Believe it or not, the Child’s Play franchise turns 30 next year and the seventh movie, Cult Of Chucky, has been unleashed on the masses. This time out, a grown up Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent, star of the first two films) lives in isolation with the severed living head of the infamous killer doll (voiced by Brad Dourif) which he tortures regularly. But through the help of his girlfriend, Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly), Chucky has found a way to split his soul into another doll, and thus infiltrates the asylum where Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif) has been sent after having wrongly been found guilty of the murders he committed in the last film. Naturally, Chucky stalks and torments her while slicing up the staff, and the deaths this time around are spectacular and vicious. I recently interviewed director, Don Mancini, and the cast, which also includes Christine Elise, reprising her Child’s Play 2 role of Kyle in the post-credits stinger.
Fiona, does it freak you out to perform opposite an animatronic Chucky that has your dad’s lines programmed into it?
Fiona Dourif: It’s really helpful because Chucky is haunting me and is going to kill me, but it’s extra surreal and creepy because it’s the voice of the person who has provided me with the most protection and comfort.
Brad, you tend to do Chucky’s voice work in isolation.
Brad Dourif: That’s right, although Fiona did come and help me out a little.
Fiona Dourif: We acted out one of the scenes.
Brad Dourif: When I went in to do the third Child’s Play, I was in this enormous room with just me at the front and this huge screen. Way back there over loudspeakers was everybody else enjoying food and each other’s company, and poor Brad was there alone for two days. Lo and behold, Jennifer comes in for Bride (of Chucky), and that was so nice to have somebody to play with.
Chucky has become even more violent. Are you comfortable with that?
Fiona Dourif: I’m into it.
Brad Dourif: It’s a roller coaster ride. It’s supposed to be fun. We take all of these things politically seriously, but people have been putting gore on their face and on their little children while they go around and collect candy. We’re all used to gore in horror films, and again it’s camp. The roots of Chucky are in the camp era, and you can’t take Chucky out of that because he won’t work. Chucky is three things: He’s terrified of oblivion, he will turn a living, breathing human being into a piece of meat, and he loves his job.
Fiona Dourif: It’s just a fun franchise.
After all these years, what does Chucky mean to you now?
Fiona Dourif: He means the Dourif family legacy. He is a part of the zeitgeist. He is the most famous thing that I have ever been in contact with. Chucky has a real distinct, really fun personality that is to Don Mancini’s credit, and also my dad’s. It helped launch my career, and these movies are really fun. I feel like Cult strikes the exact tone that I was hoping that it would, which is back to horror and not a comedy. It doesn’t take itself too seriously but it’s really funny. I was leaping out of my seat.
Alex and Christine, I figure that for both of you this is like Godfather III – “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” It must be surreal to come back to this. How would you describe the experience?
Alex Vincent: Filming up in Winnipeg in the middle of the winter in freezing, freezing cold making a Chucky film just really brought me back to 1987 in Chicago, making a Chucky film in freezing weather. If you look at one event that happened in one year (of your life), you feel like that was so long ago, and if you think about another event that happened that year you feel like that was yesterday. This felt [like] a lot of that. I was six and I don’t remember anything else about being six. I remember making this film. Being back around those people again and working with the doll and Brad, surreal is the best word to describe it.
Christine Elise: Surreal for me for all the obvious reasons and the reasons you stated, being on a set with him and Don and Chucky. I only did the one day (for the end credits sequence), but Chucky is such a big part of my life – that franchise defines a big chunk of my career. What was really weird for me was being on the set with a bunch of people who didn’t know who I was. Feeling like a stranger on a set like I feel like I own. This is my home, and I don’t know any of you and you don’t know me.
Alex Vincent: I know exactly what you’re talking about. But for anyone who was there who did (part) two, you were so far from a stranger. It felt like it was right that you were there. (Don and the producers) were gracious to have us. There was a good energy with all the people.
Have you guys thought about what would happen to your characters in the next installment?
Alex Vincent: The two of us taking them on together. That would be a lot of fun.
Christine Elise: Yeah. Alex and I as the avengers. It’s teed up that way.
What was the most intense part about making this movie?
Don Mancini: Probably the cold. We shot up in Winnipeg in January and February. It was 40 below, blizzards, cameras freezing, lenses freezing. We got snowed out a couple of times. So that aspect of it was intense but totally worth it because it’s so beautiful on film.
Jennifer Tilly: The penultimate scene was very hard because we had snow falling, we had wind machines blowing more snow into our face, and Fiona was half dressed. It was basically, let’s hope we can get something in the can before we all die.
There’s a moment in the film where Chucky says, “Sometimes I scare myself.” Don, the last couple of sequels have been more vicious. As you have been writing them, have you ever asked that of yourself?
Don Mancini: I kind of do. The older I get, the more disturbed I get by this. [laughs] In horror movies, there is a tradition of having fun with death, which I suppose is cathartic and our way of dealing with that. However, it’s different writing it in my 50s than when I was in my 20s, for probably obvious reasons. “Oh, this is disturbing – but still funny though.”
Jennifer Tilly: I saw this in the theater with an audience, and my boyfriend screamed like a little girl every time somebody died. What really struck me was the deaths were exuberant. We enjoyed the deaths.
Don Mancini: They’re beautiful.
On Facebook you can see that some people have dressed their five-year-olds up as Chucky for Halloween. Does that freak you out?
Don Mancini: A little bit because it’s ubiquitous. People do it a lot. Now in the age of social media, people tweet their photos of their kids as Chucky. They’re really adorable, but I feel I have to officially say these movies are rated R, not for children, etc.
Jennifer Tilly: The thing that is so astonishing as when anybody under the age of 12 runs up to me and says they’re a big fan because they’ve seen the Chucky movies. I’m like, “Oh my God, where are your parents? These movies are so R-rated.” You have doll sex, you have Chucky smoking a doobie, you’ve got extreme violence. But the other day a guy got up in the audience and said, “My mom saw the trailer on TV and thought it was a movie about toys. She took me and I was hooked.” I’m like, when she was three minutes into the movie and the babysitter flew out the window, didn’t she think that she should take her child out of the movie?
Chucky originally represented a darker side of marketing to children. Obviously he has mutated into different forms over the years. What does Chucky mean to you now?
Don Mancini: He hasn’t specifically been a symbol for marketing gone awry in awhile. I think in this movie he is a symbol – this is probably getting way over deep, but why not – for the darkness in all of us. Nica, the character that Fiona plays in the beginning, has been erroneously convinced that she’s a murderess, and she has to struggle with taking on the load of guilt that comes with that. Chucky symbolizes that guilt, and he fucks with her for the whole movie. If that’s not too grandiose to impose on a slasher sequel seven films in, that’s what he seems like he is to me.
Jennifer Tilly: The thing that is astonishing to me is people say that when they were kids they were so terrified of Chucky. I think he has evolved from being a faceless, vicious little fury that just kills people into someone likable. People identify more with Chucky than they do with his victims. They feel like Chucky is a guy you can hang out with. Sure, he has a killing problem, but he’s a lot of fun and has a great sense of humor. He is the person they’d most like to party with.
Don Mancini: Bucking the status quo and taking down authority figures – young people identify with that. There is a charm to it.
Jennifer Tilly: There is an insane Chucky subculture – tattoos, fan art, cosplay. I had no idea until I started with social media how Chucky was such an icon. And worldwide. I travel a lot, and wherever I go people scream, “Chucky! Chucky!” And they follow me around. They want me to hug them. I’ve made many, many wonderful films, but because of Chucky nine out of 10 people recognize me. None of these films have made me an icon, and Chucky has made me a horror icon. I like that.
Don Mancini: Horror icon. It suits you.
Cult Of Chucky is available for streaming on Netflix.