Interview

Interview

Father of Chucky: Exclusive Interview with 'Curse of Chucky' Director Don Mancini

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On the outside, Chucky may appear to be a harmless, pint-sized “friend to the end” Good Guy doll, but the popular toy houses the evil spirit of serial killer Charles Lee Ray. Debuting in the 1988 film Child’s Play, Chucky has sliced, stabbed, and slaughtered his way through five movies in an effort to possess a human form. 2004's Seed of Chucky marked his last sadistic endeavor, and ever since he’s been missing in action... until now. Produced, written and directed by Chucky's creator, Child's Play creator Don Mancini, Curse of Chucky finds the horror icon adding to his body count in the latest entry of the franchise.
 
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“Chucky’s been dormant,” explains Mancini. “We’ve wanted to do a new Chucky movie for a while. We did Seed in 2004; a couple of years after that, the big trend in the horror world was to do remakes. David  Kirschner and I, for a while, were exploring the possibility of doing a remake of our original film. But that got complicated by a rights situation, because we did the original movie at MGM and all the subsequent ones were at Universal. The rights to the original were actually jointly owned, which is a nightmare to sort out. We waited for a couple of years and realized, ‘Okay, that’s not going to happen.’ But at the same time, in the interim, a number of horror remakes had been released to kind of ambivalence. Part of the reason is it just seemed people were so familiar with those original stories that they didn’t seem to really go over so well. We learned from that. We thought, ‘Okay, what we really want to do is not a strict reboot, but a total reboot.’ We listen to our audience. In ’98, we did Bride of Chucky and deliberately turned it into a comedy. That went very well and went even further with Seed. That went less well in terms of the audience reception. Really, the message we were hearing from the audiences was they wanted Chucky to be scary again. That was our mission. So we thought, ‘Okay, we can do that in the context of an actual sequel. We can do a total reboot in context of a sequel.’ That is essentially what we’ve done with Curse of Chucky.”
 
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The movie opens with Nica (Fiona Dourif), who uses a wheelchair, and her mother unexpectedly receiving a package containing a familiar-looking Good Guy doll. It doesn’t take long before dear old Mom mysteriously commits suicide and Nica’s sister Barb (Danielle Bisutti), brother-in-law Ian (Brennan Elliott), niece Alice (Summer Howell), and their sexy live-in nanny Jill (Maitland McConnell) move in to comfort her. That’s when the bloodshed kicks in.
 
During an August 2012 Curse of Chucky set visit in Winnipeg, Chucky clearly hasn’t lost his touch. His current victim: Father Frank, played by A. Martinez.
 
“He’s an ally of the Barb character,” reveals Martinez. “He’s basically there to try to get Nica to do Barb’s bidding, to dispense of their real estate asset in a timely fashion and divide up the spoils. I think he feels a little bad about it and slightly ambivalent because he knows he’s taking advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable state. But, he goes ahead and does it anyway.”
 
After being poisoned at Nica’s place and drifting in and out of consciousness while driving home, Father Frank ends up in a terrible car accident. The scene is being filmed on location at 11pm, in a secluded park serving as a main road, where Frank is trapped by the mangled wreckage... more specifically, the sharp, jagged metal has pinned his neck to the front seat. In pain and distress, Frank can only wait until the paramedics and police arrive to save the day, which they do. Unfortunately, their efforts decapitate him. As Frank’s head rolls, a geyser of blood erupts into the air, splattering those standing by. Despite the chilly night air, it’s quite an impressive and gory gag to behold.
 
“I had never done something like this before,” says Martinez. “They put a bladder on first that has the capacity to secrete or squirt. Then they built another piece over it that is basically your neck with a flap in it. By the time they are done, they are so good at blending color and hiding the seams that you can’t see it. After a while, the adhesive is so strong you forget it’s there. You feel like you are wearing a brace.”
 
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While the previous two sequels heavily incorporated humor, no one is laughing now. Chucky is back with a vengeance against this particular family, and his motivation brings audiences full circle to the original Child’s Play. In other words, viewers will be treated to some actual character development and an arc for the little homicidal doll.
 
“Changing the movie into a comedy two movies ago was actually a real help in that direction,” reports Mancini. “By introducing the character of the Bride of Chucky, that allowed us to explore the dimensions of a horror villain we don’t really see that much. We don’t really know that much about Jason or Freddy really. We know Freddy is the bastard son of a 1000 maniacs. We know that Jason is Mrs. Voorhees son, but we don’t really know what makes them tick in the sense of 'Who do they love? What do they feel about what they do?' I felt in Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky, by embracing the absurdity of the notion of the killer doll, it actually simultaneously allowed us to get into the mind of such a character that you don’t see that much in these movies. It really allowed Brad [Dourif, the voice of Chucky], as an actor, to really explore new dimensions of what he had been doing before. But in this one, because we wanted to turn it scary again, we took another left turn. Without giving too much away, we find out a little more about Charles Lee Ray, the serial killer Brad portrayed in the original movie, who gets gunned down in a Chicago toy store and passes his soul into the doll. We find out a little bit more about him and the last night of his life.”
 
One significant change in Curse of Chucky lies in the format: all of Chucky’s previous gruesome exploits received theatrical releases, whereas Curse went straight to DVD. Mancini promises he still gave this new installment the full feature treatment, and that the limited budget and tight production schedule may have been a blessing in disguise.
 
“I knew we would have less money and less time, but knowing that, I designed to accommodate those restrictions,” offers Mancini. “In trying to make the movie scary again, that suggested we would be seeing Chucky less than the last couple of movies. That alone allowed us to reign in the budget, as opposed to the last two movies, where you have two dolls and three dolls, which all have these scenes together. That got really complicated and expensive. In this one, because we want to make them scary again, you don’t want to put the villain front and center all the time. You keep them in the shadows, rather like we did in the original movie in 1988.”
 
For years, Chucky rumors flooded the internet; remakes, reboots and origin stories were all associated with the next project. As aforementioned, Mancini considered everything, including some of the current crop of horror trends, when conceiving this movie.
 
“As every horror fad comes up, we thought, ‘Is there something we could do with that?’” explains Mancini. “Chucky 3-D I personally think could be a lot of fun. Chucky found footage, maybe less so. I myself am not a huge fan of the found footage genre, and only because part of my attraction to the horror genre as a filmmaker is I really like stylization. I see the value of [found footage] in terms of scaring people, but creatively I’m much more interested in creating a beautiful stylized realm that goes against the grain of the horror that is happening within that frame.”
 
Even though Chucky has reverted to his earlier darker days, he’s always been very tongue-and-cheek; there are those memorable one-liners, and who can forget him killing Britney Spears in Seed of Chucky? That begs the question: which overexposed celebrity would be on Chucky’s hit list? Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan or Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James?
 
“I feel like Justin Bieber is too obvious,” Mancini concludes with a laugh. “Lindsay Lohan nobody cares about anymore, so he wouldn’t waste his time. I guess that just leaves the author of Fifty Shades of Grey. I haven’t read the book, so I don’t have anything personal against her. It strikes me that Tiffany would be into that book. It’s S&M, isn’t it? Yeah, Tiffany would love that.”
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