Don Mancini Breaks Down that Crazy ‘Cult of Chucky’ Ending
Spoiler Warning: This article is about the end of Cult of Chucky, so as you might have guessed, there are spoilers all the way through the end of Cult of Chucky.
In the league of horror’s iconic slasher villains, Chucky has endured as a true one-of-a-kind. While the killer doll’s fellow slash MVPs have been rebooted and remade and back again, the Child’s Play franchise has stayed the course with creator Don Mancini behind every script and original actor Brad Dourif voicing the maniacal Good Guy Doll in every film. The trick? Chucky has stayed alive through constant evolution. Be it the setting, the tone, or even the subgenre he’s playing in, Mancini has reinvented what it means to be a part of the franchise with each new movie, adopting an “anything goes” mentality that has fuelled one of the most consistently entertaining, enjoyable, and downright weird horror series of all time.
With Cult of Chucky, the seventh Chucky film to date, Mancini takes things in an even stranger and bolder direction than ever before, especially in the film’s wild third act. Cult of Chucky brings together all the key players from Chucky movies past — Alex Vincent‘s Andy Barclay, Jennifer Tilly‘s Tiffany Valentine, and Fiona Dourif‘s Nica Pierce — under the roof of an insane asylum where Chucky picks off his imprisoned prey and battles his old foes. Well, that’s three Chuckys to be exact. Mancini uses the insane asylum setting to mess with the audience’s head and make a “mind fuck” Chucky movie that keeps the audience guessing what’s real and who’s sane until the big reveal — Nica’s not crazy, there are three different Chuckys on the loose, terrorizing the patients en masse and when they finally meet, it’s an all-time franchise moment.
In anticipation of the film’s release, I recently hopped on the phone with Mancini (read Part 1 of the interview here) and the writer-director explained that the mult-Chucky showdown has been on his mind for a while.
“Essentially, it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I didn’t really know how I would do it dramatically, but I just knew that the image of a bunch of Chuckys was cool. I felt that at this point in the franchise, it was time to do it. It was time to do something really new, to take it to another level.”
But just because he had the idea for a long time, doesn’t mean it was easy to pull off. As Mancini explained, coordinating three Chuchy puppets on set was a bit of a nightmare — especially because he was still fine-tuning the script while after the start of production.
“The coordinating of it, it’s always a handful, you’ve gotta plan all of that out, you know, the little battle almost. As the director, I like to storyboard everything and that becomes even more important when you’re dealing with puppets, but particularly that scene. That was scene 74, which was always, you know in the schedule, it was always looming, this big bear. I wrote constantly up to the point of shooting it, which is was actually a bigger deal than it might sound like because generally with Chucky, Brad records all of the dialogue a few months before. It’s a lot like an animated movie; the voice [recording] and then animator, or in this case the puppeteers, they then work the vocal performance. That’s their initial inspiration.
But because Mancini was still nailing down the scene, they had to flip the script on how they usually film the puppetry sequences, with Mancini himself providing the temporary voice tracks.
“It was an important scene to have slight distinctions between the three Chuckys so that each one is an identifiable character, and I knew that would give Brad an opportunity to play with it. It’s just that we swung it ass-backwards. Because I was rewriting it when we were up in Canada shooting, I actually had to record all of Chucky’s dialogue in that scene myself, so while we were shooting it, it’s just on the loudspeaker. That’s what the puppeteers rehearsed to get a sense of timing. I knew as writer and director, I had a pretty good sense of the timing of it, the comedic timing and such. So that’s why I put it down and then forced Brad to do some work in post when he had to come back. [Laughs]”
When it came to cracking that scene, Mancini says he initially had a bigger-budget idea in mind, but the biggest trick was figuring out the relationship between the Chucky dolls — and fair point, because their interaction is the big payoff for the reveal.
“In that scene, it felt like I hadn’t — even though I had the concept, it had to be reworked and revised initially, which was actually bigger and it was beyond our budget, so then I had to refine it down. But, I think I was initially afraid of making it too goofy and I was struggling to find my way into it, and then this totally incredibly obvious, like ‘Oh of course, that’s what we do,’ but whatever wasn’t obvious to me at first. Initially, I had them all just kind of bickering discriminately and it just wasn’t right and I realized that the scene — that the three Chuckys were brothers and that they had a bond of love. And it probably just seems like, ‘Well of course, it’s obvious,’ but that was like kind of an a-ha moment.”
But having multiple Chuckys wasn’t just a big finale payoff, it was a structural means of putting the audience through the same confusion facing his characters as they tried to figure out which Chucky was the real deal.
“Because this was a mind-fuck movie I knew another thing I was going to be able to do was production of it, was to screw with the audiences head in the same way that Chucky is screwing with Nica’s head. Another one we used was the environment, where I went “wait a minute”, what does that mean? Maybe it’s this one that’s a lie? Wait, maybe it’s that one that’s a lie? Maybe they are both lies? Wait a minute, the scare room is a lie and it’s all Nica after all? Just by her introducing the multiple Chucky dolls it’s just playing this sort of shell game with Nica, with the audience — Where’s Waldo, Where’s Chucky.”
But Cult of Chucky doesn’t just have a show-stopping Chucky party, it also changes the game in a major way — Charles Lee Ray finally gets his wish, a real human body, and it’s none other than our heroine Nica. With a Chucky personality transplant, Nica swaggers out of her wheelchair and escapes into the night with Tiffany at her side. It’s a bonafide game-changer for the franchise and for Mancini, the idea was partially inspired by wanting to see actress Fiona Dourif take on a “femme fatale” role.
“We’re working with a lot of the same people over and over again and I get to know them as people, and just as all-around talent, seeing what else they’re doing in their careers. It’s really inspiring, and Fiona is such an amazing actress and shortly after I started working with her, I knew she would make an awesome femme fatale. But that was the thing that was like, “Oh my god. I could see you do this.” Because we didn’t see that in her, there’s just a whole other side of you that’s very aggressive and dominant, and would be really fun to see.”
And Mancini is quick to point out that it’s also a bit of a sad moment for the character. Nica is defeated while also, in some twisted ways, freed.
“At the same time, I wanted something interesting with the character, I wanted the audience to go on the ride with this character and be legitimately surprised with where she ended up. Because I think it’s a really weird mixture of sort of not tragedy, but defeat, but also self-empowerment in a weird, fucked up way. Just like, it leaves her, like I didn’t see that coming. I want to know what happens next to her.”
It’s one hell of a cliff-hanger, that’s for sure. No word yet on if and when an eighth Chucky film is on the way, but here’s hoping it’s sooner than later. Cult of Chucky is now available on Netflix, VOD, Blu-ray and DVD.