By George Bate & Josh Reilly B.
The three-foot child terror Chucky hit theaters in 1988 and has held a place in horror fans’ hearts and wider pop culture ever since. Living with Chucky, a new documentary premiering on SCREAMBOX and all major digital platforms April 4, offers an in-depth, insiders’ perspective on the Child’s Play franchise from its small beginnings to its massive standing today.
Living with Chucky is to Child’s Play what Taking Shape: Developing Halloween From Script to Scream is to Halloween. For those unfamiliar with this comparison, both Living with Chucky and Taking Shape recount the origins of iconic horror franchises, tracing their development throughout history. Living with Chucky kicks off at the very beginning – as series creator Don Mancini has drafted a script titled Blood Buddy and producer David Kirschner has been transfixed by a book titled The Dollhouse Murders that he bought in London.
As Child’s Play notably shifted from slasher horror to horror/comedy to meta horror, the documentary walks viewers through the franchise’s evolution with insightful interviews from Chucky himself Brad Dourif, creator Don Mancini, and Tiffany actress Jennifer Tilly. Director Kyra Elise Gardner intelligently chooses to interview Brad Dourif next to his daughter Fiona Dourif, who later entered the series as Nica Pierce in Curse of Chucky. Seeing father and daughter detail their experiences with the franchise and play off one another so naturally in the documentary is extremely endearing and plays an important role in the documentary’s heartfelt third act.
It’s not just those front and center of the Child’s Play franchise that are given attention here, however. In addition to Dourif, Mancini, and Tilly, Living with Chucky features interviews with visual effects artists, screenwriters, producers, journalists, and fans, all of which culminate in a comprehensive examination of one of horror’s most iconic franchises (and one that will make you eager to revisit the films of Child’s Play franchise).
Living with Chucky features different sections, each of which focusing on a given Chucky film. Gardner directs a neat transitional sequence, marking her documentary’s shift of focus to a subsequent Child’s Play film, by showing VHS and, eventually, DVD copies of the movies entered into a VCR or DVD player and then ejected and replaced with a new movie as the documentary transitions to the next film in the franchise. It’s touches like this that make Living with Chucky a polished and approachable documentary, one that will appeal to different camps of Child’s Play fans. Will the documentary appeal to viewers who are not familiar with or are fans of Chucky? No, probably not. But, that’s not the point. Living with Chucky is a look back at the Child’s Play franchise for fans of Child’s Play…and, perhaps most poignantly, from the perspective of someone within the Child’s Play family.
After chronicling the behind the scenes stories of the seven Chucky movies, Living with Chucky takes a turn, one that may be surprising to those who haven’t read up about the documentary beforehand. In this third act, the documentary turns inward to highlight the documentarian – Kyra Elise Gardner. Gardner is the daughter of legendary special effects artist Tony Gardner, who worked extensively on the Child’s Play franchise and is interviewed prominently in the documentary. It’s through Gardner that Living with Chucky becomes more than just a behind the scenes chronicle of an iconic horror franchise.
Living with Chucky’s third act places a focus on the human element of this doll-centric franchise. That is, it takes the time to capture the dedication, sacrifice, and creativity of the filmmakers behind the Chucky movies. Whether it be Gardner relaying what it was like to be away from his family for months on end or Fiona Dourif and Don Mancini speaking about how they became best friends, Living with Chucky becomes an unexpectedly emotional and intimate viewing experience that will undoubtedly change the way in which you view Chucky movies. This decision to turn inward and focus more on the familial and personal elements of the Child’s Play franchise could have easily gone awry given that the documentary is no longer focusing on the specific inner-workings of the movies’ creation. However, Gardner deftly handles this more personal material and succeeds in making the Child’s Play franchise something we never thought of it as – wholesome.
Living with Chucky is the behind the scenes look at the Child’s Play franchise Chucky fans have been waiting for. Chronicling the series from its meager beginnings to its gargantuan status among horror greats to its evolution toward more comedic and meta leanings, the documentary dives deeply into the decision-making and filmmaking that have made the franchise resonate so powerfully with fans. It’s with the documentary’s more personal side, however, that Living with Chucky really excels. From director Kyra Elise Gardner, daughter of visual effects artist Tony Gardner (a key fixture in the Chucky movies), Living with Chucky offers an intimate and surprisingly wholesome examination of the ‘family’ that brought Chucky to life over the years.
Living with Chucky is available to stream April 4 in the U.S. and Canada on SCREAMBOX and all major digital platforms. Check out a trailer below and stay tuned to The HoloFiles for an exclusive interview with Kyra Elise Gardner.