The 1980s was an inventive and flourishing decade for the horror film genre. Michael Myers continued to terrify the streets Haddonfield in the Halloween series, Jason Vorhees butchered the unlucky visitors of Camp Crystal Lake, Freddy Krueger haunted the teenage dreams of Elm Street, and Pinhead brought us the pleasures and pain of Hell, but in 1988, we got a new pint-size brand of horror—the supernatural slasher, Child’s Play. That film brought us a new iconic horror figure who would join the pantheon of 1980s horror icons alongside Freddy and the gang. You know him as Chucky, the “Good Guy” doll who served as the vessel for deceased serial killer and voodoo cultist Charles Lee Ray, aka the “Lakeshore Strangler.” The foul-mouthed, two-foot-tall maniac has had seven films since his inception and the newest entry, Cult of Chucky, is out now, just in time for Halloween.
The Child’s Play series is one of the few iconic horror franchises of its era that has yet to be rebooted. Freddy, Jason and Michael have all had remakes, reboots and recasting of their lead roles, several times already in the case of the Halloween franchise. But not Chucky. The thriving little bastard is alive and well, and keeps coming back to life, always staying in continuity with every previous and sometimes downright insane storyline in the film canon, and to this day, he’s been voiced by the great Brad Dourif since the original. Another man who has been there since the beginning, and who can certainly be credited as the father of Chucky is writer/director Don Mancini. While other talented directors such as Tom Holland (Fright Night), Jack Bender (LOST, Game of Thrones) and Ronny Yu (Freddy vs. Jason) helmed some of the earlier films in the franchise, Mancini always provided the scripts and would go on to take full control of the ship starting with 2004’s Seed of Chucky, where he began both writing and directing every film since then (and kudos to David Kirschner for serving as producer on every single film).
On the set of Cult of Chucky, Playboy Managing Editor Gil Macias spoke with the man who started it all. We talked to him about his ultimate game plan for the franchise, what other crazy storylines he has in mind, and a crossover idea he had that would pair Chucky up with another iconic horror figure.
We’re now at Cult of Chucky, the seventh film in the series. How long do you see this going, and do you have a game plan?
You know, I have a vague game plan that doesn’t necessarily have an end point, although, you know, I can’t say too much. But I would never say never about anything. But at this point, I don’t feel the need for a strict remake of the first movie. Because I felt with Curse of Chucky we did a tonal reboot and brought it back to its straightforward horror roots. But Chucky is such a versatile character, as we’ve found, with Bride and Seed, and back to Curse. We can plug him into a variety of different genres and situations, and he still seems to thrive.
Seed of Chucky was more of a dark comedy-horror film with dysfunctional family-drama undertones. Are there any other crazy ideas or genres you wanted to dabble in with this franchise?
I’ve often joked about it, but it’s not 100 percent a joke, like, if I had my druthers, I’d do a musical. And I’m not joking. I used to talk about this with [writer/director] John Waters when we were doing Seed of Chucky. And he goes, “Yeah, that’s an awesome idea.” I think Bride of Chucky’s story, because it’s a parody of a romance, could lend itself to a musical very well. And I’m talking like stage, maybe screen. But they’ll probably never let me do that. But if I had my druthers, I would do that. I think as long as people are interested in the character, there are enough different kinds of stories and situations to keep him going.
In the opening of Bride of Chucky, a Michael Myers mask and hockey mask are clearly visible in the evidence locker scene. Has there ever been serious talk about a crossover film involving Chucky?
We’ve had casual talk about it. I have what I think is an awesome Freddy and Chucky story. But it’s because the rights to those franchises are at different studios, you know, it’s just a lot of work and time and years and lawyers just to work that out. However, if that could ever be worked out, I would love to do a Freddy and Chucky team-up. You know, I thought Freddy and Jason, which was directed by Ronny Yu, who directed Bride of Chucky, I thought he did a great job with it. But from a writing perspective, I always thought, well, Jason doesn’t talk. So it doesn’t just give a lot of opportunity for an interesting team relationship. Whereas I think Freddy and Chucky both have very distinct personalities, and to see them collide could be really fun.
What would your plot be if you got the two of them together?
The idea is just basically a horror version of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, called Child’s Play on Elm Street. So Chucky ends up on Elm Street. He’s living with a kid who happens to live there. He meets Freddy in the dream realm, and they’re like, “Oh, hey, I’m a big fan of your work. Yeah, I’ve been following you for years.” And so they kind of have this mutual admiration of each other at first, but then they get competitive. They realize Elm Street’s not big enough for the two of them. So they have a contest. Whoever can kill the most teenagers before sunrise gets to stay on Elm Street, and the other one has to leave. Wouldn’t you pay to see that? I would totally pay to see that.
I think a lot of the fans are excited about the return of Andy Barclay. Actor Alex Vincent lived the part as a young child. Before you wrote the script, did you consult with him at all to see what his opinion was on the headspace of the now grown up Andy character?
Oh, yeah, totally. I had the weirdest situation with Alex, because when we first met, I was 25, he was 6. Then 27 and 8 when we did Child’s Play 2. So it’s just a weird thing to have a relationship with a child that’s a professional, it’s just odd. And then, our lives moved on, and we didn’t talk for many years, but through the magic of social media and Facebook, we got back in touch. So suddenly he’s an adult, and a very interesting guy. And when I say interesting, I mean we have very similar tastes in music and movies and books and stuff. So, we reconnected as friends, which we couldn’t do 30 years ago. So, we always talked about the franchise and what would Andy be like? If that really happened to a child, what kind of post-traumatic stress disorder would he be dealing with, and how would that present in the real world? We talked about it a lot.
This is also the first film in the series that’s going to merge three storylines. You’ve got Andy’s storyline, Tiffany, and now we have Nica’s story. Was it challenging for you to interweave all three?
It was a challenge to blend them all together, and really a specific challenge was not to make it mere fan service. It just would’ve been kind of lame to say, here’s a scene with Andy, and here’s a scene with Tiffany. The challenge was to actually take those characters and imagine them colliding, and giving them all a legitimate story and relationships and new places to go. That was what our goal was. We’ll have to see what people think of it.
I know Jennifer is really big on comedy and improv, and she kind of deviates from the script with ad-libs. She had a blast poking fun at herself when you filmed Seed of Chucky. How cool are you with that, on letting her just do her own thing and changing things up?
Well, Jennifer and I have this way of working together, because as you say, she is such a genius at improvisation. My rule with her is that, let’s do a take that’s absolutely scripted. Once we get that, then you can play. And so, that’s worked for us, on four movies so far, and it seems to be working again. We had a really good time when we shot Tiffany coming to visit Nica at the asylum. It’s almost like Reese’s Pieces. Like chocolate and peanut butter, they’re very different. Because Nica is a very grounded sort of character. She’s dealing with tragedy and violence in a very real way. And then you’ve got Tiffany, who sort of exists in this other realm. And so hopefully the collision of those two different tones is going to create a new type of magic.
Cult of Chucky is available on VOD, Blu-ray and DVD on October 3rd. For information on where to purchase, visit Universal’s official website here.