Living With Chucky (2023)

Director: Kyra Elise Gardner

Running Time: 100 Minutes

Certification: 15

It's an understatement to say the Chucky franchise has been a big part of director Kyra Elise Gardner's life, considering her father's role in the series. Puppeteer Tony Gardner has been integral to the franchise ever since Seed of Chucky, the film which also featured him being killed on-screen. That personal connection has been poured into Kyra's feature-debut, for a reverent documentary which celebrates the long-running series.

The story begins with Don Mancini, a writer inspired by his love for horror that wanted to center a feature around the living doll trope. During the 80's slasher boom, Freddy Krueger inspired a change where the selling point was a villain who added humour to their malice. This paved the way for Chucky, whose sweary wisecracks would come alive alongside the sophisticated enough puppetry which Mancini desired, supplying a burst of new blood which the slasher subgenre desperately needed.

Covering the 1988 original Child's Play to the most recent feature, 2017's Cult of Chucky, the documentary delves into portions of each film, from casting choices to creative decisions resulting from budgetary cuts. There's also a look at the interesting ways the series evolved with each instalment, from Bride of Chucky becoming a two-hander, to the inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters in this series created by a gay man.

Assembled are an interesting collection of interviewees, which includes Marlon Wayans and Dr. Doofenshmirtz voice actor, Dan Povenmire. Different insights are offered by each participant, such as Abigail Breslin speaking about child acting while showing her love for the franchise. A memorable portion involves John Waters discussing how monsters are not seen having sex, so Chucky doing that humanizes the character.

A vital part of this documentary covers puppeteering, showing how the seemingly impossible happens courtesy of such fantastic work. When Chucky's movements are so intricately considered, the filmmakers do not need to try scenes from different angles as they can stick to what's planned. This highlights how much practical effects add to the films, offering a greater degree of interaction for the actors while immersing viewers. While such vital elements can go overlooked, the horror genre grants recognition and appreciation that below the line people deserve from fans, something that's offered here in engrossing form.

Once Kyra appears onscreen, her personal quest is outlined to meet the assembled family that's been intertwined with her own family. Her link to Chucky interestingly mirrors Fiona Dourif, as they ended up on different sides of the camera connected to this series their fathers worked on for so long. It's heartwarming to see the close bonds, as experiences are shared from people who experienced the time-consuming and lonely work of filmmaking. As the documentary closes on talk about the TV series, it's astounding to see how far this franchise has come since Don Mancini's original script, and how the love remains regardless of how large this family may grow. What's left is a personal documentary filled with such love and reverence for one of horror's best franchises.

Living With Chucky is available on Blu-Ray and Digital Download now