What does it really mean to “live” with Chucky? Most all of us have had nightmares of the possessed doll coming to kill us. Some of us first saw him in theatres, others hiding behind our dad’s chair during a Saturday night with Joe Bob Briggs on TNT’s MonsterVision. We all checked under the bed and in our closets for him at least once, regardless of age. After the movie ends and the credits begin to roll, however, another story is told. A story of a franchise whose creative team has spanned dozens of years and generations of families. Kyra Gardner’s Living With Chucky expertly tells this tale of growing up in Chucky‘s world.
Living With Chucky begins as we follow the filmmakers behind the Child’s Play franchise on their journey from the 1988 original through the demented Good Guy‘s move to the small screen. Filled to the brim with interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, director Kyra Gardner takes us on this movie-making journey before shifting gears to the heart and soul of the feature – what it was like to grow up within the franchise. The daughter of FX artist Tony Gardner, Kyra explores these unusual circumstances from not only her perspective, but also that of the cast, crew, and fans of the series alike.
“Kyra Gardner’s Living With Chucky is a quintessential documentary for Child’s Play fans and horror fans alike.”
The cast of interviewees featured throughout Living With Chuckycould honestly not be more impressive. Creator Don Mancini, creator/producer David Kirschner, effects artist Tony Gardner, and franchise staple actors and actresses Brad and Fiona Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Alex Vincent, and Christine Elise are just some of the series’ talent present.
Interviews from John Waters, Lin Shaye, Marlon Wayans, Elle Lorraine, Abigail Breslin, and Dead Meat’s James A. Janisse, among others, represent the outside perspective of the series. The sheer amount of names and opinions stuffed into the documentary may appear overwhelming, but their segments are arranged gracefully and always feel as though they have purpose.
If you haven’t the patience or time to watch the bonus features or featurettes for each individual film in the Child’s Play franchise, Living With Chucky offers the perfect alternative. Whether you’re a fan of the franchise like myself or just a casual consumer of horror, the documentary gifts a treasure trove of interesting facts behind the films and filmmaking in general. This information is presented via a brisk behind-the-scenes walkthrough of each film in the Child’s Play series, including footage and interviews from the cast.
“Brisk” could be a bit of a misnomer, as the series recap consumes around two-thirds of the runtime. However, it’s important to remember that we’re dealing with a series spanning seven films and a television series. The time spent with the creative team is not only fascinating but essential in establishing the understanding that these people have lived and worked with one another extensively, to say the least.
“Living With Chucky presents an incredibly unique look at a horror franchise with an incredibly unique element”
The aforementioned facts and tidbits littered about Living With Chucky are horror fan gold. Without spoiling many of them, one of the more interesting, as a horror fan, involves the 1980’s writer’s strike. During the work stoppage (a notorious villain to the well-versed slasher fan), creator and screenplay writer Don Mancini was not allowed on set for the actual filming of Child’s Play. Perhaps a testament to their strong partnership that has spanned decades, producer David Kirschner brought Mancini back in during post-production to offer his opinions on what was filmed. Another attention-grabbing circumstance featured FX artist Tony Gardner and crew being forced to reconstruct the Chucky puppets with only movie stills for reference. This occurred when original FX artist Kevin Yagher left the franchise after the studio lowballed his services for Seed of Chucky.
Getting down to the brass tacks, Living With Chucky presents an incredibly unique look at a horror franchise with an incredibly unique element, one that none of the other major horror franchises contain. Over the course of 30+ years, Child’s Play has retained virtually the same core creative team since it’s conception. The Mancini and Kirschner creative partnership that began with the 1988 original continues to this day, along with Brad Dourif’s voicework and several physical appearances as Charles Lee Ray. Core franchise members such as Jennifer Tilly and Alex Vincent may not have been present through the series in it’s entirety, but have multiple entries in their repertoire and many of the most recent.
The men and women behind Child’s Play have dedicated lengthy portions, in some instances majorities, of their professional lives to the story of Chucky. As we all know, careers bleed into personal lives, sometimes in good ways, other times not so much. The thesis behind Living With Chucky that director Kyra Gardner brilliantly explores is the existence of the “second family” the cast and crew have developed with each other over the many years of Chucky’s existence.
This brings about the most fascinating perspective Living With Chucky provides – that of the three “children” of the franchise. We have Alex Vincent, the child actor who launched Child’s Play alongside Chucky and later returned to the series years later. Next is Fiona Dourif, who grew up watching her father Brad perform the most legendary voice role in horror, and would later join the franchise as the lead actress. Lastly, we have the documentary director herself, Kyra. The filmmaker spent her childhood literally alongside Chucky as the daughter of special effects artist Tony Garnder, who seamlessly took over for horror FX legend Kevin Yagher.
“Captivating from start to finish, we are given a glimpse into what it truly means to grow up within a movie franchise that spans generations.”
It’s absolutely captivating to hear the stories each of them tells of their experiences, many of which invoked emotional reactions in me. In one particularly powerful moment, Fiona recalls running out of the recording booth absolutely terrified as her father screamed the voiceover of Chucky burning in the fireplace in the climax of the original Child’s Play. Alex remembers the painful moment as a child learning he wouldn’t be returning for Child’s Play 3, and the joy when Mancini informed him he was writing him back into the story via Curse of Chucky.
Kyra’s mother comically describes her daughter running to her room because “the bad people” were downstairs – her father Tony had left the Chucky and Tiffany dolls out on accident. Of everything Gardner accomplishes with Living With Chucky, exposing the human element of the filmmaking behind the long-running franchise and its wide-reaching consequences to those involved, good and bad, may be the highlight.
Without hyperbole, Kyra Gardner’s Living With Chucky is a quintessential documentary for Child’s Play fans and horror fans alike. Expertly crafted with an astounding cast, Gardner spotlights the decades-long creative family that brought Chucky to life and continues to do so. A franchise created within such unique circumstances deserved it’s story to be told, especially in a genre where creative control often changes on a movie-by-movie basis.
Captivating from start to finish, we are given a glimpse into what it truly means to grow up within a movie franchise that spans generations. Not just from Gardner’s perspective, but also from the many others involved in bringing everyone’s favorite killer doll to our movie theatres, our TV screens, and our nightmares.
Living With Chucky celebrated its World Premiere at the 2022 Popcorn Frights Film Festival. Click HERE to follow our continued coverage of the festival and let us know all about how Chucky has influenced your life over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Heck, follow Nightmare on Film Street on TikTok for more horror movie recommendations while you’re at it.
Without hyperbole, Kyra Gardner's Living With Chucky is a quintessential documentary for Child's Play fans and horror fans alike. Expertly crafted with an astounding cast, Gardner spotlights the decades-long creative family that brought Chucky to life and continues to do so. Captivating from start to finish, we are given a glimpse into what it truly means to grow up within a movie franchise that spans generations.
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