One of the most iconic characters in horror history is Chucky, the killer doll possessed by the soul of serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif). Making his debut in 1988 with ‘Child’s Play’, the character has appeared in seven feature films and two (soon to be three) seasons of the ‘Chucky’ TV series. The franchise is one of the few that has retained its popularity and even more unusual is that Don Mancini, the creator, has been involved in every single project. New documentary ‘Living With Chucky’, is made by Kyra Elise Gardner, the daughter of special effects maestro Tony Gardner who has worked on the franchise since 2004’s ‘Seed of Chucky’.
Following her 2017 short ‘The Doll House’, which focused on Kyra’s upbringing surrounded by the world of ‘Chucky’, ‘Living With Chucky’ provides a deeper look into the franchise. Part a history of the series and part an exploration of the family that it has created, the documentary features contributions from many of the stars of the franchise including the voice of Chucky himself Brad Dourif and his daughter and fellow actor Fiona Dourif, as well as Jennifer Tilly, Alex Vincent and Christine Elise. Gardner also puts her father in the hot seat alongside Chucky creator Don Mancini and long-time producer David Kirschner.
The first half of the documentary takes you through the first seven ‘Chucky’ films with the stars and crew sharing stories from the making of the movies. As a long-time fan, it’s fascinating to see all of these people revealing anecdotes that the fans won’t already know and talking so affectionately about a franchise that has resonated so strongly with the horror community. There are also contributions from big-name fans, such as Abigail Breslin, Marlon Wayans and Lin Shaye, who have all starred in their fair share of horror films too.
The second half of the documentary proves to be the more surprising. Gardner switches the tone as she explores what it was like growing up with a father who was often away working on the franchise. It’s touching to hear David Gardner, and the film’s actors, talking about the difficulty of being away from family and their homes for extended periods of times as they made these films. On the other side of it, you have Brad Dourif and Billy Boyd who spent most of their time working alone, as their parts were voiceover rather than appearing in the films. Dourif describes how lonely he often felt and expresses gratitude that Jennifer Tilly joined him in the recording booth from ‘Bride of Chucky’ onwards.
Before the documentary comes to an end, the cast and crew reflect on how much like a family they have become over the years. In an industry where genuine friendships are few and far between, it’s heart-warming to spend time with a group of people who have nothing but affection for one another. Alex Vincent, who plays Andy Barclay in the franchise, talks about growing close to Christine Elise, who played his foster sister Kyle in ‘Child’s Play 2’, years after they made the film. It’s clear though that Mancini is the glue that holds everything together, with everyone speaking of him incredibly fondly.
Gardner’s documentary is truly insightful and fascinating. I’ve never seen someone take a look at this franchise in such depth and she does a wonderful job, showing care and love along the way. While the first half is enjoyable, the documentary elevates during the second half and you realise just how much of a toll making and maintaining a franchise takes, not only on those involved but the loved ones that support them. With ‘Chucky’ in the midst of production for its third season, it seems there’s no end in sight for the killer doll and judging from the enthusiasm of the cast and crew, there’s no appetite to stop telling more stories. ‘Living With Chucky’ is a celebration of a horror franchise that has endured against the odds and is more popular today than it’s ever been.
Cast: Brad Dourif, Fiona Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Alex Vincent Director: Kyra Elise Gardner Writer: Kyra Elisa Gardner Certificate: 15 Duration: 100 mins Released by: Lightbulb Film Distribution Release date: 24th April 2023 Buy ‘Living With Chucky’ now
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