Cinema/TV, Film Notes

FrightFest review – Living With Chucky

Living With Chucky promo poster by Andrew Stuart

My notes on Living With Chucky

Child’s Play (1988) is remembered as a film about a killer doll but – as with The Fast and the Furious franchise – it’s about family.  There’s a voodoo serial killer possessing a cutesy must-have toy and a boy who cried wolf plot (in common with a lot of Tom Holland movies), but what happens in the plot is that a little kid (Alex Vincent) wishes for a partner for his single Mom (Catherine Hicks) and is rewarded after a lot of suffering and some deaths by the arrival of a caring cop (Chris Sarandon).  The end of the film focuses on this new-made family – and that would presumably be the final snapshot, but for the film’s success and the wayward, sometimes conflicting needs of Universal Pictures and several creatives (producer David Kirschner and writer Don Mancini, especially) to extend it into a franchise that has had ups and downs, gone from mainstream to meta, outsourced to Romania (for a film set in Hollywood) and Canada, and yielded a remake (not even mentioned here) and a TV series (saved for a coda).  Along the way, the Child’s Play family has shed a few folks who don’t show up in this documentary – Holland, original effects maestro Kevin Yagher – while revolving around some who’ve stayed aboard – voice actor Brad Dourif – and taking on new members – Jennifer Tilly, now central to the Chucky saga, only got aboard on the fourth film – and even bringing back old ones, with grown-up Vincent (and his Child’s Play 2 co-star Christine Elise) resuming their roles.

Yagher’s replacement on Seed of Chucky, the runaway Romanian entry, was Tony Gardner, who not only took over the make-up effects but decapitated himself onscreen – and now his daughter Kyra Elise Gardner has made this anatomy-of-the-series docu, which also stands as a strange kind of home movie.  Dourif’s daughter Fiona has also joined the series in later entries and is interviewed alongside her Dad.  The documentary also ropes in Lin Shaye, Abigail Breslin. Anthony Timpone and one-time Chucky victim John Waters to tell the story of the franchise on a film by film basis – not even mentioning the bizarre controversy UK viewers will associate with the once-pariah Child’s Play 3 – but the meat of the piece comes as Kyra Gardner slips into her own work, appearing alongside and separate from her father, and it becomes a musing on the cost to real families of the demands of filmmaking as it always has been and is now even moreso … long absences from home, missed birthday parties, a kind of sibling rivalry with an animated killer doll, loss of special moments shared with a film family rather than a real family.  It doesn’t get too heavy, and plenty of marriages/lives have gone on the rocks due to the demands of the way movies get made – hidden inside the documentary is a contrast between Child’s Play, a studio picture made under a previous system, and more recent iterations of the franchise made in far-flung locales beyond the reach of union rules.

Dourif, Tilly and Billy Boyd talk about the isolating factor of being a voice artist, and not even getting to interact much with the rest of the gang who are having exhausting fun being covered with fake blood at thirty below zero in Canada or gorging on Romanian craft services.

Here’s the FrightFest listing.




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