Documentary Review: ‘Living With Chucky’

Review by Hunter Miele

Creating a film (and perhaps a subsequent franchise) that can define a generation and develop an entire culture around it is a wild dream for any filmmaker. Don Mancini realized that dream after he wrote the script for the 1988 film “Child’s Play,” which not a single horror fan in existence is unaware of. Unfortunately for those bearing the name, most people that hear “Chucky” immediately picture the red-haired, foul-mouthed killer in his cute, little overalls – the terrifying star of “Child’s Play.” The film left a profound and permanent mark in the world of contemporary American horror that’s just as evident today as it was in 1988, considering the franchise is eight movies deep – and counting. “Living With Chucky” is an in-depth documentary that explores the creation and impact of the “Child’s Play” franchise via interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. Kyra Elise Gardner – the film’s writer and director – is the daughter of acclaimed special effects artist and puppeteer Tony Gardner, who was responsible for giving the Chucky doll its signature, terrifying appearance.

“Living With Chucky” dives deep into the creation of each film in the “Child’s Play” franchise in order. Through interviews with the original film’s creator, as well as many of the actors, including Brad Dourif – the voice of Chucky – and the special effects team, we learn first-hand what made the movies so unique for the horror genre. Considering the franchise contains eight movies, with many repeat cast and crew members appearing on set, working together on a creative project as a long-term team was a major theme in the documentary. No man is an island, and that is most certainly true when it comes to filmmaking. “Living With Chucky” does an excellent job of exploring this idea in a fun and shockingly wholesome way.

Most of the time when we’re watching a film, we’re not thinking of the people who work together in droves to make the creator’s vision come to life. It took nine puppeteers to control Chucky’s movements, and most scenes with the puppet involved shooting take after take after take in order to get it right. The films of today usually rely on CGI for shots like these. When an actor interacts with something tangible, it helps them create a scene that feels more real to the viewer (considering it is more real). It’s something that makes movies of the last century (especially horror movies) incredibly special, considering that the days of special effects have come to a screeching halt thanks to computer-generated imagery. “Living With Chucky” discusses at length the lost value of puppetry in film in a way that will make most viewers feel that familiar tinge of nostalgia.

“Living With Chucky” is captivating and exciting, and keeps a good pace throughout as it takes us through each of the films in the franchise. The behind-the-scenes footage, especially involving the puppetry, that’s scattered throughout the documentary keeps it thoroughly engaging. After having seen “Living With Chucky,” it would be hard to revisit the iconic, original “Child’s Play” (or any of the “Chucky” films, for that matter) and not think about the unique impact and dedication it took to make the franchise so successful.

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