Interview : Don Mancini, director of Cult of Chucky

“Cult of Chucky” is the 7th instalment in the “Chucky” series, seeing the terrifying killer doll take on a psychiatric hospital. Writer and director Don Mancini returns for his 7th go at making us all reconsider buying our kids dolls for Christmas, as Chucky continues his reign of terror.

“Cult of Chucky” also sees the return of Brad Dourif as the voice of Chucky, as well as the supporting cast of Fiona Dourif, Alex Vincent, Jennifer Tilly and Summer H. Howell back from the previous 6 films.

Kyle was lucky enough to chat to Mancini for Moviehole, and pick his brains about the popular franchise.

You had quite a break between “Seed of Chucky” and “Curse of Chucky”, but “Curse” seemed to be a big hit with the fans. Was that a big boost of inspiration?

After the last one, we switched things up with “Curse” – we swung back around to our horror origins. It seemed to go down well with fans, and I wanted to continue in the same vein, but still do something different. It’s important to us not to make the same movie over and over, it’s certainly a challenge, but I wanted to continue the storyline.  We sort of left Nica, who is Fiona Dourif’s character, hanging at the end of “Curse”, so we wanted to follow up on that.

As you said, “Curse of Chucky” brought the series back to its serious, scary horror roots as opposed to the horror-comedy of “Bride” and “Seed”. Did “Curse” really cement your decision to go in that direction?

Yeah, as I said, “Cult of Chucky” does continue in that vein. I didn’t wanna make exactly the same kind of movie. Without saying too much – I don’t want to give too much away – we do bring in elements where Jennifer Tilly as Tiffany – she has a larger presence in this film than she had in the last one, in the last one she just had a cameo. And obviously that character brings with it a very specific flavour. Which, you know – while dark – there’s something humourous about her. So the challenge was to bring that flavour into the film, but to keep it grounded. And I think that’s one of the things that Fiona Dourif does so wonderfully, she makes you feel like the stakes are real and that lives are in the balance. I always felt that it’s interesting directing Fiona Dourif and Jennifer Tilly in the same scene, because they remind me of Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups. You don’t have those, but in the United States they have these candies that are made of both chocolate and peanut butter, and their advertising slogan used to be “two great tastes that are greater together!” and that’s kind of my philosophy, putting those two together.

Yeah, absolutely! And on the other side you’ve got her dad; I guess you’ve got two generations there now – what’s it like to have now worked with two generations of such talented people alongside Jennifer Tilly?

It’s great, man. I mean, I really enjoy this sort of idea of we’re building a Chucky repertory company over the course of the decades. And you know, both behind and in front of the camera, actually. David Kirschner, who is my producer, and he’s been my partner on all these movies from the very beginning, we – in our more grandiose moments – sort of like to think of ourselves as the Broccolis of the horror genre. I assume as a film journalist you’re probably familiar with the Broccoli Family who have always run the “James Bond” franchise from the beginning. So, you know, in the horror genre, David and I are really proud of the fact that we have – we’re the ones who initiated it and have controlled it from the very beginning. So it’s important to us to maintain a sort of family about it. It’s one of the things we really enjoy, and with this movie, we extend that in ways that may not be immediately apparent to people. For example, a young Canadian actor named Adam Hurtig, was in “Curse of Chucky”, we have him back in “Cult of Chucky”. So, you know, now he’s joined the ranks of the family who have been in more than one film.

A big, scary family. (laughs)

Yeah! (laughs)

With “Cult” being the seventh film in the franchise, is this a franchise one you can see yourself continuing for as long as is really possible, or is it more just playing it by ear as each one comes out and you kind of go back to the drawing board with it?

Well, I always have ideas for the future, and, you know, it’s hard to have a completely fixed plan, because that’s just not the way the movie business works – it’s certainly not the way the world works. Chucky has become an iconic character, we feel very fortunate about that, so one of the nice things about having a franchise is having all these nice ideas where some of them maybe don’t make it into one particular movie, but you sort of put that idea into a drawer. It may become more relevant five or ten years down the line, so, you know, I always have an idea of where to take the franchise. David Kirschner and I are now talking about – again, without saying too much – after this movie, we’re planning an exciting new iteration of the franchise. Hopefully we’ll be able to bring that to fruition, I think people will be very excited to see that as well. I mean, I’ve also like – in the past few years I’ve branched out into television, I’ve worked on the TV shows “Hannibal” and “Channel Zero”, and I’ve hopefully learned a new skill set as well, from having worked in those areas. I try to bring those lessons in. Certainly, “Cult of Chucky” was, the way I made this movie was slightly different from the others I’ve done in the sense that I was constantly re-writing while we were in pre-production and shooting, I’ve never really done that step before, and I think that was something I learned from having worked in television for a few years – the philosophy of it being this, uh, plastic thing, that you’re constantly moulding and making better. It was really collaborative with all the actors and we all had a really good time. I think this one felt really special in that regard.

That’s bloody fantastic! You seem to have certainly been very busy in the last couple of years with “Hannibal” and “Channel Zero”. With the return of “Twin Peaks”, film-makers like David Lynch seem to think television is in some ways the new cinema, which is in some ways quite exciting. Is that in any way a relatable sentiment?

It’s a really exciting – I can’t even really say that it’s a frontier anymore, because it’s a well-trod road, let alone there not being a stigma attached to television anymore now, it’s sort of like the vanguard of where so much pop culture is going. So yeah, I love television, and I wanna continue to keep working on it. The second season of Channel Zero starts on the SyFy Channel this fall, and I hope to do more of it.

So aside from “Chucky” and “Channel Zero”, is there anything else in the pipeline that you might perhaps be able to hint at?

There is, but you know, nothing I can say too much I can say anything about yet, you know how it goes. There are certainly things in the pipeline, and certain things on front-burners, and back-burners, and you’re always trying to cook them and you never know which one is going to flare up. So yes. I’m hopeful that there’ll be more stuff.

“Cult of Chucky” is out now on DVD, Blu-ray and Netflix. 

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