Friday, June 21, 2019

Worth Mentioning - A Killer Comeback

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Slashers and troubled relationships.


The days of youth, when seven years could feel like a substantial amount of time. Now seven years can go by in a blink - for example, it's been seven years since The Avengers came out. Sure doesn't feel like it to me, no matter how many other MCU movies have come out in those seven years. But back when Bride of Chucky came out in 1998, it felt like it had been a while since Child's Play 3's release in '91. The Chucky / Child's Play franchise had been dormant for a while, I was ready to see Chucky again - hopefully in a film that would make up for how lackluster part 3 was.

I wouldn't have imagined that Chucky's comeback would be a movie like this, but it turned out to be exactly what I needed. I have loved Bride of Chucky ever since I saw it in the theatre opening weekend; making this the first Chucky movie I got to see on the big screen.

As the decision to leave the Child's Play title behind indicates, this film brought a shift of focus to the series. After three films of Chucky chasing the Andy Barclay character around, franchise screenwriter Don Mancini crafted an Andy-less sequel that allows Chucky to become the lead. That could have been a risky move, but the effects used to bring the killer doll to life are so impressive that Chucky proves capable of carrying the film on his shoulders. Of course, it helps to have the amazing Brad Dourif providing his voice.

Child's Play 3 ended with Chucky getting chopped to pieces in a large fan, so this one has to start with someone putting those pieces back together. That person is Tiffany Valentine (Jennifer Tilly), who was dating serial killer Charles Lee Ray back before he was gunned down and transferred his soul into this doll. Tiffany stitches Chucky up like Frankenstein's monster, giving him an iconic new look. Using a spell from a Voodoo for Dummies book, Tiffany brings Chucky back to life... and soon realizes she should have left him dead. Chucky is not a pleasant guy. Charles Lee Ray never had any intention of marrying Tiffany, and he sure didn't have plans to raise a family with her like she wants.

Things turn so bad between Chucky and Tiffany that he ends up killing her, dropping a TV (which happens to be showing The Bride of Frankenstein at the time) into her bubble bath. This was a kill Mancini had originally scripted to happen to the babysitter in the first Child's Play, but she ended up going through a window, so the kill finally made its way into this film ten years later. It does provide some nice eye candy, with the TV floating in the water as electricity flows through Tiffany's body, the commotion stirring up more bubbles that start floating through the air.

A vindictive Chucky then transfers Tiffany's soul into a female doll, and thus you get the title. Chucky and Tiffany are stuck with each other, both in the bodies of dolls. They don't want to stay this way, though, so now we're back to the plot of Chucky plotting to transfer his soul into someone else.

The people unlucky enough to catch Chucky and Tiffany's attention are Jesse (Nick Stabile) and Jade (Katherine Heigl), a pair of star-crossed teens who are already having trouble because Jade's police chief uncle Warren Kincaid (the great John Ritter) strongly disapproves of their relationship. Tired of Warren keeping them down, Jesse and Jade decide to run away together - their escape funded by the $1000 Tiffany promises (over the phone) to pay Jesse if he drives two dolls to the caretaker's officer at the Forest Hills Cemetery in Hackensack, New Jersey.

The reason for this road trip seems kind of random, because Chucky says they need to retrieve the voodoo amulet "the Heart of Damballa" from his original, Charles Lee Ray body, which is buried in that cemetery. He says he and Tiffany can't transfer their souls into Jesse and Jade unless they have that amulet, which was never mentioned before. You could say Chucky needs the amulet because he has been in the doll body for too long and is trapped in it without the Heart of Damballa, or that it's a way to get around rules established in the previous movies, but the movie doesn't say that.

Regardless, Jesse and Jade hit the road with Chucky and Tiffany in tow. Chucky and Tiffany kill people along the way, with Jesse and Jade getting blamed for the murders by the police. Even though these kids claim they're head over heels for each other, they turn out to be an awful couple, as each one believes that the other could actually be committing these crimes. Warren was right all along, these two shouldn't be together.

Jesse and Jade suck, but Bride of Chucky is a lot of fun. The film has a lot more humor than the previous entries, any attempt at scariness was also left behind with the title Child's Play, but I find its sense of humor to be very entertaining and amusing. Bride also has a fantastic visual style, thanks to director Ronny Yu and cinematographer Peter Pau. The climactic sequence looks especially awesome, taking place in the Forest Hills cemetery, with blue night lighting being combined with strong winds and flashes of lightning. The cemetery is overgrown, allowing weeds to blow in the wind. The trees are dead. Plastic sheets were hung around Charles Lee Ray's grave while it was being dug up, but now those plastic sheets are just flapping in the wind. I love how all of this looks.

A killer soundtrack featuring songs by the likes of Rob Zombie, Monster Magnet, Blondie, Kidney Thieves, The Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies, and several more helps drive the film through its perfect 88 minute running time, accompanying the cool visuals and fun tone.

As the end credits finish up, a line Chucky spoke earlier in the film is repeated: "That's more like it." That's exactly what I was thinking. After the disappointment of part 3 and the long wait between sequels, Bride of Chucky was a triumphant comeback.


Fans of '80s slashers are likely to get some entertainment out of director Brett Simmons' You Might Be the Killer, which takes a very '80s slasher concept, puts the timeline in a blender, and gives the characters some meta knowledge of just how a slasher movie works.

Fran Kranz stars as Sam, head counselor at the summer camp owned by his family, Camp Clear Vista, and he isn't introduced in a scene where he welcomes his fellow counselors to the camp, as would normally be the case. Instead, he's introduced running for his life, covered in blood and making a desperate call to his best friend Chuck (Alyson Hannigan), a comic book store clerk whose knowledge of the slasher sub-genre will be very helpful to Sam now that a slasher is knocking off the counselors around him one-by-one. Or sometimes two-by-two.

You Might Be the Killer could have been a serviceable slasher if told in a linear fashion. It has the creepy legend about the campground, it has the counselors being too curious about finding out the truth of that legend. It has them getting killed because of that curiosity. But the film follows the flow of Sam and Chuck's phone conversation, so the timeline jumps back and forth and all over the place. Simmons helps us keep track of which events happened when by putting up the number of how many counselors are dead at that point in time. When Sam calls Chuck, the count is already "A LOT", but over the course of the film we'll be seeing what happened when there were 6 counselors dead, 1 dead, 9 dead, of course 0 dead, etc.

The movie is packed with bloody death scenes, we see a good dozen or more kills. That's a plus, but one down side is the fact that we don't know much about any of the characters at the camp aside from Sam. This is his story, the other people are just around to get killed. Or to be suspected of being the prime candidate to become the heroine / "final girl". Slashers are often bashed for not giving their characters enough depth, but the counselors here have even less depth than the average slasher victim.

The time jumping took a while for me to get used to, I found it hard to get into the story when the movie was flashing back and forth so much and we weren't being given any characters to be interested in other than Sam, but I eventually settled into its groove and had fun with it.

You Might Be the Killer was written by Simmons, Covis Berzoyne, and Thomas P. Vitale, but the basic concept came from a humorous exchange authors Sam Sykes and Chuck Wendig had one night on Twitter in July of 2017. Sykes sent a message to Wendig acting like he was being pursued by a slasher at a summer camp, and over the 60+ messages that followed they created the story of this film. The Sam and Chuck characters were named in their honor.


The Perception isn't the sort of title that's likely to catch your attention and draw you in to watch a film, but it is a fitting one for director Jensen Noen's newly released psychological thriller, as this is a movie that will always have you questioning the accuracy of its lead character's perception of what's going on around him.

That lead character is Richard, played by Jon Edwin Wright, an author who lives in a house with a dark past: when the previous owner came home to find his wife in bed with another man, he murdered them both and committed suicide by climbing into the bathtub with a toaster. Now Richard has begun to fear that his own wife Haley (Sandi Gardiner) is having an affair, and the way he chooses to deal with this suspicion takes him down a path that causes more bloody death to occur in his home... Or so it appears.

Noen, who also wrote the film with Elizabeth H. Vu, at first toys with the viewer by jumping back and forth in the timeline - we get a glimpse of the aftermath of Richard's actions before we even know what he did. I was more annoyed than intrigued by this initial cutting back and forth; I began to enjoy the movie much more when I had more information on what was happening, and especially once the movie caught up with the "flash forwards".

While Richard wrestles with guilt and paranoia over what happened, things get quite strange and we're made to wonder if he's losing his mind, if the violence in his home has stirred up something supernatural, or if the world really is out to get him. I don't often like it when movies go too far with making the viewer question the reality of what they're being shown, but Noen didn't lose me - actually, the reverse. As the film went on, I grew more invested and more eager to find out the truth.

Thankfully, the payoff was worth the build-up. A lot of films that keep things this shrouded in mystery tend to drop the ball at the end, but I had fun following the twists and turns Noen threw in while wrapping up his film. Once answers were given and it was clear what exactly was going on, I was so entertained and satisfied that it greatly enhanced my appreciation of the entire film overall. Sometimes the ending can make or break the movie, and this is a case where the ending makes the movie.

Wright and Gardiner did great work in their roles, with Wright carrying large portions of the film on his shoulders. Nick Bateman provides some solid support as a personal trainer who gets caught up in the middle of Richard and Haley's marital issues, and it was nice to see the always reliable Eric Roberts show up now and then as an associate of Richard's.

I was resistant to the stylistic choices Noen made early on, but his film fully won me over in the end. If you're in the mood to watch a twisted little thriller, The Perception delivers with its story of paranoia, suspected infidelity, and murder.

The review of The Perception originally appeared on


The Monster was written and directed by Bryan Bertino, the same filmmaker who brought us The Strangers eight years earlier, and it is very clear that both of those films came from the same person. Both feature two people stranded in one location while being menaced by something dangerous that has randomly chosen to target them, and both lean very heavily into the drama the characters were experiencing in their lives before this threat presented itself.

In The Strangers, Bertino showed us a couple on the edge of a break-up being menaced by a trio of thrill killing home invaders. Here he puts an irresponsible young mother named Kathy (Zoe Kazan) on the road with her daughter Lizzy (Ella Ballentine), and when they run into car trouble in an area where the road is surrounded by forest, they find themselves being stalked by a relentless man-eating creature. A hulking beast that sort of resembles a mutant panther; whatever it is, wherever it came from, no one has been aware of its existence other than the people it has attacked and eaten.

While the situation on that road is harrowing and sort of Cujo-esque, the flashbacks showing Kathy and Lizzy's life together before this are intense and troubling in their own way. Bertino definitely likes to balance the horror of his stories with very emotional drama, and he did it quite well in both The Strangers and The Monster. While I didn't enjoy The Monster as much as I do The Strangers, because I found The Strangers to be more interesting and engaging overall, it is definitely worth giving a look if you liked Bertino's earlier work.

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