The only surviving 80s icon is back: it’s Chucky. For anyone not in the know, Chucky is a Good Guy doll enjoyed by kids everything. But beneath his plastic exterior is the evil soul of evil killer Charles Lee Ray. Now with brilliant its seventh entry (reviewed here) the Child’s Play saga takes the ongoing story to a psychiatric ward. To celebrate its release, Horror Cult Films sat down with creator Don Mancini, leading lady Fiona Dourif and legendary scream queen Jennifer Tilly. As a long-time fan of the series, since my older brother first showed me part three when I was 12, this was a fanboy dream come true. All were great chat, and the time we had just flew by. Note that at the beginning I handed out a selection of toys for the team to look at whilst I went through a list of questions they hopefully hadn’t been answering all day.
So firstly, guys, just wanna say I dig the new film
FD: Thank you!
And I’ve been a big fan of the series since I saw part three
DM (laughs): He must think we’re Nightmare on Elm Street
So far there’s not been a bad, or boring, entry – how do you keep it fresh?
DM: By trying to make a different movie every time – we just try not to repeat ourselves and do a different subgenre of horror. Bride of Chucky was sort of a Natural Born Killers riff, then for Seed we took a page from Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and did the meta thing. With Curse it was a sort of Agatha Christie –
JT: Or Wait Until Dark
DM: Yeah, Wait Until Dark – a woman in peril movie. Then this one is an insane asylum movie, which is its own subgenre and brings its own archetypes and conventions. I think this is one way to keep it fresh – by switching up the subgenre. It’s also a ‘mind fuck’ movie, like Inception, because you’ve got characters questioning reality and we see there’s more than one of the dolls so what does that mean? I was really trying to fuck with people’s heads
With all the other 80s icons, all the others have been remade whereas here you’ve still got the same actor and character. What’s been his staying power?
DM: We’ve done so many kind of movies, and I like to think we’re unique in that way – we’ve got comedies and slasher etc. I think that’s part of the longevity. But also we’re all here together – we make these movies over the course of decades and it means a lot to us. It’s our family business in a way
JT: Don is also a huge horror fan – he loves these films so writes the types he’d love to see. So when he writes a new chucky movies it’s not like (groans). It’s just like a challenge to him and he enjoys it – what’s Chucky going to do next? And he loves the Chucky fans and he really thinks about what’d be really interesting for them and for him to write
FD: Sometimes sequels in horror can be different ways to kill people, retreading what’s gone before. But with Don there’s journeys in characters, and they’re developed or ended, which is more fun to play and more fun to watch
JT: And there’s so much joy in the character – I mean he’s not some nameless, faceless monster that’s robotically killing people. I mean he’s got a kid, a wife and he’s got concerns about his potency
He also doesn’t just kill people – he really fucks with them, running their lives, and takes glee in it.
DM: Right, he’s very manipulative. He operates in a very different way from Freddy, Jason or Michael Myers. He hides in plain sight – he can be in the scene with you and gets up close and personal literally and figuratively
He’s also not the only returning character – we have Tiffy, Andy and Nica coming back – how important is the shared universe?
DM: It’s of paramount importance, even though it’s a universal film
(Laughs all round)
DM: To me that’s one of the fun things about it – I’m as much a fan as the fans are so I spend a lot of time thinking what happens next. In a way it’s like fan fiction, with me thinking ‘what would happen if Tiffany met Nica or Nica met Andy?’ I think about this at night. And I’m in a position to do something about it which is cool.
Sometime I wanted to ask Fiona was about acting against her dad’s voice. I assume when you’re onset his voice is being used, right?
FD: That’s right.
How is it doing an intense, confrontational scene with your dad?
FD: I was worried it’d throw me but it actually proved quite the opposite – it was deeply disturbing. Because my dad’s been a real source of comfort, and to have this thing taunting me in his voice was bothersome.
JT: There’s a really British word!
DM: In curse of Chucky, the scene after he’s pushed her over the railing and she’s lying on the floor with Chucky’s taunting her, Fiona asked ‘can we switch Chucky off?’
FD: We had a puppeteer with him, but it felt so personal
Speaking of which, it’s great that you still haven’t used computer effects – at least I assume you haven’t.
DM: Not at all
The doll still looks amazing.
JT: Sometimes we’ll have a small actor playing Chucky, or Tiffany, also
DM: Actually, not in this movie, it’s all 100% animatronics – we didn’t use any of the shots. I just think it’s important for the actors to have something to react to. I think of the Star wars prequels where you got these Oscar winning actors working with nothing and that process reduces even them to amateurs
FD: I remember seeing a horror movie that I think Karen Black had been in, and there’s a scene where three people are looking at a monster. She looked like she was over acting because she’s picturing a horrible, huge monster, and her co-star is like ‘meh, there’s a monster’ so there’s three people in the scene all seeing something different. I thought there’s a problem since you don’t know exactly what they’re going to come up with. There were large sequences of this movie though where it’s a close up on my face, and Don’s going “ok, to the right, he’s to the right! And now he’s jumped off” and so on. It was just my eyes darting trying to convey different manifestations of horror
DM: But don’t blink!
FD: Yeah, then Don’s telling me not to blink – I wanted to kill him.
JT: He said if he could tell an actor one thing it’s don’t blink
DM: It’s really true! Once you get into editing you realise blinks are extremely meaningful and if it happens at the wrong time it explodes all the tension
(At this point the PA says we’re running out of time).
I got two quick questions if that’s ok
DM: Are they about blinks?
Nope, they’re about toys. First, have any of you ever had a toy that scared the hell out of you before?
DM: I haven’t, although when I was a kid I had 4 sisters who had dolls, and without knowing it I was probably rehearsing for my life’s work. I’d set up the dolls and put like a flashlight under them to scare her.
JT: My mum collects dolls – she has these really creepy Santas from the 40s. There were four of them, all the same, and they were just like that Santa who was accused to molesting Jonbenet. And when she passed away it was like ‘who wants these dolls?’ Nobody wanted them because these are the creepiest Santa dolls ever. We knew they were worth a lot of money, and my mum loved them, but we donated them to a shelter. There was just something creepy about how happy those dolls were.
FD: We had Chucky growing up.
Did you have a Chucky in your room?
FD: No, but he’s been in my livingroom all my life. He was in our apartment growing up, and now my own home. I’m not scared of dolls but I’m scared of aliens though! I’m still scared of aliens. I really am.
JT: I think that’s a legitimate fear of the unknown.
And lastly, with the four toys in front, if I was doing a reboot of Child’s Play using one of them as our new killer, which would you go with?
JT (pointing to the Goth doll): Her for sure
FD (pointing to the Goth doll): The sexy little pale figure
DM (pointing to the owl): This also looks, you know –
JT (pointing to the owl): It’s good because he doesn’t have any shape – he could land on your face and smother you to death. It’s be horrifying to die with this happy little owl on your face. (Points at doll again) But that girl is super creepy. Is it a Bratz doll?
I picked her up from the pound shop on the way here
Jennifer: She’s very eerie
I’ll even leave her here for you
Thanks guys – great meeting you!
And with that I got to give Jennifer Tilly a Poundland doll. Movie journalism can be great fun.
Cult of Chucky is released on DVD and Bluray October 23.
Read my review from Fright Fest here.