How ‘Inception’ and ‘Nightmare on Elm Street 3’ Influenced ‘Cult of Chucky’

Chris Tilly
Movies Horror
Movies Horror

Cult of Chucky is the seventh film in the Child’s Play/Chucky series. Set in a psychiatric hospital, the horror-comedy finds the possessed doll teaming up with old friends, doing battle with old foes, and even multiplying.

FANDOM recently sat down with Don Mancini – Chucky creator and writer-director of this latest iteration – to talk about the influence of Inception on the movie, to discuss the future of the franchise, and to find out what the killer doll would make of Donald Trump.

FANDOM: What’s your favourite possessed doll movie?

Don Mancini: Probably Dead of Night. I really love that. I love Magic. Those are ventriloquist dummies, so it’s a slightly different thing I suppose, but I was always really taken by those. Trilogy of Terror with Karen Black – I loved that as a kid too.

FANDOM: Where did the inspiration for Cult of Chucky come from?

Mancini: I always want to switch it up and do something new every time. So, with this one, the sub-genre was the mental institution movie. Which I thought was really interesting because I like the idea of it being a mind-f**k movie where we’re constantly questioning reality. And then we introduce a second doll – we’ve never done that before. I thought the mental institution/mind-f**k sub-genre was a new way to keep it fresh.

I was influenced by Nightmare on Elm Street 3, Shock Corridor, Shutter Island. But even Inception – I’m a huge Chris Nolan fan. I love Inception and I love movies where hopefully it makes your head spin. It’s something we haven’t done with this franchise before – that was the intent anyway.

FANDOM: Are there any Easter Eggs that fans should look out for in this one?

Mancini: Tonnes. There’s a scene after the end credits. But they are also sprinkled throughout the movie. In the dialogue, there are little allusions to past movies that die-hard fans will catch. Little things, like at one point there’s a brief debate about the difference between mass murderers and multiple murderers, which is something that echoes Bride of Chucky. There are little things like that throughout. And there are allusions to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, both obvious and less obvious. Obviously, Chucky says ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ at one point, but there’s another allusion to the movie – I don’t know if you caught it – Juicy Fruit. So they are all sprinkled throughout.

FANDOM: Do you have a favourite kill in the Chucky movies?

Mancini: Of the previous films it would be Jennifer Tilly/Tiffany in the bath-tub. I love the imagery. Again that was in my original script for the first one. I just always loved the idea of someone watching Bride of Frankenstein on the television, then the television going into the bubble bath, and the bubbles wafting through the air. I just thought it was a really interesting spectral image. And I thought that Ronny Yu really visualised that wonderfully.

There are a lot, honestly. I think the new movie is probably the goriest of all of them. It wasn’t my intention but it somehow worked out that way. There’s also weirdly a lot of damage to the human head for some reason. I don’t know why, but there it is.

FANDOM: Were you happy with how the original Child’s Play turned out, in spite of the changes that were made to your script?

Mancini: -ish. It was my first movie so of course it was thrilling. It was something I initiated and it was out and it was popular. I can’t be objective about it. There are aspects of the movie that I have problems with that other people don’t. The voodoo is something that I never liked, but it’s probably because it wasn’t my idea. It’s probably because it feels perfunctory to me, honestly, and the chant and character of the witch doctor for me personally I found goofy. But lots of people disagree so I could be wrong. But overall I dug it.

I was very excited when they hired Tom Holland to do it because I’d been a big fan of a lot of his work. I loved Fright Night, I loved a couple of movies that he wrote – Psycho II and Cloak and Dagger – I think he’s a very talented guy. But with this one I can’t really be objective about it because my original concept was different enough and I was married to it in my head. I liked the idea that Chucky was a manifestation of Andy’s subconscious. I just found that interesting and disturbing. But here I am 30 years later. Starting with Bride of Chucky though, I actively tried to make fun of the voodoo aspects.

FANDOM: Wasn’t your script originally called Blood Buddy?

Mancini: In fact, the original title was Batteries Not Included but then, just as my agent was sending it out, he said that Steven Spielberg was making a movie called Batteries Not Included. So I changed it to Blood Buddy, then it became Child’s Play, which I guess was David Kirschner’s title.

FANDOM: Have you been able to use elements from that script since?

Mancini: Absolutely the marketing aspect of it. It’s somewhat present in the first movie, but then Child’s Play 2 and 3 I was able to depict the company behind the dolls – that was a part of the original script. Seeing the factory – that was part of my original script. Individual set-pieces – the babysitter in my script died in the bubble bath. Tom Holland changed that and had her go out the window, but I was able to bring that back with Bride of Chucky. That’s one of the nice things about having a franchise – any idea that doesn’t make it into an individual movie, you can just put into a drawer and recycle it for a later day.

FANDOM: Have you been surprised by the success and longevity of the franchise?

Mancini: The fact that it’s still going on is a constant, pleasant surprise to me. And as a life-long horror fan, something I’ve long dreamed of. Of being custodian of something like that. I feel extremely fortunate that the character has become so iconic and that people remain so fond of him. I’m just surprised that people love him so much. You can never really plan something like that – you can just dream about it. I feel like I hit the lottery.

FANDOM: What’s next for Chucky?

Mancini: I have very specific plans, but I can’t say too much about it. It’s a new iteration of the franchise that David Kirschner and I are really excited about. But unfortunately, I can’t say much beyond that, which I know is annoying.

FANDOM: You’ve previously mentioned Chucky in Space…

Mancini: That was more a joke. Although I think Freddy vs Chucky… I would pay to see that. I don’t see it happening anytime soon because of different studios and red-tape, and I’m sure they have their own plans for new Freddy movies. But for me personally as a fan, I would pay to see that. I just think that they would be very funny and interesting together because they have such distinct personalities.

FANDOM: How long do you think the series can go on for?

Mancini: I think it’s indefinite. As long as the world isn’t blown up by Donald Trump. Which who knows — it’s looking iffy. But the culture is constantly changing, movies are constantly changing, the horror genre is constantly changing, and I think that Chucky has shown himself to be a versatile enough character that we can constantly find ways to re-invent him.

FANDOM: What do you think Chucky would make of Donald Trump?

Mancini: I think the only responsible response to that is even Chucky would be appalled by what is going on in the White House. I’ve always thought that if we were to identify Chucky’s political leanings, he would be a Republican, because he’s kind of like a little guy filled with a lot of rage. But I think even Chucky has his limits, and would say: ‘We have got to put a stop to this.’

Cult of Chucky hits Blu/Digital/DVD on October 23 in the UK.

Chris Tilly
FANDOM Managing Editor in the UK. At this point my life is a combination of 1980s horror movies, Crystal Palace football matches, and episodes of I'm Alan Partridge. The first series. When he was in the travel tavern. Not the one after.
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