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Don Mancini teases Child's Play watch party and return to 'straightforward horror' for Chucky TV show

By Josh Weiss
Child's Play

Grab your Good Guy doll and sharpen your longest kitchen knife, because SYFY WIRE is hosting a Twitter watch party of Child's Play on May 21. Hosted by Whitney Moore, the virtual event is set to feature plenty of behind-the-scenes commentary from franchise creator Don Mancini.

Like Chucky himself, the writer/director/producer/showrunner/all-around good guy (pun intended) has already schemed up plenty of devious ways to keep fans on the edge of their seats.

Speaking exclusively with SYFY WIRE, Mancini says that he's looking forward to "the prospect of watching the movie with fans all over, which I've never done before." To that end, he "provided the team with a bunch of tidbits that I thought would be interesting to talk about."

As for what those "tidbits" will be about, Mancini is able to reveal that one piece of production intel involves Aunt Maggie, "Chucky's first-ever victim" (played by Dinah Manoff) and "how the details of that scene" — her falling out of a window — "changed from my original script to the finished movie."

He goes on to say: "I'm looking forward to talking about little Alex Vincent's amazing acting chops when he breaks down into obviously real tears in front of the camera when Chucky's coming to get him. There's an interesting story behind that."

Vincent, of course, played Andy Barclay, the young boy unfortunate enough to be gifted a doll possessed by the spirit of a deranged serial killer (Brad Dourif). Since that fateful meeting in November of 1988 (when the first movie was released), Chucky has remained a fixture of the horror genre, and he's still going strong over three decades later.

"We plug him in as a different metaphor depending on the era that we're in," Mancini explains, discussing how the character has gone from being a symbol of "consumerism run amok" to becoming "a symbol for LGBTQ rights."

"We've sort of embraced, over the years, a kind of specific gay identity for the franchise," he says. "I think it's just being attentive to what is going on in the culture and what is going in the zeitgeist at any given time, and then using Chucky to get at those issues in an interesting, fun way."

Child's Play

The film series has also marked an evolution for Mancini, who began as a writer on Child's Play before branching out as producer, second unit director, and director. And with a Chucky-based TV adaptation coming to SYFY, he now gets to take on the role of showrunner.

"I feel like Chucky has been my ticket to doing a lot of things in this business," he says.

This brings us to the red-haired, overalls-wearing elephant in the room: the Chucky TV project, which is cloaked in an intriguing haze of voodoo mystery. All we know about the plot right now is that it involves a sleepy American town plunged into absolute chaos when a Chucky doll pops up at a yard sale. To quote Thin Lizzy: Blood will spill.

“One of the things that we've always tried to do over the course of the decades and the different movies, is we just try to switch it up a lot," Mancini explains. "From film to film, I've always tried to create a different tone, plug Chucky into a different subgenre. We've gone from straightforward slasher to comedy to crazy satirical comedy and back to straightforward horror again.”

He adds: "With this TV show, our mission has been to preserve the straightforward scariness of the original film or the first couple of films. But at the same time, continue on with this ever-expanding tapestry of consistent story that we've spun over the course of seven movies and 30-some years. I think fans are really gonna love to see the new characters that we introduce into this realm and just to see how they came off of our classic characters. Not just Chucky, but some of the others that you may be hoping to see. There's a good chance they may turn up."

Don Mancini

Mancini credits his writing involvement on Hannibal and Channel Zero with sparking a desire to take a stab at bringing his beloved creation to the small screen.

"What Bryan Fuller was doing with [Hannibal] felt like fan fiction made by experts, and I really love that aspect of it. So I feel like, in a way, we're doing that with Chucky now," he continues. "I'm working with all these really talented writers, all of whom are huge Chucky fans, many of whom grew up on Chucky, and despite the fact that that's a painful reminder of my age, it's great to hear their ideas and just to start incorporating stuff into it that I might not have thought of."

A lot of the writers' room activity harkens back to Mancini's overall philosophy of keeping Chucky relevant for whatever decade he's released into. For the show, he wanted to explore how the murderous doll impacts the modern-day lifestyles of "a whole new group of kids."

"One thing I think I can probably safely say is that it's a look at what it means to be a kid today in the 21st century, as distinct from what it was like to be a kid in the 1980s, when we first showed up on the scene," the creator adds. "That's one thing I think people can look forward to and thinking about: 'How does Chucky operate in a world where kids spend so much of their time on social media?', for example. Playing video games, interacting with one another on social media as opposed to in a park, which is what we might have depicted 30 years ago. I think the prospect of seeing Chucky sharpen his skills and add to his toolbox, some of the technical goodies that we have at our disposal now, that's something I think people will find pretty interesting."

Moreover, "it's so important to give Chucky new weapons, new strategies, and new targets, new goals ... Chucky has a different goal in the TV show than he's ever had before, and it's specifically something that is designed to evoke something that's going on in the zeitgeist today."

Chucky Child's Play 2

And yes, the series will utilize "pretty much 100 percent puppetry," Mancini reveals. "I think it's so important to keep Chucky as a practical puppet effect, partly because it's important for the actors to have something to respond to on set ... I also think it's important that Chucky have the feel of a doll, of a puppet. He should be a little bit herky-jerky."

Child's Play (available to stream on Netflix, and to rent or purchase on FandangoNOW) was co-written by the late John Lafia and the film's director, Tom Holland (no, not Spider-Man).

The watch party, which includes social engagements from Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes, begins at 8 p.m. EST. Fans can tune in on Twitter using the hashtag #syfywirerewind.

"I'm looking forward to hearing what are the things about the movie that fans love about it now," Mancini finishes. "Is there something new about Chucky in 2020? Is there something that you've never seen in it before that you didn't see 30-some years ago? I'm interested to hear what the fans have to say."