Synopsis: A filmmaker who grew up alongside Chucky the killer doll seeks out the other families surrounding the Child’s Play films as they recount their experiences working on the ongoing franchise and what it means to be a part of the “Chucky” family.
Stars: Abigail Breslin, Adam Hurtig, Alex Vincent, Billy Boyd, Brad Dourif, Christine Elise McCarthy, Dan Povenmire, David Kirschner, Don Mancini, Elle Lorraine, Fiona Dourif, James A. Janisse, Jennifer Tilly, John Waters, Kyra Gardner, Lin Shaye, Marlon Wayans, Tony Gardner, Tony Timpone
Director: Kyra Gardner
Running Length: 105 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: The great benefit of being a child of the ’80s is that all these years later, the films, shows, music, and general themes we grew up with are all getting the documentary treatment. Allowing us to get this first-hand nostalgia is a treat because it comes pre-packaged for our consumption and presented by filmmakers who share the same passion. The wealth of available archival footage is consistently impressive, as are the actors and technicians willing to come back and reflect on their experiences making a movie that may not have meant much to them at the time but has been solidified in amber for a broad audience.
I’ve spent hours (hours, I tell you!) watching documentaries on horror film franchises that run the gamut from Friday the 13th to Hellraiser; there was the four-hour examination of A Nightmare on Elm Street films, and In Search of Tomorrow, a 5-hour journey through ’80s sci-fi films. I’ll also admit to watching (devouring?) the 14+ hours of the In Search of Darkness trilogy, walking the viewer through every nook and cranny of the ’80s horror market.
Mentioned in more than a few of these were the Child’s Play series (or “Chucky” films, if you’re using shorthand), and now there’s finally Living with Chucky. This well-seasoned documentary examines the seven movies and touches on the recent television series surrounding the long-lasting doll possessed by a serial killer. Brisk at 105 minutes, but feeling like it provides ample coverage for its subject, there’s a personal connection for writer/director Kyra Gardner. That special touch goes a long way in keeping the film affectionate but not reverential.
As I mentioned in a recent post, I first met Chucky in Child’s Play 2, and we got along like a house on fire. Something about the playful tone of that 1990 sequel has always appealed to me. While I see the structural defaults in that film as I grow older, it’s the one I’ll always want to return to first, even if my gut wants me to start with Tom Holland’s creepy original from 1988. Gardner takes viewers through the character’s origin story (thankfully, not going too deep since most of the audience is likely familiar) and how the film journeyed to the big screen. Relying primarily on celebrity color commentary from franchise fans instead of those directly involved with the movie (only some true must-haves are here) helps Gardner keep the documentary from feeling like another special feature from a BluRay package. With a wide range of people being interviewed, it’s often amusing to hear how the movies have influenced genre stars over the years.
If anything, Gardener keeps her tie to the Child’s Play films in the bag for too long. I will hold off saying what it is because the director intentionally leaves it until almost the end, and I want to respect that it’s likely a creative decision. Still, I can’t help but wonder if the question she introduces wouldn’t have been more intriguing being asked an hour earlier. That’s just a tiny grievance I had for Living with Chucky, a hugely enjoyable look back at a series that has given much entertainment to its audience while making some bold steps and taking huge swings along the way.