Reign of Chucky Book Review

PLOT: Authors Dustin McNeill and Travis Mullins look back at the making of all seven films in the Child’s Play / Chucky franchise.

REVIEW: For the last ten years or so, author Dustin McNeill appears to have dedicated his life to crafting “scary good books on scary good movies”. He has written two books on the Phantasm franchise, detailed Freddy vs. Jason’s long journey through development hell, covered the Halloween franchise (up to the 2018 film), and then wrote a book about more than twenty Halloween movie scripts and pitches that never made it into production. Along the way, he even wrote a book about the Jaws ride. For the Halloween books – Taking Shape and Taking Shape II – McNeill had Travis Mullins as a co-writer. Now McNeill and Mullins have turned their attention to another one of the horror genre’s most popular franchises: the Child’s Play / Chucky franchise. With their book Reign of Chucky: The True Hollywood Story of a Not So Good Guy, they look at the making of every film in the Chucky franchise, digging into the details on the development and production of each one.

If you have read any of the previous books that have come from McNeill’s company Harker Press, you know these writers are great at digging up behind-the-scenes information. If you’re a Chucky fan, you’ll be glad to know they cover these movies with the same sort of exhaustive detail as they covered the likes of Halloween and Freddy vs. Jason. For me, the most fascinating chapter in Reign of Chucky was the one on the original Child’s Play, as McNeill and Mullins were able to give a step-by-step explanation of how writer Don Mancini’s spec script Blood Buddy ended up in the hands of producer David Kirschner and was transformed into Child’s Play through rewrites by John Lafia and director Tom Holland. This chapter was also the one with the most behind-the-scenes drama, as Holland had an approach to the project that didn’t go over well with Mancini and Lafia – especially since he wanted to take their credits off the script. The authors were also able to give a good idea of just what each of the writers contributed to the screenplay, proving Mancini and Lafia definitely did deserve their credits.

Child's Play Reign of Chucky

When McNeill and Mullins wrote Taking Shape, they would summarize the events of each Halloween film in one block, with the “making of” information wrapped around those summaries. I much preferred the way they present the information in Reign of Chucky, where they basically break the first Child’s Play down scene-by-scene, with details on what went into the making of each scene placed between the summaries. So instead of having the recap in one block, it’s spread out over the entire chapter and broken up with informative paragraphs. They do the same for each of the sequels.

Along the way, we learn that Pumpkinhead writer Mark Carducci was working on an alternative Child’s Play 2 script in case the one Mancini was writing didn’t work out. We’re told why MGM canceled the sequel and handed the rights over to Universal – a situation that led to MGM making a Child’s Play remake a few years ago, while the original franchise is still active at Universal. We’re told about ideas that were dropped from the rushed production of Child’s Play 3, but were revisited later on. Tragedy strikes on the set of Bride of Chucky. Mancini makes his directorial debut on Seed of Chucky, a film that is set in Hollywood but was filmed in Romania – and it turns out that making the movie in Romania was a very interesting experience. We find out why special effects artist Kevin Yagher never returned to the franchise after Bride of Chucky. Then we follow the franchise into the realm of direct-to-video. The remake is really only mentioned in passing. This book is focused on the original franchise, so MGM’s remake serves as a source of stress, as it was made without Mancini’s blessing. If it had failed, it could have dragged Mancini’s franchise at Universal down with it. And if had been a runaway success, Universal might have decided that the original Chucky’s time had passed. Thankfully, it came and went (and earned its own fans) without making a dent in Mancini’s plans… aside from the fact that he had to call the TV show Chucky instead of Child’s Play.

Cult of Chucky Reign of Chucky

McNeill and Mullins admit up front that the timing of their book brought some limitations. Since they were working on it at the same time the Chucky show was heading into production on season 2, they weren’t able to talk to everyone they had hoped to talk to. When it comes to people who weren’t available, there is one whose absence really stands out: Don Mancini, who has written every single film in the franchise (except the remake) and now heads up the TV show. The mastermind who has kept Chucky alive and evolving for decades. I’m sure Mancini could have brought even more interesting information into a book that’s already packed with it… but since Reign of Chucky doesn’t dig into the making of the TV show, the door is left wide open for a follow-up book. So maybe McNeill and Mullins will land their interview with Mancini (and maybe Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, and/or Fiona Dourif, all of whom are also absent) when they write their book about the TV series.

Don’t let the fact that those big names didn’t talk to the authors lead you to believe that the book is severely lacking in interviews, though. There are over thirty interviews throughout Reign of Chucky, with cast members, the voice of the original Good Guy dolls, Chucky’s stand-in Ed Gale, the stuntman who was injured working on Bride of Chucky, producers, Tom Holland, Child’s Play and Child’s Play 2 star Alex Vincent, Vincent’s Child’s Play 2 co-star Christine Elise, and more.

Several of the awesome horror franchises from the ‘70s and ‘80s have had great books written about them in recent years (thanks, in some cases, to McNeill and Mullins), and now the Child’s Play franchise has had a great book written about it as well. For hardcore fans of the franchise, Reign of Chucky is a must-own. But it’s also recommended for casual fans who don’t already know much about Chucky – because once you’ve learned so much about him, you might be a hardcore fan by the time you finish reading this book.

Reign of Chucky is available in hardcover (get it HERE), paperback (get that HERE), and Kindle editions (order the Kindle version HERE).

Chucky promotes his Halloween Horror Nights haunted house Chucky: Ultimate Kill Count in a newly released video




Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.