Published on April 12th, 2023 | by Richard Gary0
Living With Chucky
There are some great documentaries about horror movies that have been released in the last couple of years. Richard Gary takes a look at one.
It is wonderful that some of the modern classic horror films, post-1990s, are getting some documentary attention, such as Pennywise: The Story of IT in 2022, and Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy from 2010. Even Netflix had “The Movies That Made Us”, in 2019, an interesting series that focused on horror.
There is no question on where this film is focused, the title gives it away. But this is a deep-dive into the eight-film Child’s Play/Chucky franchise. The motif of this is broken into three sections, the first two being kind of obvious, which is in no way meant as a negative, but rather a logical sequence. The first is how the idea of a killer doll came about, through the initial script, and into the release of Child’s Play in 1988. We meet Don Mancini, who created the original Child’s Play, and has since written and/or directed nearly all the Chucky-related franchise, including the recent “Chucky” television series (2021-2022). Also interviewed is David Kirschner, a producer of the Chucky films and series, the animated Curious George films, as well as the two Hocus Pocus releases.
The description of the first film is kind of short, having more commentary on its cultural effect by the likes of Lin Shaye, the star of the Insidious franchise, which started in 2010. She mentions how people were attracted to the Chucky “character” who became popular in the same way as Freddy Kruger started the trend in the first A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984, because he was a villain to love and used sharp humor. Most other slasher icons up to that point, such as Michael and Jason, do not speak, making them arguably less human than even Chucky, and certainly harder to identify with to the viewers.
There are a lot of talking heads here, including some actors in other horror films or franchises, such as Marlon Wayans (the Scary Movie series), Abigail Breslin (the Zombieland franchise), and Elle Lorraine (Bad Hair, in 2020). Many times these documentaries about media are filled with writers or podcasters, but here that is thankfully kept to a bare minimum, with the likes of Tony Timpone, editor of Fangoria magazine. Also making an appearance, I am happy to say, is beloved cult director John Waters, who had a cameo in one of the films.
What follows, almost as going from chapter to chapter, is that the films are discussed one by one, indicated by specific media: The first three Child’s Play films are represented by a VHS cassette, and the Chucky titled films are discs.
While the star of the first Child’s Play film, Catherine Hicks, is unfortunately absent (perhaps she was beamed up on the Enterprise?), we get to meet most of the rest of the cast as each film is discussed, such as Chucky/Charles Lee Ray himself, Brad Dourif, who becomes the killer doll by using an obscure voodoo rite; visually, most people probably know him as Wormtongue, in two of The Lord of the Rings films. Alex Vincent, who played the kid Andy in the original stories, is interviewed; he is also in the new series.
Christine Elise discusses how she won the role of Kyle, the main character (after Chucky) in 1990’s Child’s Play 2; she reprises the role in the new television series.
I was really happy when Jennifer Tilly (Bride of Chucky in 1998) comes into the spotlight. I have always been a fan. She is, happily, present throughout the rest of the documentary, as is Billy Boyd, the voice of Chucky and Tiffany’s transgender offspring, Glen/Glenda in Seed of Chucky from 2004; Boyd was also in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which explains the offspring’s British accent, which never made sense to me. Seed also introduced storied make-up artist and puppet master Tony Gardner (learned under Rick Baker, his work includes the Hocus Pocus and Zombieland franchises, among so many top horror hits). He has worked with the Chucky films since; he is also the father of the director of this excellent film, Kyra Gardner. Curse of Chucky, 2013, was important for the introduction of a new main character, Nika (Fiona Dourif, the daughter of Chucky himself).
An interesting topic is when it is explained how the trajectory of the Chucky films mirrored that of the Elm Street releases, in that it started off as horror, devolved into a form of horror comedy with gore, and then became serious again towards the end (Curse and Cult of Chucky in 2017).
For me, the most interesting section of this film is the last, where more intimate topics are covered, such as VFX vs. practical, discussed by a number of actors and crew, the relationships between the crew and cast, as many of them have worked on multiple Chuckys, and culture influence, such as attending horror conventions. They also discuss the down points of the experience, such as being away from family and an ever decreasing budget by the studio; Dourif mentions the loneliness during his voice recordings, where he was in a sound booth for days. But what I found most intriguing is the correlation between Fiona and this film’s director, both being the daughters of the crew/cast, and both growing up with Chucky (hence the doc’s title) as an important part of their lives. Towards the end of this release is some newly shot footage regarding the television series, being filmed in Toronto.
The often-reviled remake of Child’s Play (2019) was wisely ignored, partly due to the fact that this was mostly filmed before that was released, and secondly, it is out of scope of the topic of a cast that is family.