Bringing Chucky, the possessed killer doll from the “Child’s Play” franchise, back to its dark roots was something “Child’s Play” creator Don Mancini wanted to do for quite a while. Since the last film hit theaters in 2004 (“Seed of Chucky,” which has a more comedic tone like its predecessor “Bride of Chucky”), Mancini heard fans commenting about how they wanted to see Chucky find the sinister side he exhibited in the first three films. In “Curse of Chucky,” the sixth and newest installment of the franchise, Mancini, who wrote all five previous films but only directed “Seed,” returns to the helm to give new life to the demented, knife-wielding Good Guys doll. This is the first movie in the series that did not get a theatrical release.
“Curse of Chucky” is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD.
It’s been 25 years since the original “Child’s Play” hit theaters. What do you think still makes Chucky such a relevant character in the horror genre today?
I think human beings have a sort of primal recoil from dolls. Dolls are distortions of the human form. There’s something about them that seems off. Beyond that, I think Chucky is a memorable character because he inherently goes after authority figures and hypocrites and often uproots the status quo. I think that’s really attractive to the horror genre audience, which is generally young. I think fans really enjoy seeing this diminutive figure on screen that can kick some ass. And, of course, at the end they like to see [Chucky] get what’s coming to him. I think [actor] Brad Dourif has a lot to do with it, too. He’s made such an indelible impression on the role. The fans appreciate that [Chucky is still voiced by] Brad and that he hasn’t been replaced. I can’t imagine anyone else doing it.
My sister collected porcelain dolls growing up and I always thought they were creepy. Did you have an experience that triggered this story to come to life in your mind back in the 80s?
Well, I grew up with four sisters. They all had dolls and I would always use their dolls to scare them. I would sneak into my sisters’ bedrooms and take a flashlight and hide it underneath the dolls so there would be a beam of light coming from below. We even do that in “Curse of Chucky” in one scene. There is just something creepy about that. Without realizing it, I was taking my first steps into creating Chucky. But the story really came to me when I was going to UCLA in the 80s and the Cabbage Patch Kids were in full swing. I wanted to write a dark satire about how advertising and marketing affected children. My father worked in advertising. I was always fascinated about it. It was interesting to see how the Cabbage Patch Doll phase was affecting all of America. I thought it would be a fun thing to write a story where the product turns around and bites you in the ass.
I had a My Buddy doll growing up. Kids really don’t play with those kinds of toys anymore, do they?
Well, now they have that line of dolls called American Girl. But those Cabbage Patch dolls and My Buddy dolls – those 2-foot dolls that are as big as the child – don’t seem to be around as much anymore.
I’m sure since you have an interest in marketing and advertising, you’ve seen how children’s toys and iconic characters have changed over the years. I mean, have you seen the new rendition of Strawberry Shortcake recently? They sexualize everything now. They’ve even turned My Little Pony into a character that walks on two legs.
Oh my God, really!? That sounds like fodder for a horror movie right there.
Oh, yeah! Horses that can walk on two legs! Very scary!
There are a few things in “Curse of Chucky” that tie into the original film and some of the past sequels. Would you like a younger generation who has never seen a Chucky movie to pick this new movie up and then seek out the rest of the franchise? Or do you think this movie can stand on its own?
Well, I hope it serves as a gateway drug for the rest of the franchise. The way the film was designed was to accommodate newcomers and longtime fans. Hopefully newcomers will like the movie and become curious about Chucky’s origins and what has come before. Obviously it’s easier now that all six films are in their own box set.
Of all the major horror movie franchises from “A Nightmare on Elm Street” to “Friday the 13th,” none of them besides “Hellraiser” have ever had a sequel go straight to video until “Curse of Chucky.” What was behind the decision not to take this movie to theaters?
Just money, really. It wasn’t my decision, of course. It was the studio’s [decision]. But this movie was conceived as a straight-to-video movie from the beginning. But it didn’t really affect my job other than having less money and less time to do it. Beyond that, I just wanted to make the best movie we could. I always thought there was a way of turning a liability into an advantage. That’s why I wanted to set the movie in one crazy house on one set. That was obviously in line with our budget, but it was also in line with creating a successful, creepy movie. Having everything take place in a single house creates a real pressure cooker. All the action takes place in a single night during a thunderstorm. I knew there were great possibilities for suspense. Even though it’s straight to video and it’s smaller, that pointed us in a useful direction to make Chucky scary again.
Do you feel “Curse of Chucky” could be a turning point for the franchise? I mean, do you think if the movie is well received by audiences, more sequels could come in the future? And vice versa, if it’s not well received, could this franchise pretty much be over?
Well, I would like to do more. As always, the final verdict will be rendered by the audience. But I certainly have an idea for the next one. Part of our intention with “Curse of Chucky” was to hopefully initiate a new cycle of scary Chucky movies. After the cycle of comedic Chucky movies with “Bride” and “Seed,” my hope is to initiate a new cycle that is purely frightening.
We’ve seen Critters go into space in “Critters 4” and Jason do the same in “Jason X.” What are the chances we can see Chucky in orbit somewhere down the line?
(Laughs) Well, if you’re going to do that you’re obviously going to go back into the comedy aspect. It’s such an absurd idea. I’ll even admit, I’ve thought of that idea before. I think the set up would be that an elementary school science class gives a space shuttle crew something to take on the space shuttle and they end up given them a Chucky doll. They would go into space with it and the mayhem would start. I think it would be a fun movie, but I think we would have to hold off on it until we go back into another comedic cycle.
Why did you think this was the right time to go back to the horror aspects of the film and leave out the comedy?
Mainly because that’s what the fans had been asking for for several years after “Seed of Chucky.” I go online and visit various horror movie websites and even Chucky-specific websites because I’m always interested in hearing what the fans are saying. For a while there has been a real consensus that they wanted Chucky to be a legitimate threat again. Also, as a filmmaker I selfishly wanted to make a darker film because as a director I had only made a Chucky movie that was a comedy. I was really eager to make a different kind of movie and direct a proper horror film and flex some different creative muscles.
Yeah, you’ve only directed two of the six Chucky movies, but it seems like you’re having a lot of fun doing it. If this franchise keeps going, do you want to be the man behind the camera?
Oh yeah. I love it. I wanted to direct for many years before I got the opportunity to do it. It’s one of the nice things about having created this [franchise]. I’ve sort of made a little sandbox for myself to play in. I’m proud that we’ve made a lot of very different kinds of movies within the franchise. I had really hoped to direct “Bride of Chucky,” but the studio felt I wasn’t quite ready to do it, so they let me direct the second unit. But [director] Ronny Yu did a terrific job. I would say that along with “Curse of Chucky” and the original movie, “Bride of Chucky” is my favorite. Having directed the second unit of “Bride,” that’s where I earned my stripes. They gave me the keys.
Isn’t it a consensus from most horror movie fans that the original “Child’s Play” is still the best one?
For the most part, but not exclusively. Probably over 50 percent would say that. Then there’s a healthy portion that really love “Bride.” Also, one thing I’ve only become aware of recently is that there is a huge contingent of fans who believe “Child’s Play 2” is the best. BloodyDisgusting.com last month ran a whole piece about why they felt “Child’s Play 2” is better than [the original] “Child’s Play.” I think each of the films has its fans, some more than others. With “Curse,” it seems like people are finding it to be one of the better ones. “Curse” has definitely gotten the best reviews from all the movies in the franchise. That’s really gratifying.