Living With Chucky review – family history behind notorious horror doll

“The family that slays together stays together” finishes this blow-by-blow retrospective of the Child’s Play/Chucky franchise, and it’s certainly impossible to contest that. Not only does the homicide-happy doll gain his own family during the course of the seven films, but actor Brad Dourif – who voiced him – has been succeeded by daughter Fiona as the head of proceedings, and this documentary is directed by Kyra Elise Gardner, daughter of current head puppeteer Tony Gardner. The close-knit ethos might well explain the franchise’s gleefully perverse sense of fun, but the truth is this love-in features too much filler.

Gardner charts Chucky’s progress from straight-up malefic totem through camp horror icon to revitalised golden-age bogeykid, all under the supervision of creator and series writer Don Mancini (who also directed the last three). As well as spotting a gap in the market that no evil doll had apparently been the star of a movie, Mancini’s great lightbulb moment was amplifying the inherent campness and comedy. In 1998’s pivotal fourth instalment, Bride of Chucky, the formidable Jennifer Tilly was introduced as Chucky’s other half, Tiffany; the actor is on hand here to discuss the shift, summed up even more pertly by John Waters. Why horror’s unshakeable gay following? “They’re drama queens.”

Living With Chucky could have used more of his succinctness. As it tries to wring material of substance from the latter instalments (beyond Gardner’s obvious personal attachment), it begins to repeat itself; a section about practical effects trumping CGI staggers on longer than Michael Myers. Chucky aficionados might appreciate the reverence, but the analysis rarely rises above promotionallevel. Gardner doesn’t address the violence-inciting furore in which Child’s Play was enmired, particularly in the UK; and, loyal to her circle, ignores the recent reboot completely.

She closes with an indulgent section on the lasting bonds Chucky has created. Touching on the conflict between real families and “film families”, this might make a good documentary subject on its own, but it doesn’t belong here. It bogs down an already laboured film; blood proving thicker than water to the point of clotting.

• Living With Chucky is available on digital platforms on 24 April.