Don Mancini had no idea when he created Child’s Play way back in 1988 that Chucky, the doll with an angel’s smile and the devil’s own agenda, would spawn a franchise that he would still be talking about, much less writing new stories for, 30 years later…but he did have a dream.
As a horror fan in the 80s, he followed all of the major franchises and is still an ardent fan of Carpenter, Craven, Hooper and the rest. His own creation, Chucky, has stood the test of time, spawning six sequels that have ranged in tone from classic slashers to darkly hysterical comedies.
“I created a little sandbox for myself to play in,” he admits, “and it’s allowed me to tell different kinds of stories. Honestly, I feel like I won the lottery.”
Mancini has never wanted to tell the exact same kind of story twice, however. In fact, he sees each sequel as an opportunity to switch directions and keep his audiences guessing.
“Any good story is about subverting expectations, and sequels are a golden opportunity for that,” Mancini says. “People come into sequels with a lot of expectations and it’s my job to be surprising, to give you something you never saw coming.”
How does he do it? By playing with the subgenre of the film.
In Curse of Chucky, the last film from the franchise, Mancini focused on the classic tropes of the big scary house and the woman in peril to draw Chucky from the land of dark comedy into something all together more serious. With Cult of Chucky he continues that streak, but the action has been moved to a mental hospital. It’s going to be a crazy ride, and he cites Leonard DiCaprio’s Inception as an inspiration.
“We have a whole set of people in the institution who imprint on this doll in different ways depending on their particular illnesses,” he points out. “Their perspectives are colored by the drugs they’re on, the dreams they’re having, and their diagnoses. That allows Chucky to toy with them all in different ways.”
In fact, Mancini says, he wrote it so that the characters and audiences alike will question what is reality and what is hallucination throughout the film.
Mancini was also excited to bring back one of his original characters after a brief scene at the end of Curse of Chucky. Andy Barclay, the young boy with the misfortune of being Chucky’s first owner after the doll was possessed by Charles Lee Ray, is back and ready to fight his nemesis once again in Cult of Chucky. To make it even more exciting, Alex Vincent who played Andy thirty years ago is back to reprise his role.
“It’s been awesome because when you create characters they become very personal to you. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years wondering, even idly, what would have happened to Andy,” Mancini says. “What would that kind of childhood trauma do to a person in adulthood? What would Andy be doing right now?”
Mancini kept up with Vincent over the years and from time to time they would discuss these very questions, but it took some convincing to get the studio to really back this idea of sort of looking backward rather than forward. After seeing the final scene in Curse of Chucky, however, they were firmly on board.
From there, it was a bit of a chemistry experiment determining how a character from a much more serious film would interact with a character who rose to popularity in Chucky’s more comic phase in the late 90s.
In other words, what would happen when Andy met Tiffany, and how would these disparate characters from disparate films approach each other? Luckily for Mancini, the combination was dynamite and he is excited for audiences to experience the old guard meeting the new.
With all of these changing themes, returning characters, and a brand new setting, Mancini admits he was a little nervous when the time came for Cult of Chucky‘s world debut at FrightFest in London.
“It’s always terrifying,” he says. “You make this film and you take it out to the public for the first time and you know that the judgement is going to be very public and it’s going to be everywhere. So, I was scared to death as we approached the London premiere.”
Luckily for Mancini and the cast and crew, the response in London was generally positive, and it has bolstered his courage as the film heads for other festivals around the world including Toronto After Dark and the Sydney Underground Film Festival.
Keep your eyes peeled because Chucky just might be hitting a festival big screen near you. In the meantime, you can look forward to the official release date, October 3, 2017, on Blu Ray, DVD, and On Demand!