The slasher has remained one of the most popular subgenres of horror since its inception in the 60s. However, the subgenre found itself reinvigorated in 1988, when loud, foul-mouthed Chucky made his debut in “Child’s Play,” going on to inspire one of the most iconic horror franchises in history.
Rich with history, the documentary “Living With Chucky” offers an intimate inside view of the renowned series, and while it occasionally loses focus, the documentary celebrates the franchise and the hours upon hours of hard work that launched it to success.
More than 30 years after the release of the first film, various contributors to the “Child’s Play” series come together in “Living With Chucky” to reflect on their experiences and time spent with the franchise. Not only had many of them found so much passion and career potential in the time they spent with Chucky, but found a profound love and care for the story, the characters and the many people they worked with. Director Kyra Elise Gardner, with her own personal connections to the series, offers a unique insight into what working with Chucky looked like and how the franchise continues to connect the various individuals who worked on it to this day.
While documentaries love to indulge in the talking heads format, “Living With Chucky” opts for visual intrigue. As the various interviews shift from discussing one film in the “Child’s Play” franchise to the next, a sequence plays where a new cassette of the film they are speaking of is inserted into a VCR, providing an excellent visual transition between topics that keeps the on-screen imagery fresh. And with an animated opening sequence, “Living With Chucky” ensures that there is never a dull moment on screen.
Rather than offer a profound deep-dive into the franchise, “Living With Chucky” delivers a more unique vision. Since the release of the first film and in the following decades, a plethora of individuals and families have worked on the franchise. Not only were preexisting families finding their bonds intricately tied to their work on the films, but several actors, producers, puppeteers and many others found themselves growing incredibly close with their colleagues. Plenty of interviews in the documentary find crew members likening their relationships with others to familial relationships.
This includes filmmaker and “Living with Chucky” director Gardner, daughter of Tony Gardner, one of the special effects artists and puppeteers who helped bring Chucky to life. She, like many of the other children of the franchise’s employees, grew up with an intimate familiarity with the “Child’s Play” series, and the final act of the film explores her relationship with the franchise in depth. While this turn of direction may be a bit jarring at first, it continues to build up the layers of emotional connections that the documentary painstakingly establishes. Even down to the director of the film, “Child’s Play” has inspired so many people and connected even more.
This isn’t to say that the film primarily focuses on these relationships. While the information “Living With Chucky” provides may not be revolutionary, hearing some major figures from the franchise, such as Jennifer Tilly and Brad Dourif, who reflect on their experiences with characteristic humor and wit, is marvelous. While having so many people reflecting on their diverse experiences does mean that certain plot threads are introduced and lost fairly quickly, an entertaining and emotional picture of the franchise emerges from the interviews anyways.
The documentary is a fantastic must-watch for even the most casual fans of the franchise. “Living With Chucky” is a celebration of an iconic franchise, offering a behind-the-scenes look at not just the endless time and dedication that made the films reality, but the close bonds between the various people who called the film’s set home.