly provided Tiffany's voice-over dialogue during a three-day recording session held in tandem with Brad Dourif just prior to the start of principal photography. Bride of Chucky was filmed over a twelve week period in and around Toronto, Canada. Over half of the film was shot on the sound stage. Exterior locations that were utilized included the Clifton Hill strip in Niagara Falls, an art deco motel complex on Toronto's waterfront, an old army camp in Oshawa, and numerous rural areas.
Each doll required seven puppeteers to manipulate, a computer playback operator, and a puppet coordinator to act as liaison between the operators and the director. Three puppeteers handled the movement of each doll's facial features which were relayed through the use of a radio-controlled transmitter. All of the dolls' other below-the-head movements were cable-operated by the rest of the puppeteers. The dolls' skin featured a combination of silicone and foam latex, unlike the previous Child's Play films, where the dolls were only made of foam latex, a material that had to be painted in a way that made it very difficult to light.
Brock Winkless, who is among the 17 puppeteers who worked on this film, returned as the puppeteer of Chucky for the last time. Ed Gale and Debbie Lee Carrington performed in-suit as Chucky and Tiffany (credited as Chucky Double and Tiffany Double) respectively during the graveyard scene.
The film's music was composed and conducted by Graeme Revell, who previously composed the music for Child's Play 2. Revell reused the theme from the second film within the music and it was performed by the Hollywood Studio Symphony.
On March 31, 2023, Enjoy the Ride Records and Back Lot Music released Revell's complete score on digital and in a limited-edition vinyl pressing. It was produced by Mike Matessino and is a 140-gram vinyl 2xLP album with screen printed D side. It includes a gatefold jacket featuring new artwork created by Garreth Gibson, and Voodoo For Dummies replica double-sided insert.
Bride of Chucky was released in North America on October 16, 1998, and grossed $11.8 million on its opening weekend. It has a total North American gross of $32.4 million and another $18.3 million internationally. It is the highest grossing film of the Chucky franchise and the second most financially successful Chucky film in the US.
To promote the film, Chucky made an appearance on the October 12, 1998 episode of WCW Monday Nitro as a heel. He interrupted a promo between Gene Okerlund and Rick Steiner and, in addition to asking viewers to watch the film, mentioned that he was hoping for Scott Steiner to win an upcoming match between the brothers.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 48% based on 42 reviews, with an average rating of 5.7/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "Bride of Chucky is devoid of any fright and the franchise has become tiresomely self-parodic, although horror fans may find some pleasure in this fourth entry's camp factor." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
Lawrence Van Gelder, writing for The New York Times, gave the film a mostly negative review, writing that "the novelty of a bloody horror film built around a malevolent doll carrying the soul of a serial killer has worn thin." Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a grade of "D", calling it an "upchucking of cartoonish gore" that "leans heavily on self-referential gags". Xan Brooks of The Independent gave the film a score of two out of five, writing: "Bride of Chucky strings together a series of humorous asides and knee-jerk shock tactics."
The Los Angeles Times' John Anderson wrote that "Ronny Yu milks the utter inanity of Chucky's existence for all it's worth and knows the conventions of the genre well enough that horror fans should feel total gratification--in the levels of both mayhem and grotesque humor." Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that "No one will confuse Bride of Chucky with a classic like Bride of Frankenstein, but anyone looking for nasty laughs will be delighted." Marc Savlov of The Austin Chronicle gave the film a score of three-and-a-half out of five stars; he commended its visuals and "witty, pithy script", and wrote: "this fourth entry in the killer doll franchise is by far and away the best, a surprisingly affecting tale of pint-sized love and dismemberment that's remarkably well-done."
Brad Dourif has said Bride of Chucky is his personal favorite film in the series.
The film garnered a cult following, marked by its distinctiveness and influence, while also establishing a devoted queer fan base and setting the tone for future installments.
The film was followed by multiple sequels, including Seed of Chucky in 2004 and the TV series Chucky in 2021.
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