Living with Chucky explores the appeal and longevity of the Child’s Play franchise – and its iconic bloodthirsty doll.
Typically, a legacy refers to something handed down to the next family member in succession, usually in some material form, such as wealth or an heirloom that also carries great sentimental value. However, Living with Chucky offers a legacy in the shape of a possessed, maniacal doll with a penchant for wisecracks and killing people.
Director Kyra Gardner sits the audience down to a viewing of the long, bloodied history behind creator Don Mancini’s killer doll, that includes nearly four decades’ experiences from cast and crew both on and off set.
Child’s Play first came out in 1988, and since then has seen six follow ups, a reboot/remake, a handful of short films, several theme park attractions, comic books, a video game, and a successful television series.
No matter the incarnation, you are always be assured that the series’ homicidal Raggedy Andy antagonist will appear, along with his unhinged laugh, which is as recognisable as the cackle from Mark Hamill’s Joker (coincidentally, you can hear shades of it in the 2019 reboot/remake).
A nice touch that you notice from the start is that there are interludes showing the media format that each film came out on, as well as how the franchise had solidified its popularity by Bride of Chucky in 1998, resulting in the rest of the film titles containing “of Chucky”; the first three Child’s Play films and Bride appeared on VHS tapes for the 80s and 90s, then moved to DVD for Seed (2004), Curse (2013) and Cult (2017).
Family is an overarching theme of this documentary, detailing how returning cast and crew have grown alongside the franchise, some having started families of their own. The director herself is the daughter of special effects veteran, Tony Gardner. Another familial connection is that Curse of Chucky star Fiona Dourif is the daughter of Chucky’s iconic voice actor, Brad Dourif; which has added a layered dynamic for the roles she played in both Curse and Cult, and in the Chucky series respectively.
Living with Chucky also explores the LGBTQIA+ elements of the films, which Don Mancini (himself a gay man) initially wrote as subtle themes, such as family rejection and outsider loneliness, in the first three films. Then Bride put them centre-stage by starring Jennifer Tilly (a queer icon thanks to her work in the 1996 crime thriller, Bound), along with late trans actress Alexis Arquette in a supporting role, and introducing the first openly gay character of the franchise.
The camp factor was dialed all the way up when Seed came out (pun firmly intended) in 2004, and starred legendary queer film director, John Waters. Not to mention the film was ahead of its time thanks to Chucky and Tiffany’s non-binary progeny, Glen/Glenda (an obvious nod to the Ed Wood film).
As a child of the 90s, I grew up on classics such as the Nightmare on Elm Street films, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (thanks to my older brother) and The Silence of the Lambs. I came across Child’s Play via a movie channel on the local satellite television service and immediately took a liking to the villain. The little red-headed doll with the sharp kitchen knife and even sharper wit made being evil look like fun, giving a sort of relatable anti-hero status because you couldn’t help yourself cheering him on. Bride remains my favourite and I still enjoy it with every rewatch.
Chucky’s enduring popularity could never have happened without the undying support of his many dedicated (read “obsessed”) fans, which the documentary thanks extensively. The continued love and adoration of the fanbase ensured that the franchise thrived, no matter the problems that faced each instalment.
The idiom, “Child’s play”, may refer to a task that is easy to do, but Gardner’s job of bringing all those involved and tying together everything related to Chucky’s continuing legacy was no small feat. Living with Chucky serves not only as a testament, but as a celebration of the films, the actors, the story, the community and its lasting influence (looking at you M3gan). A must-see for long-time fans, and it could convince newcomers to join the Chucky family.
Living With Chucky will be available to own or rent in the UK & Ireland from April 24 via Amazon, AppleTV, Sky Store, Virgin Media and Google Play. It will also be available on Blu-ray, which will include bonus features and additional content.
“You just can’t keep a good guy down.”