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NYCC ’17 Exclusive Interview: Don Mancini and Jennifer Tilly Talk “CULT OF CHUCKY” and the Franchise’s Future

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 | Interviews

By MICHAEL GINGOLD

Last week, CULT OF CHUCKY arrived on assorted formats to introduce a few game-changing new wrinkles into the killer doll’s ongoing saga. Also last week, the team behind the film came to New York Comic-Con, and RUE MORGUE sat down with writer/director Don Mancini and star Jennifer Tilly to discuss the new sequel’s creation and where the story goes from here.

(Caution: SPOILERS follow)

CULT OF CHUCKY (reviewed here) sees Nica (Fiona Dourif), heroine of CURSE OF CHUCKY, residing in a stark psychiatric hospital, convinced she was responsible for the murders of her family that Chucky (voice of Brad Dourif) actually commmitted. Along the way, Tiffany Valentine (Tilly) makes a return appearance from BRIDE and SEED OF CHUCKY, and the final scenes take the saga into new directions that open up lots of possibilities for future films…

After all the twists you brought to CULT OF CHUCKY, where do you see the next movies going?

DON MANCINI: Well, I can’t say too much about that, but I wanted to do two things. I wanted to end this movie in a place that was hopefully very surprising, because I felt that seven films, 30 years in, I had to do that to keep it fresh and interesting. But I also wanted, for myself and the future of these characters and the franchise, to set up a world of infinite possibilities. Because now we can not only continue the story of the central characters, we can also, as in the STAR WARS universe, do individual CHILD’S PLAY stories. Now that we have many dolls out there, we can just fade up to some situation somewhere with a whole new set of characters, and then Chucky turns up there.

JENNIFER TILLY: And I love the idea of, like… Somebody asked me, “Well, if Tiffany’s in the front seat and the Tiffany doll is in the back seat [at the end], how come both Tiffanys are alive and laughing?” And I said, “Well, with that spell, if you can put Chucky into a bunch of different entities, that probably works for Tiffany as well.”

DM: Of course it does!

Having been with these films from the beginning, writing them all and directing the last three, has it been a challenge over all this time to keep the series fresh and find new places to go with it, both figuratively and literally?

DM: Yeah, I guess it’s challenging, but that’s part of the fun too. To me, there’s no reason to do it unless you do it that way; I’m not interested in making the same movie more than once. Sequels provide you with a unique opportunity to tell a good story, because any good story is about surprising the viewer, subverting their expectations—and sequels are nothing if not all about expectations, because people come to them with all these preconceived notions based on what they’ve seen before. So my job is to pull the rug out from under them. It’s like, you think you know what you’re getting, and…you don’t [laughs]!

JT: You do have to give them a certain amount of what they expect, because they do want to see Chucky kill people in incredibly creative ways. So it’s about giving them just enough to keep them happy. It’s like a band, where they want to play the new songs, but they have to play a few of the old hits too, just to satisfy everyone. And with CULT OF CHUCKY, Don has done a really good job with that delicate balancing act. This movie is really balls-to-the-wall crazy; it’s just insane.

DM: That’s what I wanted—to make the viewer feel like they’re going insane by the third act, along with the characters.

JT: It’s sort of hallucinogenic, and one of the things I love about the movie is that beautiful, beautiful death scene where the girl [Claire, played by Grace Lynn Kung] is lying on the bed and Chucky breaks the glass ceiling and it falls down on her, and then the snow comes down too, and they cut back to her body and the blood is splurting out. And then, shortly after that, Nica has the dream with that giant Chucky, and I was like, “Oh my God!” Because the whole movie is oddly dreamlike, you’re not quite sure it’s a dream; you think it might actually be happening…

DM: This is “Chucky does INCEPTION”!

JT: Yeah, and she’s feeling the energy of the things that are happening all over the insane asylum. The movie is very funny and gory, but it’s also oddly melancholy and haunting. It really creates a mood.

Claire’s death is indeed one of the film’s most striking scenes. Is it also difficult to come up with different ways to kill people, seven movies in?

DM: That is a challenge. It is fun, but there are only so many ways to kill someone.

JT: I don’t think it’s a challenge for Don. Don is very twisted!

DM: That specific scene actually went through several permutations. In the first draft, Chucky causes the sprinkler to come on, so it drenches both of them, and then he turns on the electroshock machine and sets them both on fire. Chucky’s going, [laughs maniacally] as they’re both going up in flames. I thought that was really cool, but we would be shooting that till Tuesday, and we just couldn’t afford it.

So then there was a Brian De Palma/THE FURY version where Chucky opens a drug cabinet and says, “Anticoagulent…does that mean what I think it means?” And he injects Claire and she bleeds out from every orifice à la THE FURY, because I love that movie. But then I felt that was a little too subdued, because this was structurally about the halfway point, and by design, I kind of kept a lid on the gore and violence up till then, and the movie needed that release at that point. We needed something big, visually. So I took a page from my own work; in BRIDE OF CHUCKY, there’s the scene where Tiffany kills the honeymooning couple by shattering the mirror on the ceiling, but I thought I could do that one better. I could make it very operatic and do a De Palma thing, going into slo-mo, where Claire is drugged and looks up and sees her own impending death, and she can’t stop it.

JT: I love the one tear coming out of her eye.

DM: Well, that’s Grace. She can produce tears on cue to such specificity. She would say, “How many tears? Which eye?” It was amazing, like, “Oh my God, you’re the best actress ever!”

Now that the Tiffany doll is back, are you going to bring back her and Chucky’s gender-confused son Glen as well?

DM: I want to, yes. As you know, he’s a controversial character, so there’s not a unanimity on that subject. But I love that character, and we love [voice actor] Billy Boyd.

JT: Billy is amazing, and I have such a soft spot in my heart for Glen. He is my progeny, after all, and he’s very popular. He was really a groundbreaker, because he was the first transgender kid doll in the history of movies, and he’s an LGBT icon.

DM: During LGBT Pride Month, I get a lot of kids tweeting and telling me how much Glen meant to them as kids, and that’s great.

JT: They can relate to him; he’s very sensitive when he’s not killing people and being psycho.

DM: That’s Glenda!

JT: Yeah, that’s his alter ego. But you know, Don is very ahead of his time, and the Chucky movies have a very big gay following, because there are always very positive gay characters in his movies. Even in CULT OF CHUCKY, Carlos [Zak Santiago] has his husband…

DM: And you and Fiona at the end!

JT: We’re not positive gay characters, though. We’re a diabolical gay couple; we’re both homicidal maniacs!

DM: Well, it worked for Sharon Stone!

Any chance we’ll see more new dolls enter the saga?

JT: Oh my God, how great would that be? I love the three new Chuckys, though, and their facial expressions. Don originally wanted to have 30, but that would have been our entire budget right there!

DM: We’ll annex Annabelle [laughs]. Just, like, a hostile takeover!

Michael Gingold
Michael Gingold (RUE MORGUE's Head Writer) has been covering the world of horror cinema for over three decades, and spent 28 years as a writer and editor for FANGORIA magazine and its website. In addition to RUE MORGUE, he currently writes for BIRTH.MOVIES.DEATH, SCREAM, IndieWire.com, TIME OUT, DELIRIUM and others. His book THE FRIGHTFEST GUIDE TO MONSTER MOVIES (FAB Press) is out this fall, and he has contributed liner notes and featurettes to a number of Blu-ray and DVD releases. Among his screenplay credits are SHADOW: DEAD RIOT and LEECHES!, and he is currently working on THE DOLL with director Dante Tomaselli.
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