On November 11, 1988, Hollywood gave birth to a brand new monster. Child’s Play opened that day, becoming a surprise hit, thanks in large part to its antagonist, a creepy doll named Chucky. He wasn’t creepy initially. No, he was a Good Guys doll, intended to be the next best friend of a little boy named Andy Barclay. What Andy and his single mom didn’t know was that serial killer Charles Lee Ray transplanted his soul into the doll mere seconds before dying. That made Chucky surprisingly malevolent for a plaything. Audiences couldn’t get enough, and a whole bunch of sequels followed. The documentary Living with Chucky takes a look back at the franchise that has entertained and terrified millions. It streams on Screambox starting April 4.
Director Kyra Elise Gardner goes through the series one film at a time. Many of the major participants are on hand to share reminiscences. Creator Don Mancini and producer David Kirschner discuss the development of the series. Actors Alex Vincent (who played Andy) and Christine Elise (Kyle in Child’s Play 2) weigh in on making their respective entries. Of course, Jennifer Tilly is also here, talking about how she helped shift the franchise’s direction with her portrayal of Chucky’s girlfriend Tiffany. You even get John Waters talking about his cameo in Seed of Chucky and Billy Boyd giving thoughts on voicing Chucky and Tiffany’s child Glen/Glenda. Brad Dourif, the voice of Chucky, is interviewed with daughter Fiona, who starred in Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky. They offer feelings about being part of a professional endeavor together. The only really significant person not interviewed is Catherine Hicks, Andy’s mom in the original.
Those cast and crew members recall their personal experiences on set. Beyond that, they also dive into how groundbreaking the series has been. Mancini acknowledges trying to incorporate gay characters and themes. It’s also noted that Glen/Glenda was one of the first characters in a major studio movie to be transgender. Another interesting angle is the exploration of how the tone shifted from straight-up horror to horror-comedy for Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky, and how it shifted back to pure horror for Curse and Cult. The interviewees have great insight into the reasons for keeping the series in a state of evolution. Any fan will relish all the fun behind-the-scenes stories.
The documentary’s final 40 minutes go in a different direction. Gardner is the daughter of Tony Gardner, the special effects whiz who took over the reins of designing/operating Chucky from original creator Kevin Yeager. The title Living with Chucky is self-referential, as she has literally grown up around the doll and the people making movies about him. Considerable time is spent digging into how the team has worked together consistently, becoming a de facto family in the process. Hearing them expound on the camaraderie and support the team shares reveals a touching side to the franchise that’s completely the opposite of its onscreen gruesomeness. You won’t look at these pictures the same way again.
Living with Chucky is a must-see for anyone who likes and/or appreciates the series. Even though Child’s Play 2 inexplicably gets glossed over quickly, the doc is packed with information and revelations about how this crazy maniacal doll has become such a cinematic force of nature.
out of four
Living with Chucky is unrated, but contains adult language and violent clips of Chucky movies. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.