When one hears about a made-in-Winnipeg film winning an award at a major North American festival, one tends to think of Guy Maddin, and not a direct-to-DVD horror sequel.
But it was the latter that won the audience award at the Fantasia Film Festival in August. The movie was Curse of Chucky, the sixth in a horror series that began 25 years ago with Child's Play in 1988 and continued with Child's Play 2 and 3, Bride of Chucky, with the penultimate instalment, Seed of Chucky, arriving in 2004.
Curse was shot in Winnipeg in September and October of 2012 on a budget of $5 million. It demonstrates a shift back to pure horror in contrast to the darkly comic sensibility of the previous two films.
Director Don Mancini wrote the screenplays for all the films and directed the last two. On the phone from Los Angeles, Mancini says that despite the direct-to-DVD status of the film, it represented a fresh start to the franchise and he was gratified to see enthusiastic response to the film at genre festivals in both Montreal and London.
"People are really liking it," he says. "A lot of things went right and I think one of them was that we ended up shooting in Winnipeg.
"The crew in Winnipeg was amazing, some of the most talented people I've ever worked with in 25 years of doing this."
That sentiment is evidently sincere. On the Blu-ray extras, a documentary titled Playing with Dolls: The Making of Curse of Chucky highlights the gory handiwork (including an eye-popping, a decapitation and a throat-slitting) of makeup ace Doug Morrow, the excellent old-dark-house production design of Craig Sandells, and the stunt co-ordination of Rick Skene, as well as the chilling cinematography of Michael Marshall, locals all.
"We're really proud of the fact that the reviews are stating the movie looks like a theatrical-quality release, and I think a lot of that has to do with the Winnipeg crew," Mancini says. "They are all extremely talented and are all just a bunch of like-minded movie geeks, really.
"It was just so much fun to come to work on this endeavour that we saw eye-to-eye on. We would all cite the same movies and make the same references, and it was a fantastic experience. I would really like to come up there and make another movie."
"The production design and the photography are really amazing in the film," he says, citing Sandell's design of the rambling Victorian abode in which the action takes place. "The house in this movie was just incredible. It was not possible to find an uninteresting angle on this place. It was so much fun to shoot in."
In the film, the innocent-seeming Chucky doll, possessed by the malevolent spirit of serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) is delivered to the home of a wheelchair-bound young woman (Dourif's daughter, Fiona Dourif) and proceeds to play homicidal havoc with the members of her family.
The film's tone is closer to the original Child's Play than it is Seed of Chucky and Bride of Chucky, in which the franchise veered into self-parody. Curse is a deliberate throwback in the face of Hollywood's abundant remakes of horror franchises of the '70s and '80s -- including reboots of Halloween, Nightmare of Elm Street, Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Mancini says he and producing partner David Kirschner explored the possibility of a Child's Play remake.
"But it just became too difficult," he says. "We did the first movie at MGM and, subsequently, the sequels were done by Universal. The rights to Child's Play were owned jointly by MGM and Universal and it just becomes a nightmare of lawyers and phone calls.
"So after trying to deal with that for a couple of years, we thought: Well, we could grow old and die waiting for this to happen. So let's just move on and make a sequel," Mancini says.
"David and I are also horror fans and we'd seen all those movies and we came to the conclusion that what horror fans really want to see is not a remake of an overly familiar story, but rather the character that they know and love -- or love to hate -- in a brand-new adventure. So that's what we tried to give them."
Curse of Chucky is available on video on demand and DVD as of today. See Thursday's Uptown section for a review.