Living with Chucky (2022)

What is Living with Chucky? Is it a repository of trivia concerning one of the most interesting horror franchises? Yes. Is it a step-by-step trip through the behind-the-scenes details of all of its instalments, from the original Child’s Play all the way to the Chucky TV show? Yes. Is it enough for the movie to stand on its own two feet? Perhaps… 

But that’s not even the half of what Living with Chucky hides within its running time. Read on.  

Any living horror franchise deserves a comprehensive documentary that could serve as a gateway drug for any fan seeking to extend their appreciation of the movies beyond what’s in the frame, especially since horror series tend to be characterized by their own particular ups and downs, descents into obscurity, resurrections, tonal shifts, revamps and everything in between. As far as the Child’s Play series (or – if you prefer – the Chucky series) is concerned, it has all of them. It began as a downright Hitchcockian exercise in suspense, it was sequelized into a slasher franchise, it even gained some notoriety in the UK after Child’s Play 3 was banned following the infamous James Bulger murder. It re-invented itself on the back of meta-self-awareness, became an amplifier for queer voices, went back to its horror roots, got remade into an experience where Mark Hamill will sing you a lullaby (though it is not considered canon) and now lives on the small screen while also sharing its DNA with other cinematic descendants, like M3GAN. Suffice it to say that the series as a whole is perhaps just as interesting to investigate as the movies themselves, all of which Kyra Gardner – the director of this documentary – touches on with appropriate respect for the material and her interviewees.  

Therefore, Living with Chucky effectively pays for itself if you were to treat it as a by-the-numbers info dump on the series, as it will walk you through the series one instalment at a time and offer something that you may not have necessarily known about it, complete with quotes from all relevant voices, such as Don Mancini (the writer and lifelong creative force behind the series), David Kirschner (one of the producers), Brad Dourif (the iconic voice of Chucky), Fiona Dourif, Tony Gardner (the puppeteer), Billy Boyd, Jennifer Tilly, John Waters and many, many more. It is a resplendent collection of talking head interviews intercut with scenes from the movies, snippets of behind-the-scenes magic and bespoke inserts separating the chapters of the documentary. However, this may only be enough for those viewers who might not have been previously interested in peeking behind the curtains and seeing how the custard was made. To top it all off, the educational aspect of this movie won’t do much for the uninitiated because the movie simply assumes you have at least seen some, if not all, the movies in the series. And if you haven’t… well they shall all be spoiled.  

So, how is a fan of the Chucky phenomenon – who is most likely already aware of just how gruelling it was to make the Chucky doll come alive, how it originated as a critique of consumerism, and how it went through its various tonal shifts – supposed to enjoy this movie? Well, you’re in luck and you should realize it quite quickly while watching the movie itself. And that’s because it doesn’t take much to figure out that Kyra Gardner has paced it rather aggressively, so much that the nicely segmented journey through the series would be complete right around the one-hour mark.  

And this is where the twist is.  

Having completed the formal part of the film and satisfied the requirements of an information-rich talking-head repository of behind-the-scenes featurettes, Living with Chucky comes into its own and becomes something else entirely the minute Kyra Gardner turns the camera on herself and introduces herself as Tony Gardner’s daughter. She then goes on to explain how her own life has been inextricably linked to Chucky and how since she can remember she has always felt personally connected to the very subjects she has just grilled about divulging production secrets. She pulls back her perspective just far enough to show the microphone in the corner and to make you realize those competently staged talking heads were people in chairs sitting right next to her.  

This is where Living with Chucky not only starts to make more sense as a cohesive vision, but also where the viewer can detect its own heartbeat. It is almost as though this documentary was itself a reflection of Chucky’s journey through the original 1988 film where the longer Charles Lee Ray was trapped inside the doll, the more human he became. Thus, what started as a rather conventional attempt at educating the viewer on the Chucky series eventually becomes a living and breathing testament to the true power of this longstanding genre endeavour – its incredible power keeping so many people so closely together for so long that they can only see each other as family. 

It is honestly a fantastic twist to an otherwise predictable piece of documentary filmmaking that not only elevates itself but also – most importantly – gives fans of the series something they may have not been aware of. In one fell swoop Living with Chucky transforms into an emotional love letter to a bunch of great people who stuck with each other through thick and thin, were there for one another in times of need and always had each other’s back.  

Kyra Gardner’s own personal viewpoint on both the movies and the people involved in making them is what makes this movie not only worth watching, but perhaps an indispensable addition to the franchise in its own right. On top of its educational value, Living with Chucky is the glue that ties this whole series together and elevates it to become more than a sum of its parts. It is a perspective without which these movies would have been just another 80s slasher franchise (even if I personally view it as a bit more special than some of its contemporaries). Now, thanks to Kyra Gardner’s work, the Chucky series should be viewed as a living proof that movies bring people together, so much so that their bonds become familial. 


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