Message Board (open 24 hours!)
Twitter - @andredursin (for everything else!)
Writer Don Mancini’s psycho-killer doll “Chucky” was first launched on the big-screen in “Fright Night” director Tom Holland’s 1988 box-office hit “Child’s Play” before settling into a series of sequels that were strictly products of their slasher-filled era – “Chucky” himself reeling off one-liners a la Freddy Kruger before dispatching of his victims. While the first three “Child’s Play” movies have already been released on 4K UHD, Shout! Factory this month rolls out new editions of the later Chucky films, starting off with the best of the series: Ronny Yu’s delightfully off-the-wall BRIDE OF CHUCKY (89 mins., 2008, R), which bested Oprah Winfrey and Jonathan Demme’s adaptation of Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” at the box-office in what was one of the more memorable commercial upsets of its day.
This nutty monster mash was a big hit and a ton of fun when played with a big audience. As I wrote back in 1998, “critics who thoroughly pan the film will only be telling you half the truth. As disgusting and downright mean as this movie is, it’s also the most utterly outrageous and formula-eschewing horror film to come from a major studio this decade, something you certainly wouldn’t expect from a sequel to a series that appeared to end its run over seven years before.”
This time around, Chucky the doll (still voiced by Brad Dourif) is resurrected by his old, human girlfriend Tiffany (top-billed Jennifer Tilly), a piece of trailer-park trash who is promptly murdered by the Chuckster himself, and resurrected in the form of a squeaky-clean bridal mannequin. Before you can say, “let’s rack up the body count,” Chucky and Tiffany try to get back to Hackensack, New Jersey–the home of Chucky’s mortal remains–to implant their souls in the bodies of two eloping teens, one of whom is played by Katherine Heigl, whose guardian is none other than John Ritter (fresh off “Sling Blade”).
The set-up may seem routine at best, but the execution of this picture is anything but. Hong Kong vet Ronny Yu makes the most of the movie’s modest budget with twisted camera angles and efficient editing. Tilly’s death, which includes a tip of the hat to “The Bride of Frankenstein,” is gleefully evil but effectively shot by Yu, who is able to display far more of his craft here than he did in his American debut feature, the kangaroo-kung fu kid fiasco “Warriors of Virtue.”
However, the biggest surprise is how smart and self-satirical the script by series creator Don Mancini turns out to be. From the moment “Bride of Chucky” starts (the police locker houses not only Chucky’s remains but also Jason’s mask, Freddy’s glove, and Leatherface’s chainsaw), you know you’re in for one demented spoof. This is a script that is at best incisively witty and at worst gratuitous in every sense of the word, but at least it never plays by formula (unlike the second and third “Child’s Play” movies), never becomes the least bit pretentious like Kevin Williamson’s “Scream” scripts, and goes positively over-the-top in every conceivable aspect. Mancini’s dialogue runs the gamut from making fun of itself and excessively gory ’80s horror to putting down relationships, marriage, Martha Stewart, long-running sequels, and virtually everything else you can think of. The interplay between the two possessed dolls is often hysterical and there’s a memorable “intimate” sequence between Chucky and Tiffany that I remember theater audience members laughing so loud at that it was impossible to hear the dialogue. (It should also be noted that Kevin Yagher’s make-up effects of the duo are superb and the doll animation will make some viewers think they’re watching a show made by Gerry Anderson under the influence of some major stimulant).
“Bride of Chucky” is meant to be a fan’s movie, and for me, it’s not only the best of the series, but it’s one of the most entertaining “80s horror” revivals Hollywood has attempted over the last few decades, delivering a surplus of gags and gore that remains at the top of its class for what it is.
“Bride of Chucky” makes its 4K UHD debut from Scream Factory boasting a new 4K master (Dolby Vision HDR, 1.85) that does splashy justice to Yu and Peter Pau’s color-soaked, stylized cinematography. The 5.1 DTS MA sound is the same mix as prior releases, with light extras retained from its original DVD edition (two commentaries, featurette and the trailer) on the Blu-Ray, which also includes a 1080p presentation of the new 4K master.
Sadly, the good vibes established by “Bride of Chucky” didn’t carry over to the belated follow-up SEED OF CHUCKY (88 mins., 2004, Unrated), which goes to show what happens when a filmmaker is apparently given free reign to do whatever he wants. Thus, this puerile and unsettling (for all the wrong reasons) sequel from Don Mancini – once again writing but also making his directorial debut – shows that a whole movie filled with the intermittent gross-out humor of “Bride of Chucky” is indeed too much of a good thing.
Mancini’s picture starts off on the wrong foot (with a series of ersatz “scares”) and then quickly descends into an unfunny succession of gory murders and Hollywood in-jokes, with Chucky’s son “Glen” arriving in Hollywood to find his parents as props in a “Chucky” film. No sooner do the murderous Chucky and Tiffany dolls come back to life than another rash of murder and mayhem begins, all the while Jennifer Tilly plays “herself” in a “real” Chucky film shooting at the same time.
The satiric targets (if you can call them that) are obvious and the whole picture sits in no man’s land, neither a horror film (Chucky and Co. are now about as scary as your typical Smurfs episode) nor an amusing spoof (Mancini’s jokes worked a lot better in a semi-traditional genre framework like its immediate predecessor). In fact, it’s simply dreadful.
Another new 2023 4K scan (1.85) of both the theatrical and unrated versions is present here for fans on UHD with Dolby Vision HDR and 5.1 DTS MA sound, this film having been scored by DePalma favorite Pino Donaggio (that’s the only time you’ll have DePalma referenced in connected to this mess). Archival extras include commentaries, interviews, behind-the-scenes featurettes and the trailer; note the adjoining Blu-Ray offers a 1080p transfer from the 4K master.
After years of rumors related to a possible “serious” remake (which ultimately came about in 2019), Don Mancini and producer David Kirschner opted instead to bring back Chucky for another go-around in the direct-to-video CURSE OF CHUCKY (95/97 mins., 2013, R/Unrated). Alas, this feeble, cheapjack attempt at carrying on the Child’s Play series from Mancini (once again writing and directing) proves that the filmmaker should’ve considered handing over the reigns over to someone else.
Playing down the humor of the series’ better entries and minus any of the visceral energy Ronny Yu brought to “Bride of Chucky,” “Curse” plays like the by-the-numbers, low-budget, direct-to-video entry you’d anticipate, with a group of wholly unappealing characters (including Brad Dourif’s daughter, Fiona) getting knocked off by Chucky before the “big reveal” flashback tells us what the point of the story is. Mancini’s attempts at playing this straight and giving fan-service cameos to Brad Dourif and others is, I guess, the only way he could’ve gone after the godawful “Seed of Chucky,” but why Universal keeps giving Mancini chances to rectify his own glaring issues as a writer/director is baffling. The movie’s not fun — it’s lethargic and lifeless. (If you do watch the movie, only the Unrated version has a post-credits tag that’s at least faintly amusing, and would’ve made for a more satisfying concept that the one Mancini concocted).
Scream Factory’s UHD houses another sturdy, good-looking 4K master (Dolby Vision HDR, 1.85) of the movie’s unrated version, with the adjoining Blu-Ray featuring both the unrated and shorter R-rated cut, plus extras (commentary, deleted scenes, a gag reel and Making Of).
Before bringing “Chucky” as a weekly series to the Syfy Channel, Don Mancini tried once again to keep the fire burning with CULT OF CHUCKY (90 mins., 2017, R/Unrated). The good news, at least, is that “Cult of Chucky” is an improvement on its immediate predecessor, with Fiona Dourif returning as a young woman haunted by the Chuckster and sent to an insane asylum to deal with her not-really-psychotic issues, with Chucky (voiced by her dad, Brad) in hot pursuit. Alex Vincent, the young star of the 1988 movie, reappears with Jennifer Tilly chipping in a cameo in a pretty routine, yet watchable, direct-to-video creation that’s livelier than the last outing if nothing else.
Scream’s UHD offers a Dolby Vision HDR transfer (1.85) with 5.1 DTS MA sound of the movie’s unrated cut; the Blu-Ray includes the new 4K master but in 1080p with both unrated and theatrical versions present. Extras are carried over from the original Universal Blu-Ray release (deleted scenes, commentary, numerous featurettes).
Also New on 4K UHD
CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD 4K Ultra HD/Blu-Ray (93 mins., 1980; Cauldron Films): Specialty label Cauldron Films nails this gorgeously gory UHD edition of Lucio Fulci’s zombie affair “City of the Living Dead” – a 1980 horror exercise, a fave amongst Luci fans, with stars Christopher George and Catroina MacColl (from Luci’s prior “The Beyond”) struggling to close portals that are causing the undead to roam the earth. Fans of Fulci’s works are sure to get a kick out of this typical genre affair, which ends on a strikingly visceral note that’s the most memorable element about it.
Cauldron’s 4K UHD is now available in a three-disc set offering an impressive new Dolby Vision HDR grading of the film (with English or Italian mono sound) that improves upon Blue Underground’s Blu-Ray of over a decade ago. In addition to a Blu-Ray of the picture there’s also a third disc housing both new and archival extras. These include an exclusive commentary by Samm Deighan while archival commentaries by Catriona MacColl, as well as another track with Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth, are also on tap. Q&A sessions with Venantino Venatini and Ruggero Deodat; Catriona MacColll; and Fabio Frizzi are also on-hand plus interviews with Gino DeRossi and Carlo DeMejo. “A Trip Through Bonaventure Cemetery” should be of interest for fans with trailers, an image gallery, and other extras making for an essential UHD for Italian horror buffs!
TENEBRAE 4K UHD/Blu-Ray (101 mins., 1982; Synapse Films): Dario Argento fans should rejoice over the release of “Tenebrae” (“Unsane”) on 4K UHD later this month from Synapse in a double-disc UHD/Blu-Ray combo, bringing to the U.S. a similar package to Arrow’s UK release from over a year ago.
This 1982 thriller is viewed as one of Argento’s best films – a late gaillo starring Anthony Francoisa as a horror writer stalked by a killer who seems to be a fan of his work. From the synth score by Goblin members Claudio Simonetti, Fabio Pignatelli and Massimo Morante to its crazy ending and Argento’s patented murders, “Tenebrae” delivers the goods for the Italian great’s fans, and Synapse’s UHD offers everything what you could anticipate: both Italian and English language tracks and respective credits, all from the uncut negative with Dolby Vision HDR (1.85) preserving all of Argento’s visual style with gorgeous 4K rendering.
Super extras include commentaries from Alan Jones and Kim Newman, and Thomas Rostock and Maitland McDonagh which both lend ample historical insight into the film’s production and legacy. A feature-length documentary, “Yellow Fever,” profiles the rise and fall of the giallo genre, while there are also archival interviews with John Steiner, Maitland McDonagh, Argento, Daria Nicolodi and Eva Robins, Claudio Simonetti and more. International trailers, image galleries, alternate credits and DTS MA sound (in English or Italian) round out a must for Argentophiles when it streets September 26th.
THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT 4K UHD Limited Edition (110-114 mins., 2009, R/Unrated; Arrow): Wes Craven’s ‘70s shocker “The Last House on the Left” has never been one of my favorite horror movies, so I confess this unnecessary 2009 remake already had two strikes against it before the opening logos started up. That said, the 2009 “House” is virtually a complete waste of time, with producers Craven and Sean Cunningham going the Michael Bay route and jazzing up their original concept with more stylish visuals and gore. The result is a truly ugly and explicit experience that wastes a good amount of on-screen talent, while writers Adam Alleca and Carl Ellsworth miss even the small nuances present in Craven’s original film. Director Dennis Iliadis, meanwhile, proves to be a decent technical craftsman here, but unless you have an especially strong stomach, there’s little reason to sit through its 110 minutes (or 114, if you go with the even more violent Unrated version).
Nevertheless a box-office success that some hardcore horror fans will want to add to their 4K UHD libraries, “Last House” ‘09 hits UHD on September 12th from Arrow in a limited edition package. The two-disc set contains a 4K UHD of the theatrical cut (Dolby Vision HDR, 5.1/2.0 DTS MA) sporting a new intro from Iliadis; a new commentary with David Flint and Adrian Smith; fresh interviews with stars Sara Paxton and Garret Dillahunt, plus screenwriter Carl Ellsworth and producer Jonathan Craven. Deleted scenes, the 2009 featurette, trailers, and the 114-minute unrated cut on Blu-Ray complete the package.
Also New & Noteworthy
PRIMETIME PANIC 2 Blu-Ray (Fun City Editions): Fun City Editions’ original “Primetime Panic” offered a trio of terrific TV-movies made by independent producers outside the Hollywood studio system. The type of fare we don’t see nearly enough of on Blu-Ray, Fun City is back again with a second volume of network TV movies, this time from producer Michael Jaffe which he made through his father’s company during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
The set leads off with THE DEATH OF RICHIE (1977), a sad, based-on-fact study about a couple (Ben Gazzara, Eileen Brennan) grappling with the drug abuse of their eldest son (Robby Benson). The story didn’t end well, and it doesn’t here either, in an emotionally charged tale that refuses to veer into melodrama thanks to veteran director Paul Wendkos. Clint Howard, Charles Fleischer, John Friedirch and Cindy Eilbacher also appear, with the 16mm source material and soundtrack (featuring a Fred Karlin score) being in rough shape at times.
Brennan also stars in the 1981 TV movie INCIDENT AT CRESTRIDGE as a crusading new sheriff who attempts to take on her town’s corrupt mayor (Pernell Roberts, on loan from “Trapper John, M.D.”) and his assorted gang. Judd Taylor stages this effort like a modern day western with Bruce Davison and Cliff Osmond also appearing and Arthur B. Rubinstein scoring.
The third and most entertaining of the lot here is the Valerie Bertinelli effort THE SEDUCTION OF GINA (1984), featuring a college student, already married, who finds herself in a heap of trouble after getting into gambling debt. Michael Brandon, Dinah Manoff and Ed Lauter co-star in a TV movie that offers a soon-to-be-distinguished pedigree behind the lens in cinematographer Tak Fujomoto and composer Thomas Newman, who shares screen time with original music also written by Bertinelli’s then-husband, Eddie Van Halen.
All three films have been presented from the best available elements (though only “Richie” is in rough shape) in either the original 1.33 or a tightly cramped 1.78 widescreen reframe. Extra features include Lee Gambin’s booklet notes and commentaries on the three films by, respectively, Samm Deighan, Dino Proserpio and Fun City’s Jonathan Hertzberg, and Amanda Reyes.
Also New From Arrow: The teaming of French superstars Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo was like the Parisian Redford/Newman of its time, and their gangster outing BORSALINO (124 mins., 1970) subsequently became a massive hit in its native country. This tale of gangsters Delon and Belmondo joining forces, rising through the streets of Marseilles circa 1930 was bankrolled mostly by Paramount, believing a market would materialize in the U.S. for the film. That never happened, but this good-looking period piece is still entertaining and well-made, offering a nice Claude Bolling score. Paramount’s 1080p (1.66, mono) catalog transfer is fine with both French mono and an English dub on-hand. Special features here include Josh Nelson’s commentary; featurettes on Bolling with Neil Brand; Elizabeth Castaldo Lunden on director Jacques Fonteray’s costume design; an archival piece profiling Belmondo; and image galleries among other goodies…Regarded as one of Sammo Hung’s best martial arts outings, THE PRODIGAL SON (105 mins., 1981) teams Yuen Biao as a would-be martial arts master who learns his family has paid for his winning fights to be thrown by his competitors. Seeking to become a true champion, he seeks to be trained in the art of Wing Chun by a master played by Hung himself. Exciting fight sequences have long made this a viewer favorite, with Arrow’s upcoming Blu-Ray (2.35, Cantonese, Mandarin or English mono) boasting 2K restorations of both its theatrical release version as well as its “home release presentation.” Commentaries provided by historians Frank Dejng and Bobby Samuels on one track, and Mike Leeder and Arne Venema on the other, offer ample insight into the production’s history while archival featurettes and an interview with Wing Chun sifu Alex Richter round out Arrow’s limited-edition Blu-Ray.
INVALUABLE: THE TRUE STORY OF AN EPIC ARTIST Blu-Ray (103 mins., 2018; Synapse): Artist Tom Sullivan, a college friend of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell who worked on the original “Evil Dead,” is paid tribute in this 2018 Ryan Meade documentary. Featuring interviews with Raimi, Campbell, and many others, Synapse’s Blu-Ray includes not only “Invaluable,” which examines Sullivan’s work on the picture, but another documentary, “Other Men’s Careers,” a 1989 Sullivan interview; unedited conversation with “Evil Dead” cinematographer Tim Philo; Josh Becker extended interview segments; Meade short films; and plenty more in Synapse’s two-disc set (1.78, stereo).
Also new from Synapse is BLACK CIRCLE (103 mins., 2019), Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s thriller about a pair of sisters who soon wish they never dragged out an old LP from the ‘70s which provides a doppelganger entrance into this world. “Thriller” vet Christina Lindberg is the hypnotist who produced the record in a creepy movie that starts strong but doesn’t finish well. Still, horror fans might groove to its mood and Rickard Gramford’s score is effective – and also presented here in a CD alongside Synapse’s Blu-Ray (2.35, 5.1 DTS MA), which includes Bogliano’s commentary, his original short, interviews, a featurette, still gallery and trailer.
TAXI HUNTER Blu-Ray (90 mins., 1993; 88 Films): Not a Hong Kong version of the Luc Besson produced “Taxi” comedies at all but rather a sharp critique of a Chinese cab strike through the lens of an average, everyday HK resident whose pregnant wife dies after driving in a taxi. Looking for revenge, Ah Kin (Anthony Wong) takes a familiar pose of cinematic vengeance in Herman Yau’s 1993 film. Now on Blu-Ray (1.85, 2.0 Cantonese mono) from 88 Films, “Taxi Hunter” boasts commentary from Frank Djeng, an interview with producer Tony Leung, a talk with “action director” James Ha, the trailer, and an interview featuring Wong.
HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA Blu-Ray (88 mins., 2021, PG; Sony): During the dark days of COVID, studios sold off dozens of projects to online streamers including Amazon, which snapped up this fourth installment of the “Hotel Transylvania” series. In reality, this low-fi effort which lacks both Adam Sandler’s involvement as well as director Gendy Tartkovsky (here relegated to script and executive producer credits) belonged on the small screen to begin with: a big comedown from the previous two box-office hits, with the gang turning into monsters – or worse (humans!) — after Van Helsing’s new invention goes haywire. A number of featurettes, commentary, a 1080p (1.85, 5.1 DTS MA) transfer, and Digital HD code are included in this debut physical media release of the picture.
Well GO USA New & Upcoming Releases: Another animated outing, GOODBYE MONSTER (100 mins., 2022, PG; Well Go USA) hits home video September 5th. This is a rather enchanting kids fantasy from China following a cursed doctor who gets a chance for redemption after a young boy attempts to find him for help. Elements from Chinese folklore and contemporary children’s movies are mixed with decent CGI animation in this feature which youngsters ought to appreciate. Well Go’s Blu-Ray includes English and Mandarin audio .
Jared Moshe’s film APORIA (104 mins., 2023) provides a showcase for the always terrific Judy Greer, here essaying a harried widow to a teen daughter (Faithe Herman) who, like her, remains emotionally damaged by the death of her husband. The potential of a time machine that can change her past makes for a film more invested in character development than the overrated “Everything Everywhere All At Once” or other “Multi-Verse” movies, and is well acted by all. A behind-the-scenes featurette and trailer are included in Well Go’s Blu-Ray (5.1 DTS MA, 1080p), available September 12th.
Coming September 19th from Well Go USA, Kensuke Sonomura’s BAD CITY (119 mins., 2023)is a pulse-pounding Japanese import with feuding Yakuza and Korean crime factions sparring for control of Kaiko City. A new English dub is on-hand in Well Go’s Blu-Ray (1.85) as well as the original Japanese audio with English subtitles.
Film Movement New Releases: Coming September 12th, Justin Lerner’s CADEJO BLANCO (126 mins., 2023) follows Karen Martinez’s Sarita as she attempts to infiltrate a Guatemala City gang in the hopes of finding her missing sister. Ample character layers make this a fascinating piece on DVD (2.67, 5.1/2.0 Spanish with English subtitles) with commentary from Lerner and producer Mauricio Escobar included plus a video chat between Lerner and Karen Martinez.
NEXT TIME: SHOWGIRLS, GORGO and more from Vinegar Syndrome! Until then, don’t forget to drop in on the official Aisle Seat Message Boards and direct any emails to our email address. Cheers everyone!