Living With Chucky


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Living With Chucky
"A film full of great stories and packed with details which will fascinate fans." | Photo: Courtesy of FrightFest

He’s a small doll with a big personality and an appetite for violence, notorious in the UK after he was falsely linked to the murder of a child (the killers never saw the film), and symbolic, for that reason, of the Video Nasty phenomenon. To date, he is the star of eight films (with an additional cameo appearance in Ready Player One) plus a TV series. He has demonstrated a staying power which few horror icons can equal. But what is it like to actually live with Chucky? Kyra Elise Gardner, the daughter of puppeteer Tony Gardner, who helped bring Chucky to life, knows first hand.

This is a documentary informed throughout by the experience of growing up as part of Chucky’s family. Gardner is the same age as Fiona Dourif, whose father, Brad Dourif, provided the doll’s voice for many years (Fiona did so herself in flashbacks in the TV series), and the two swap stories of what it was like to be parted from their fathers for weeks at a time when Chucky needed their attention, and how they felt about seeing or hearing them killed onscreen when they were young children. This personal connection gives Gardner unrivalled access to those involved in the franchise, with the exception of the 2019 reboot, which is left out here because it’s not really part of the same story. The result is a film full of great stories and packed with details which will fascinate fans.

Copy picture

Lin Shaye suggests, early on in the film, that one of the important things about Chucky is that he was among the first relatable horror film bad guys. The humour in his films – frequently dark, sometimes malicious – is also cited among the likely reasons for his enduring popularity, as is the impact of having child actors perform alongside him, creating a different level of discomfort for many viewers. There is discussion of the fact that he retained his physicality after films began switching over en masse to CGI, giving him a presence which felt much more real. Several speakers call out the common complaint of naysayers, that he’s just a doll and could easily be kicked away. nobody is going to have fun watching a film if they abjectly refuse to engage.

Brad Dourif’s vocal talents were, of course, a major contributor to Chucky’s charismatic presence, and it’s interesting to see the actor discuss the role here, although he has now retired from the franchise. There’s also extensive input from Jennifer Tilly, who joined for Bride Of Chucky despite her wariness about doing a horror film, and enjoyed the experience so much that she stuck around. She brought with her leagues of queer fans who had enjoyed her work in Bound, and there’s quite a bit of focus on Chucky’s queer following more generally – beginning with his creator, Don Mancini. True to form, John Waters turns up in this discussion, and also reveals how his longstanding dream of being killed by Chucky eventually came true.

Does horror provide a space where it’s safe to experiment with queer identities which might see a different kind of film struggle to get funding? The groundbreaking appearance of a non-binary character in Seed Of Chucky also gets a mention. This is just one of many ways in which the franchise pushed boundaries and used fans’ expectations of anarchic fun to deliver something with a significance which went beyond that. In another serious moment, Gardner’s film explores the impact on actors of portraying suffering, including in death scenes, making room for some quite emotional statements in a context where viewers might not expect them.

The affection which has grown up between members of Chucky’s extended family is on display throughout this film, and gives it, overall, a warmth and enthusiasm which makes it a joy to watch. One might suspect that this is in itself part of the secret, given the long hours of very precise work required to bring each film to life. Furthermore, when a film is made by people who are passionate about it, that generally rubs off on viewers. This documentary offers an insider’s perspective which will make you see the Chucky films in a new light.

Reviewed on: 26 Sep 2022
Share this with others on...
Living With Chucky packshot
A filmmaker who grew up alongside Chucky the killer doll seeks out the other families surrounding the Child's Play films as they recount their experiences working on the ongoing franchise and what it means to be a part of the Chucky family.
Amazon link

Director: Kyra Elise Gardner

Writer: Kyra Elise Gardner, Jason Strickland

Starring: Abigail Breslin, Brad Dourif, Lin Shaye, John Waters, Kyra Elise Gardner

Year: 2021

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: US

Search database:

Related Articles:

A friend till the end