Chucky attacks Winnipeg! The serial-killing doll wraps his seventh film in the Great White North
Why the Manitoba winter was the right fit for 'Cult of Chucky'
"I wrote it with snow in mind," says filmmaker Don Mancini. And that, as it turns out, was a good thing. Mancini has just wrapped shooting Cult of Chucky, the seventh feature in the hugely successful franchise that features a wise-cracking, possessed, serial killer doll in Winnipeg, where the weather lived up to the reputation — there was indeed plenty of snow and extremely frigid temperatures.
"We shot all night outside for one sequence, and we got snowed out with a blizzard," Mancini recalls. "We had to shut down for safety reasons. Our zoom lens also froze. But the snow was great — that really paid off. It gave the film a Shining-like feel."
Mancini says the crew for Cult of Chucky was "awesome — it was like we were all these film geeks who were just thrilled to be making a Chucky movie. I couldn't have been happier." The film marks the latest step in the evolution of the strange horror-comedy franchise — one Mancini has driven, as he's written the screenplay for every entry.
"To me, I don't know why people would take the approach of doing the same things with a sequel. Sequels offer the opportunity to subvert expectations. All good storytelling is about good surprises. Sequels, by their very nature, bring baggage — how can I subvert them in a fun way?"
And conjuring up fun twists and surprises is something Mancini has been doing for 30 years now. While a film student at UCLA, Mancini wrote the first Chucky movie, Child's Play, and managed to sell the screenplay (the early success led him to leave film school without finishing his degree, saying he's never looked back). That film had Oscar-nominated actor Brad Dourif playing a killer who is trying to flee from police but is shot in a toy store. His soul possesses a toy doll who ends up as a birthday present for a young boy, who is then tormented by Chucky for the rest of the film (and two subsequent sequels).
After Child's Play 3 (1991), Mancini decided the formula needed a shake-up. In Bride of Chucky (1998), Jennifer Tilly played Chucky's ex-girlfriend who finds his remains and manages to bring him back to life. Her character, Tiffany, is then also transformed into a doll, and the two dolls go on the lam from the authorities. Mancini cranked the camp volume to 11, including a doll-on-doll love scene in which Tiffany asks if Chucky has a rubber — to which Chucky replies, "Look at me! I'll all rubber!" Fans seemed to respond well to the comic turn, as Bride proved the biggest box-office hit of the Chucky cycle.
And that was followed by the sequel that would then have to explore the possibility of offspring, Seed of Chucky (2004), and also give Mancini his first chance to direct as well as write. The comedy went operatic, as John Waters had a cameo (as a tabloid photographer), Chucky drove Britney Spears and her convertible over a cliff ("Oops, I did it again," he snickers) and Chucky pleasures himself while leering at an issue of Fangoria magazine.
Some fans expressed their dismay that Chucky had gone so all-out comic, and longed for a return to the series' more suspenseful, horror-focused roots. So Mancini responded, nine years later, with Curse of Chucky, a more sombre — if still terrifying — return to form. Mancini was understandably concerned about how fans would react, but the film proved a hit, winning the audience award at Montreal's Fantasia Film Festival in 2013.
And that brings us to now. Cult of Chucky will continue the less-comedic strain of the series, but Mancini notes that the doll's scathing one-liners will return: "I'm not going to abandon the secret sauce!" The film will also see the return of Jennifer Tilly and Alex Vincent (the tormented boy from the first two Child's Play films).
During his time in Winnipeg, Mancini found himself responding to memes that compared Chucky to Trump, just as the U.S. election results were rolling in. "Some of them had photos of the two of them side by side, with the tagline 'SEPARATED AT BIRTH.' I had joked that Chucky was a Republican who probably supported George W. Bush — but Trump? Chucky is a crook and a con artist, and I think he'd be able to see through Trump in an instant. I don't think Chucky would support Trump, not at all."
Chucky has indeed become iconic in popular culture. When Prince Charles finally married Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005, a British tabloid headline screamed "Bride of Chucky." And if more proof was needed that Chucky has permanently entered the zeitgeist, the killer doll has made several appearances on The Simpsons.
"Chucky is the famous villain I get to keep spinning. In Cult of Chucky, we're doing a mental institution movie. There will be dream sequences and lots of surrealism."
"This will be Chucky on drugs."
Cult of Chucky is slated for a Halloween 2017 release.