In 1988 gay director Don Mancini unleashed his horrific creation upon the film world. In Child's Play audiences met Chucky, a foul-mouthed murderer who found himself trapped in the body of a doll. Between killing spells, Chucky uttered nonsensical, bitchy one-liners. The horror genre hasn't been the same since.
Chucky has evolved from being a scary and almost-serious threat early on to being campy and borderline romantic in the franchise's fourth and fifth installments.
Mancini upped the camp quotient in 1998's Bride of Chucky, having Chucky meet his significant other, Tiffany (voiced by Jennifer Tilly), then start a family in 2005's Seed of Chucky. Even gay camp icon John Waters got into the act in Seed, playing a photographer who's stalking the legendary Chucky, only to be murdered by the infamous doll.
Mancini has returned to the director's chair to write and direct the sixth Chucky vehicle, Curse of Chucky. The straight-to-DVD film has garnered solid reviews and won the audience choice award at Montreal's Fantasia Film Festival in August.
Just in time for Halloween, The Advocate spoke with Mancini at his Los Angeles home, where he reflected on Chucky's impact on the horror film genre, the possibility of a future stage musical starring the murderous doll, and how where sexuality and horror intersect.
The Advocate: Why do you think Chucky has been so resilient over the years?
Don Mancini: Because he's funny and he's cute — the best possible combination in boyfriends and in slashers.
What do you see as the connection between gays and the horror genre?
Excuse the generalization, but since you asked: A lot of gay guys, myself included, are drawn to stylization in the arts, and for me, this has always been the main attraction of the horror genre, or at least the sort of horror that I'm into: atmospheric, metaphoric, surreal. Even Chucky himself is, as a doll, inevitably a stylized image and character.
What's the strangest thing a fan has ever said to you?
A Chucky doll–toting fan once hit on me at a convention, suggesting with provocatively raised eyebrows that Chucky join us, as a toy. I declined. I'm still haunted as to whether or not I made the right decision.
You've taken Chucky back to more serious territory. Some of us prefer the campier, over-the-top Chucky of Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky. Are you going to give us horror queens more camp in the future?
Not in the immediate future, no. Our hope is that Curse will initiate a new cycle of scary Chucky films — for now. But I still dream of doing Chucky as a stage musical, Avenue Q–style.
What's the best thing about being the creator of Chucky?
Getting hit on by people dressed as Chucky and Tiffany. Talk about surreal.
Chucky seems so angry. Is he with the Tea Party?
Chucky is certainly the Archie Bunker of slashers: working-class, often frustrated by his situation, highly reactionary. Very conservative. A little guy with a lot of rage.
In honor of Halloween, some of us will be holding Chuckathons — marathon screenings of the entire franchise — watching all six movies in a row. What other films would you recommend for Halloween viewing?
Orphan is my favorite mainstream horror film from the last few years. It's an extremely clever and well-written psychological thriller, a suspenseful duel between a mother (Vera Farmiga) and her family's new adopted girl (Isabelle Fuhrman). Very Hitchcockian. I also loved Let the Right One In, and the American remake, Let Me In, was also very good, if too slavishly imitative of the original. I guess I'm partial to horror movies featuring kids. From that subgenre, I'd also recommend Lady in White and the original Village of the Damned. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to see my therapist.
Watch the trailer for Curse of Chucky below, and take the Curse home in the Blu-ray and DVD combo pack from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
MATTHEW HAYS is a Montreal-based journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Daily Beast, The Guardian, Vice, and Fangoria. He teaches film studies, including a course in horror cinema, at Concordia University.