Living With Chucky – Horror Documentary Review
The Child’s Play franchise is one of the most enduring and unique franchises within the Horror genre. Over the last 20 years, the likes of Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers have all gotten the documentary treatment, so it’s only fair that Chucky should finally receive the behind the scenes spotlight. What makes Living With Chucky by Kyra Elise Gardner stand out from the rest however, is the perspective of a special effects supervisor’s daughter who got behind the camera to not only deliver footage of the filmmakers discussing their craft, but revealing the emotional bonds forged while bringing a beloved killer doll to life.
During my 80’s childhood, the horror icons of Freddy, Jason and The Shape were spooky figures who roamed in the realm of horny teenagers, way beyond my life experience at age 6 in 1988. But upon seeing Chucky at the video store, suddenly the scares were brought into my home and began emanating from my toy box. I’ll admit to staring wide-eyed at my Teddy Ruxpin doll in the dark of my childhood bedroom and becoming paralyzed with fear as my young brain began to imagine my furry friend moving menacingly on his own. Before witnessing the homicidal glee of Chucky on a VHS box, the thought had never crossed my mind that toys might be malicious.
As an avid documentary fan, mainly in the entertainment genre, I know that quality can vary wildly in terms of production values and editing. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to find that Living With Chucky was not a slapdash production, instead working as a wonderfully crafted, but personal story of fathers and daughters bonding through the lens of making a horror film.
Sure, trivia hounds will get all the tales of how the script was developed, how the actors found their characters and the unique challenges of the practical special effects that one would expect in a retrospective documentary, but Gardner manages to get more intimate responses from the subjects than would be given in a normal interview. Everyone from writer/director Don Mancini, to Brad Dourif and Jennifer Tilly or Producer, David Kirschner seems at ease in front of the camera and at times relishing in the opportunity to share more than the canned answers uttered dozens of times at convention appearances over the years.
Not surprisingly, the most endearing moments are found in archival home video footage of the director and her father during the years that he first began working on the Child’s Play films. As Tony Gardner reveals the emotional struggles of trying to raise children while working as a special effects professional for films shooting worldwide, very genuine emotion is captured, especially the deep bond the directors and her Dad share to this day.
Equally as heartwarming are the segments of Brad Dourif, the actor who has voiced Chucky for 30 years, being interviewed alongside his daughter, Fiona Dourif, who has gone on to star in the later installments of the franchise. The genuine affection and connection the two have made by performing together is apparent. Brad complimenting his daughter’s acting choices and seeing Fiona’s reaction to the unexpected praise will bring a tear to your eye.
Even those members of the cast and crew who aren’t related share their gratitude for being part of this “Chucky Family” as a troupe of professionals who look forward to the next chance to work together. At the center of it all is the affable, Don Mancini, who everyone from the producer to the actors count as a dear friend. The rekindled friendship between Alex Vincent, who played Andy in the first two films and his “big sister” co-star, Christine Elise is another highlight of the story that adds another dimension to these 30 years of productions that many would deem schlocky splatter films with a gimmick.
As someone who holds up the A Nightmare on Elm Street documentary, Never Sleep Again as the gold standard in horror docs, I was very pleased to see similarly entertaining interstitial bits showing a Chucky doll being crafted from start to finish. Whether it is the molding of the plastic, the fabric stitching or the paint application, the stylish photography of these craftspeople at work added a special magic to mix as the film transitions to various subjects. The same can be said for the physical media releases for each film being inserted into a VCR or DVD player in between discussions of each installment. These extra flourishes really make a difference.
Living With Chucky is much more than an expanded special features documentary one would find on the many releases of the Child’s Play movies over the years. This is documentary that will please the hardcore horror fans who have heard it all, but also leaves the door open for non-horror lovers to discover the heart of the people who create these frightening films.
LIVING WITH CHUCKY which will open on all Major VOD platforms and Screambox on April 4 in the US and Canada.The LIVING WITH CHUCKY Collector’s Edition Blu-ray will also be released on April 18 and available in the US & Canada. Special features include: Exclusive artwork by Creepy Duck, Candid Conversations, Favorite Death Scenes, Strange Families and Director’s Commentary.
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