Review: ‘Living With Chucky’

I can’t imagine that in the mid 1980’s, the creators of Child’s Play (1988) would have envisioned the sizable cult adoration and financial benefits the horror franchise has evolved into over the past 35 years. I suppose it just goes to show that all one truly needs is a killer idea. And even though I’m not a huge fan of Chucky’s murderous rampage, I do remember the hysteria such a film caused with my parents and the VHS box covers that haunted the shelves of every video store I entered as a teenager.

And haunted is a good word for Living With Chucky, but not in the literal sense. Directed by Kyra Elise Gardner, she has first hand involvement with the Chucky films as her father was one of the original creators of the animatronic doll that eventually came to life on-screen.

Interviewing pretty much everyone involved in the seven Chucky films as well as admirers and acolytes, Gardner’s documentary spends a good portion of its running time recapping the films with insight from some of its biggest movers and shakers, including the voice of Chucky, Brad Dourif, and its late-career savior Jennifer Tilly. Also adding some context and anecdotes are its producers/creators such as Don Mancini and Alex Vincent, the young actor from the first two films.

But beyond this simple history lesson that feels minor and something akin to a featurette on a DVD, Gardener shifts the scope of her documentary to more interesting subjects towards the end when she inverts the terror within the films to how it impacted her as a young child. Basically having the Chucky doll in her house (and positioned perfectly on her couch no less) impacted her greatly.

Also sharing how the Chucky films influenced (or warped) her vulnerable psyche is Brad Dourif’s daughter, Fiona, who herself got into the Chucky arena in Curse of Chucky (2013) and Cult of Chucky (2017). Reminiscing about watching her father do voice-over work during a scene where he’s burned to death (as the doll, of course) pierces the nepotism veil that supposes it’s all roses for children of Hollywood on the stages of make believe.

With these stories and more, Gardner hints at something visceral behind the fictional world of a horror franchise. Parts of this documentary and other films such as Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen’s Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street (2019) shine a spotlight on the human vulnerability behind a genre that rarely has room for anything else. I only wish Living With Chucky got to these points quicker instead of the idolization of the films themselves. I found the introspection much more interesting than a doll being imbued with the spirit of a murderer and killing scores of people. Go figure.

Living With Chucky begins streaming on all VOD platforms on Tuesday April 4th, including Amazon Prime, Apple, Google Play, VUDU, Screambox and more.