Sunday, April 02, 2023

Living with Chucky, the Child’s Play Doc

Chucky, the evil “Good Guy” doll was sort of like the Universal Monsters. They all made horror a family business. Dracula had a daughter (Gloria Holden) and a son (Lon Chaney Jr.). The Bride for the Frankenstein monster did not work out so well for him, but the good doctor had his own son (Basil Rathbone). Likewise, Chucky had both his “Bride” and his “Seed.” It was also a family business for filmmaker Kyra Elise Gardner, who grew up with the franchise as the daughter Tony Gardner, one of the special effects artists who brought Chucky to life. Gardner chronicles the franchise with the help of her father and family friends in the documentary Living with Chucky, which premieres this Tuesday on Screambox and on VOD.

The 2019 reboot is largely ignored by Gardner and company, because it was produced by a different creative team, but all the prior films and the subsequent TV series get full coverage. During the course of the doc, they track the evolution of the films, as they first became funnier, campier, and more ironic and then far less so, in response to trends in the horror genre.

Of course, Gardner talks a lot to her father, but not his predecessor, Kevin Yager, or Yager’s wife, Catherine Hicks, the star of the original
Child’s Play. However, the creator of Chucky, screenwriter (and later franchise director) Don Mancini is heard from at length, along with series producer David Kirschner. Brad Dourif, the voice of Chucky, and his daughter Fiona, who played a prominent on-screen role in the later films, are interviewed together, in keeping with the film’s family vibe. Fan favorites Jennifer Tilly and Christine Elise McCarthy also get a good deal of screen time, as does Alex Vincent, the first little boy terrorized by Chucky.

When watching
Living with Chucky, you can see how the Chucky franchise still survives to this day. While they changed up the tone, they always respect the fans, by bringing back their favorite characters and cast-members. Of course, Seed of Chucky gets played-up as an early manifestation of wokeness, but most fans probably just enjoyed it as an homage to Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda, which the doc never mentions.

Regardless, it is cool that so many regulars keeping coming back to the
Chucky franchise. Besides Yager and Hicks, the most glaring absences would have to be Tom Holland, the director of the original film, and at least someone might have mentioned the late John Ritter, who played Sheriff Kincaid in Bride of Chucky. However, John Waters (who co-starred in Seed of Chucky) adds his sly insights, adding to the vast body of genre documentaries he has appeared in.

As horror movie docs go,
Living with Chucky is considerably better than Scream, Queen, but not as entertaining as Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster. For Chucky fans, it might point out some connections that will deepen your appreciation for the franchise. Recommended for “Good Guys” or “Chuckheads,” Living with Chucky releases on Screambox and VOD this Tuesday (4/4).