Ask any horror fan which is their favorite franchise, and you’re bound to get one of five answers: HALLOWEEN, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, FRIDAY THE 13th, SCREAM, or CHUCKY. Of these core five franchises, only one is commonly and affectionately referred to not by the title of its original installment but by the villainous icon who stars in it. It’s been over 35 years since the release of CHILD’S PLAY, yet the legendary killer doll, Chucky, has perhaps become bigger than the sum of his origin. This is due, in part, to writer Don Mancini maintaining the reigns of his creation since its very first inception.
This nightmarish lineage is documented in the new film, LIVING WITH CHUCKY, written and directed by Kyra Elise Gardner. Starting at the very beginning and making its way through each of the eight film installments up to the current television series, the movie sheds some light on the minds and talent that bring Chucky (…and his bride…and his seed) to life to mostly great effect. Through a series of cute transition sequences, we learn about each film from the people who worked on them. The likes of Brad Dourif, Alex Vincent, Christine Elise, Fiona Dourif, John Waters, Billy Boyd, Tony Gardner, Don Mancini, and national treasure Jennifer Tilly talk about their experience working on the franchise, regaling behind the scenes stories and fun antidotes along the way. Where the film lacks, however, is in providing insight or trivia that horror fans don’t already know. Little is offered that can’t be found within the shallows of Wikipedia or the depths of IMDB, delivering little new news to horror fans and, frankly, nothing that might appeal to the average moviegoer.
The film’s final 20ish minutes become sentimental and, frankly, drawn out. The reveal of the documentary creator’s connection to the material is interesting and makes for a nice little bow to tie the film up with, but it dwells just a little too long on this aspect. Because the documentary was created in 2020 and delayed because of Covid, it barely touches on the hit CHUCKY TV series, which premiered in 2021. (It also all but glosses over Child’s Play 3, and…like…I get it, no one likes that movie, but I do, dammit, and it deserved a little more screen time!) All this is to say the documentary loses focus on the franchise and becomes personal out of nowhere. Had it been personal from the beginning, the ending might not have felt quite as drawn out.
The doc’s best moments come from interviews with father/daughter stars Brad and Fiona Dourif. Brad voices the infamous Chucky (AKA Charles Lee Ray, in his human form), while Fiona plays Nika in the films and TV series. She’s even played a younger version of her father’s Charles Lee Ray as well as Nika as possessed by Chucky. (I promise if you watch the movies/series, it all makes perfect sense.) Their interactions in the documentary are sweet, touching, and surprisingly vulnerable.
LIVING WITH CHUCKY joins a string of recent horror documentaries such as PENNYWISE: THE STORY OF IT; YOU’RE SO COOL BREWSTER: THE STORY OF FRIGHT NIGHT, and all three 5+ hour IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS films (which felt like a big inspiration for this one.) As a horror fan, I appreciate these titles and will continue watching every one of them as they’re released. However, there’s a bit of a staleness, a safeness, and a lack of perspective to them. Considering SCREAM, QUEEN! MY NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET told the story of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2 and its harmful, homophobic effects on that film and its star, Marc Patton; there’s actual proof of a horror documentary making a statement instead of merely listing facts from the IMDB trivia page. Let’s hope for more of that in the future.
LIVING WITH CHUCKY is streaming on Screambox and is available on VOD and Blu-Ray.