Just prior to the release Curse of Chucky writer/director Don Mancini took some time to talk to Geek about the new movie, the tone of the franchise, and a quarter century of everyone's favorite homicidal doll...
It takes only moments speaking with Don to realize why he’s been so successful at his craft, as he simply understands the genre, which he has proven as the creative force behind six Chucky movies. Drawing on influences wide-ranging enough to span from Gremlins all the way to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, this franchise has managed to re-invent itself yet again. In this latest installment, Curse of Chucky, the film takes place in a rather Gothic old house, and our wheelchair bound heroine deals with the menacing Chucky as the layers of tension build throughout the film. This return to the horror tone was not only a way to bring the series back to its roots, but was also meant to appease the rumblings of some fans who’d been asking for the return to that scarier aspect for the better part of a decade.
“It’s the 25th anniversary of the franchise, and we wanted to make it scary again” Don explains. “I wanted to build in kind of a nostalgia factor for the fans. Really sort of give the fans a thank you for supporting the franchise for all these years. Over the last few years, fans have been very vocal online about wanting a scary Chucky movie again, so I wanted this to be a love letter to the audience.” And it’s a love letter that is filled with Easter Eggs and nods to the earlier chapters, all culminating in what is a rather enjoyable addition to the mythology.
Of course, there was a period before this was planned to be a sequel, where they were instead going to reboot the series. Elements of that remake found their way into this draft of the script, and because of that we are treated to some additional back story on Chucky’s human persona Charles Lee Ray, which lends the opportunity to call back on the older films. ”When we were going to go the remake route, I never wanted to do just a strict scene by scene remake, cause that would just be boring. We really wanted to switch it up as much as possible. So yeah, a lot of the goal, even when it was a remake was to give a little more sense of Charles Lee Ray and what made him tick, what else was going on that night that he was shot down by the cops in the toy store.”
Don went on to elaborate on how shooting these back story scenes also allowed him the chance to work with the voice of Chucky, Brad Dourif, on set as a director for the first time. “And I think it was fun for him [Dourif] too, to sort of re-visit the human version of this character.” In Curse of Chucky, we actually get to see the most of the Charles Lee Ray character before he inhabits the Good Guys doll. Brad wasn’t the only Dourif on set, as his daughter Fiona portrays the film’s lead ‘Nica’. Carrying that family name adds a degree of pressure to the role, and Fiona more than delivers.
“I wouldn’t want anyone to think, cause I’ve actually read this online, people going ‘Oh, Brad must of been instrumental in that’ or something. It’s really, other than him just talking to me over the years about Fiona, cause I’ve known Brad for years, and I had met Fiona a few times and knew she was an actress, but other than that, it’s not like Brad would insist. Like ‘Oh you have to cast my daughter’. I mean no studio would ever allow that to happen. It’s just funny how there’s been gossip about that, which is a little annoying and totally unfair to Fiona. I mean, when you see the movie, you see how fantastic she is. She came and read along with 300 other actresses, and she was great.”
Well as great as the Fiona and her father are in the movie, the real star is of course the titular character Chucky. The initial images and posters showed the familiar pint sized psycho with a slightly different look, which some people reacted to poorly. Any concerns however, proved to be unfounded once the movie began to roll, as ol’ Chuck looked creepy as ever. Most of the assumed changes were simply results of creative lighting and some post work by the art department with the promotional material. Any actual changes were kept minor. ”We would play with it depending on the shot, you know, there were a couple of shots where we swapped out the eyes. Instead of having the simple doll eyes which are painted, we would swap out the eyes and slightly more human eyes. In the end it’s not something that you would necessarily pick up on in a quick shot, but it’s just suddenly unsettling. Just with that, and camera angles and lighting, makes him seem a little creepier.” And creepier he is.
Don on set with Puppet Master Tony Gardner conferring with the crew.
Don Mancini is responsible for creating one of the most popular horror franchises of all time, but when he’s not killing people with a small doll, he’s a geek just like the rest of us. “I’m a bit of an architecture geek. I’m really into architecture, and I collect models of skyscrapers. Pretty geeky, I have a few dozen replicas of skyscrapers from all over the world.” I’m now picturing the replica village from Hot Fuzz in Don’s living room.
I’d like to thank Don for taking the time to speak with us, and sharing a little insight about the new movie, the legacy of Charles Lee Ray, and his collection of skyscrapers.
Images: Photographer – Chris Helcermanas-Benge,
Courtesy Universal Studios Home Entertainment 2013