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Interview: Curse of Chucky writer-director Don Mancini

08.08.2013by: Chris Bumbray

At this year’s edition of the Fantasia Film Festival, one of the events that sold out the quickest was the world premiere of the latest installment of the CHILD’S PLAY series, CURSE OF CHUCKY (READ THE ARROW'S REVIEW HERE). A dark, more horror-focused throwback to the earlier films in the series, CURSE, like the rest of the films, is written by Don Mancini, who also directs (he previously directed SEED OF CHUCKY). Mancini was kind enough to sit down with Arrow in the Head for a quick 1:1 chat about the series, and Chucky’s latest misadventure.

Photo by King-Wei Chu

So, I remember seeing the first CHILD’S PLAY on VHS at a sleepover back in the eighties. Did you ever think when you were working on the first one twenty-five years ago that it would grow into this huge cult series that would spawn five sequels?

No, I had fantasies of that but I didn’t expect that twenty-five years later it would still be going strong. It’s very gratifying. But, ya know, I was a horror movie freak as a kid, so if I had known at the age of twelve or whatever that the character that I wrote would become popular I would have been like, “well, I can die happy.”

They started out as kid of B-horror movies, but they’ve grown into something else. There are even academic essays (mostly about the gender identity question in SEED) being written about the films, and they’ve got a kitsch value to them too, with people like John Waters being in them…

Well, it’s ironic that that one, ironically, at the box office, other than CHILD’S PLAY 3, was one of the least successful when it came out, but it’s the one that’s become the most cultish. And sort of the one that we “dine out on” the most, in the sense that around the country, Jennifer (Tilly) and I have been invited to screenings of the movie where it has gone on to have this other life of its own. Which is really nice, because, you know, the movie got mixed reviews and just didn’t do well, so it’s kind of a nice payoff. There was this screening in San Francisco; there’s this drag queen, Peaches Christ, who I met through John Waters. She holds these screenings at the Castro, and they did this screening of SEED OF CHUCKY which was attended mostly by drag queens. Before the movie they did this whole stage number they had written about Chucky. It was SUCH a blast, and you can imagine seeing the movie with that kind of crowd. It was really, really fun.

I really liked it…

Oh cool, I always like meeting people who liked it…

I love BRIDE OF CHUCKY too. I actually liked it when the series turned campy. I mean, why not?

Yeah, exactly. And we just didn’t want to keep making the same movie over and over again. And as a “camp comedy” it really lent itself to that. Probably my favorite of all of them is BRIDE, because I think it’s really well directed by Ronnie Yu. It’s has that goofy quality, but the visuals are so elegant…

Peter Pau shot that…

Yeah, and every day I’d come on the set and just think, “oh my God”. The disparity between the material and the elegant visuals was very powerful.

However, the CHILD’S PLAY fans have been very vocal about wanting to get back to its horror roots. The fans that liked the first three will like this one a lot. But there’s still some clever dialogue and a bit of camp sprinkled through the movie.

Well, the core fans who tend to be younger, and probably male, and straight, in my experience they tend to like their horror straight-up. I think, beyond that, they can sometimes really take exception to treating their horror icons in a way that they deem frivolous. They REALLY don’t like that. It really bothered them, the whole spectacle of Chucky jacking off while John Waters takes pictures of it, which I thought was hilarious. Those horror fans HATED that stuff. Getting into Chucky’s psyche- Chucky yearning for love. But- except for doing a musical, which I personally think would be awesome and a valid way of doing it…I actually do think that BRIDE OF CHUCKY particularly would make a great musical. So we got to the end of taping out those aspects of the material. The fans wanted it to be scary again. And as I director, I’ve never done a scary movie, flexing a different set of creative muscles, using the camera a lot, making set pieces that were reliant on visual storytelling. Hitchcockian.

When I was watching it, I was thinking of Agatha Christie…

Absolutely, there is a TEN LITTLE INDIANS aspect to the story.

It’s also very contained, with a small group of characters in one place.

Yeah it was fun to do that “old dark house” subgenre. It becomes this pressure cooker in one location.

You tried to get a CHILD’S PLAY remake off the ground at one point. How close did you get?

Yeah, we didn’t get very close. It’s just always sort of mired in legal issues. But the remake wouldn’t have been like a scene-by-scene remake, because you gotta throw curves at the audience. That’s the interesting thing about remakes and sequels. I’ve done a lot of sequels and it’s a fascinating challenge in a way because you’re playing a game with the audience. It’s different from seeing an original film as they come to it with a different set of expectations. Part of the game you have to play with the audience is trying to subvert the audience.
 

Chucky seems to have gotten a bit of a facelift…

A controversial facelift…

But it makes sense in the movie…

Exactly, it was story dependent. We called it the “stage 2 doll” on set, what someone at the Q&A last night hilariously dubbed the Matt Damon doll.

Was it always the intention to make it a Blu-ray/DVD premiere.

Yes.

Are you open to doing more?

Oh yeah. There are a couple of cliff-hangers left at the end.

CURSE OF CHUCKY hits VOD September 24th, and Blu-ray/DVD October 8th in an Unrated cut. Pre order it here!


The Arrow aka John Fallon with Don Mancini and Curse of Chucky star Fiona Dourif!

Extra Tidbit: Check back for our upcoming interview with CURSE OF CHUCKY stars Fiona Dourif, Danielle Bisutti, & Chantal Quesnelle

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