The Bride (2016) Directed by Marcello Daciano. Starring Henriette Riddervold, Lane Townsend and Burt Culver. A couple are accosted by baddies the day before their wedding. Both are killed, but faster than you can say “Eric Draven,” the bride returns to kick some bad guy ass after being possessed by the avenging spirit of an Indian princess killed on the same ground over a century before.
Beware: minor spoilers follow!
Kira and Marco head up to the mountains to spend the last few days before their wedding at the luxury cabin of Marco’s wealthy and mysterious golf buddy Harrison. On the drive up, we get a sense of their personalities and relationship dynamic: he’s fun-loving, goofy and the opposite of an Alpha male. She’s much more practical, alert and less trusting. Though it’s never really made crystal clear, she has had some sort of military training in the past.
Little do they know, these mountains conceal a dark secret.
150 years ago, on the wedding night of Princess Aiyana, the U.S. Calvary stumbled upon her village and slaughtered everyone. After watching her husband die, Aiyana is raped by the soldiers and then follows her beloved into the grave after cursing the woods and the tree she is buried near…The Blood Tree! She then promptly pops back up again and kills her attackers before joining her husband once more. According to the curse, she will rise up one day and seek her revenge once more.
After FaceTiming with Harrison, who is involved in some sort of vaguely defined shipping empire that has made him rich, Kira and Marco make love in the shower and generally enjoy themselves in the woodland castle. He gives her a set of dog tags engraved with their vows, she puts on her wedding dress for him a day early. As she’s busy seducing him by pulling up her dress, there’s a crash downstairs and Marco races to investigate.
Masked thugs appear and Kira, clad in combat boots and her white gown, fights back with her military expertise. Within seconds, she’s overpowered an intruder named Lee and takes his gun to search the rest of the cabin. She finds Marco being held hostage by drunken redneck Bobby Joe and much more polished mercenary Earl.
They are under orders to kidnap her in exchange for money they think Marco can get for them. It all goes south pretty quickly, and Kira winds up on the run in the surrounding forest. Along the way, she meets ambivalent fourth merc Ricky, who secretly allows her to escape.
During the ensuing chase, Ricky begins freaking out over the cursed woods the villains are entering. He’s heard the legend of Princess Aiyana and wants no part of it, so he runs off in terror. Kira’s military skills don’t save her from being instantly found despite running miles ahead of the gang while they bickered in the cabin, and she is finally brought down after being non-fatally shot.
Bobby Joe, who keeps reminding everyone that it’s his birthday, asks to rape Kira as his birthday present. Earl is down with it. After choking, punching, stabbing and gang raping Kira, the men are surprised that she’s still alive and attempting to get up. They take from her several trophies…her garter belt, her blue panties, her dog tags, etc. Then Earl finally puts an end to her.
Marco and his bride-to-be are buried in the shadow of the cursed Blood Tree.
When the gang later catches up to deserter Ricky, Lee attacks him and then shares his thoughts on the current state of society as Earl tries to defend Ricky.
“Leave the kid alone.”
“No, listen, it’s because of little shits like him that this country ended up being run by blacks, Jews, gays!”
“Don’t fucking start this again.”
“Come on, man, enough with the gay shit. I happen to like Elton John. His music soothes me.”
These gentlemen, who just sodomized and slaughtered a woman, are against homophobia and racism? I guess everybody has to draw the line somewhere.
Soon, the mysterious boss shows up. Three guesses as to who it is? I’ll give you a hint…it’s the only character in the film thus far who isn’t Marco, Kira or one of the rednecks.
It’s our old FaceTime buddy, Harrison! He wants to know where his beloved treasure Kira is, and the backwoods idiots he hired have some pretty bad news for him.
In a scene of brilliant hilarity, Ricky begins explaining to Harrison the history of Aiyana’s Curse and is immediately shot to death. The poor, meek mercenary barely gets a sentence out. Harrison ain’t trying to hear about mystical mumbo jumbo.
We learn that Marco was quite wealthy and that Harrison has amassed his own fortune through kidnapping schemes involving couples. The stronger their love, the more they would pay to get their spouse back. His plan was simply to kidnap Kira and demand a hefty ransom from Marco through his men.
The translucent spirit of Aiyana shows up and recites a chant before Kira bursts up through the dirt. She uncovers Marco’s body, cries and relives the terrible things done to her.
When that’s over, she finds a magic tomahawk and constructs a cross for Marco’s grave and a tomahawk holster out of endless lengths of orange rope.
Where does the rope come from? Why is this scene edited with almost comical sound effects? Who cares?! Time to get killing!
She retrieves from her doomed attackers four items: something borrowed, something blue, something old and something new.
- A man is shot in the chest at point-blank range.
- A woman is shot, beaten, choked with a belt, stabbed through the hand and raped several times before being shot in the head.
- A man is shot to death.
- A man has his penis lopped off with a tomahawk, followed by a throat slitting and scalping.
- A man is disemboweled and has his eyeballs pulled out and crushed.
- A man is slashed in the torso and then chopped in the ass with a tomahawk.
- A man has his entire spinal column ripped out.
Though a tomahawk is a brutal, savage weapon, the revenge killings are lifeless and unsatisfying. They don’t have any visceral zing and the sound design is such that we can’t discern the impact. On the other hand, Kira uses a tampon and duct tape to stop the bleeding after being stabbed by a machete. So there’s that.
Though she can’t seem to die, Kira doesn’t magically heal up like Wolverine or The Crow.
The gore effects are practical and typical of low-budget cinema, but not extremely amateurish. The problem is they just don’t stand out. When a man has his spinal column ripped out, that should be a spectacular moment effects wise. It shouldn’t look as easy as picking up the handset of a rotary telephone. I mean, was his spine even attached to the rest of his skeleton inside?
As a committed fan of strong female characters and violent revenge flicks, why don’t I love this?
Let me count the ways.
The sound seems to drop in and out, making certain lines inaudible, and the picture has been saturated in filters. There’s a scene where Harrison is talking on the phone in bright sunlight and after all the tinkering with contrast and colors, his shirt looks gauzy and almost computer generated. The look has been tweaked and altered too much.
It has a cool back story, but I would rather the film open with Aiyana’s death and cursing of the Blood Tree. It needed a more organic delivery system than a dry three paragraph explanation in the opening credits, and film is a visual medium. Show me, don’t tell me.
Though this couldn’t have been made for television with the sexual violence, nudity and gore, there are fades to and from black that occur at regular intervals. It’s like the film unfolds in a series of episodes. Some of the editing, particularly in the scene where Kira is resurrected, is ill-conceived. It’s choppy for the sake of looking cool and edgy, and never have I seen that work.
It steals from Steven R. Monroe’s 2010 remake of “I Spit On Your Grave,” and not just because a group of seedy rednecks terrorize a big city girl. During the overly long, leering rape scene, Earl tells Kira that “he’s an ass man” before proving it. Later, he comes to very much regret that statement when she repeats it to him. Such is the fate of the sheriff in I Spit, who tells Jennifer that he’s an “ass man” before violating her.
I’m being so hard on “The Bride” because I didn’t completely hate it, either. It’s frustrating to think of how great it could’ve been with some extra work put in. I liked the reclaiming of something borrowed, something blue, etc. The forest setting is beautiful and some of the performances are decent, but issues involving both narrative flow and technical finesse mar the final product.
The Bride was almost there. Almost….