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Wednesday, April 5, 2023

‘Living with Chucky’ – Director Kyra Elise Gardner on Growing Up with a Horror Icon [Interview]

Festival favorite Living with Chucky, now streaming exclusively on SCREAMBOX, more than celebrates the Child’s Play franchise; it highlights the family behind it. Multihyphenate filmmaker Kyra Elise Gardner wrote, directed, edited, produced, and appears in her documentary feature debut to explore the popular horror franchise from a unique position.

Gardner is the daughter of special makeup effects legend Tony Gardner, who has been with the franchise since Seed of Chucky. The documentary details the history of the Child’s Play films by the cast and crew, in addition to Gardner’s relationship with the series and the impact it had on her family. Gardner, you could say, literally grew up with Chucky.

Bloody Disgusting spoke with Kyra Elise Gardner about her feature debut and how it evolved her relationship with her Chucky family and the horror genre.

Gardner imbues her documentary with visual flourishes and scenic transitions that highlight artistry in various forms, from the opening credits to the crafting of Good Guy doll outfits. Gardner reveals two purposes for this, which began with her documentary short that served as the basis for Living with Chucky

“My goal was not to make people bored,” she tells us. “This documentary obviously has talking heads, and I couldn’t recreate old footage. In my short film, I wanted to do a title sequence where Chucky’s walking up to a house because it was called ‘The Dollhouse.’ That idea never left my brain. When I had the time and a feature to have an entire title sequence, I thought, ‘Maybe I can do it now.’ And this artist, Lucas David, Jennifer Tilly had posted a piece of his artwork on her Instagram, and it’s very creepy, Tim Burton-y. I reached out and said, ‘We have to work together, please.’ 

“Then, for the transitions, I wanted to highlight the people behind the camera. Everybody you see, everybody who’s behind the camera, those hands, everybody doing the sewing, screen printing, those are all the people who actually do that for their job for the Chucky films. Although we don’t see their faces, at least we can see their hands and their work up close in detail. Annie Edwards lives in Utah. I drove out to film her working on this loom, and it’s Chucky’s sweaters knitted line by line. It’s such intricate work. That was the whole purpose of the documentary: showcasing the artists. I spend a very long time on the puppetry because it doesn’t get enough credit in general. Then going into that, I said, ‘Okay, here is where we can be pretty and have some accent lighting and hopefully visually spice it up from the documentary interviews.'”

Living with Chucky

Gardner details her personal connection to the franchise, which in turn instilled a deep love of horror.

The filmmaker elaborates, “I think I was desensitized in real life so that when I watched horror films, it was not as scary. I think that’s probably the thrill junkie in me that it’s tough to scare me now. So when a horror movie can, I’m like, ‘Yes, I love this movie!’ But yeah, I also grew up on Tim Burton movies. I loved Corpse Bride and things like that. So anything creepy and unconventional, I loved it. As I went into high school, if you were coming over to my house to hang out, we were watching a horror movie. Now, as a filmmaker, I very much appreciate and watch horror movies for the technical aspects of how they were edited, their score, their makeup effects, and things like that. Yeah, that’s my huge interest, horror movies. I love them. Because it is a genre that survives with the support of the fans, there’s no other genre like that. It’s incredible to see people come out to keep it going at conventions, premieres, or things like that. Drama movies don’t have conventions. So, it’s such a wonderful community where the fellow weirdos, because I feel like my childhood was weird, get to come out and be kids, which is so cool.”

Because Living with Chucky further entrenches Gardner within the franchise, Bloody Disgusting asked what her dream role would be if she were to work on an upcoming season of “Chucky.”

I would love to direct an episode,” Gardner tells BD. “That would be a full circle life moment of having experienced this as a four-year-old, of it being a job that took my dad away from home for several months at a time, to then getting involved into the family and then getting to direct my dad doing that character would be so amazing. And obviously, getting to know the now extended, extended family of the new generation that has come up with the series and those actors would be lovely. I also wouldn’t mind having a cameo death in one of the episodes. I would love to pay homage to my dad and my childhood trauma and be decapitated. I would love to be decapitated by Chucky.

Kyra and Tony Gardner

Kyra Elise Gardner and Tony Gardner

Of course, Gardner’s dad, a franchise mainstay, appears in her documentary to give insight from a family perspective. When asked about Tony Gardner’s involvement behind the scenes, Kyra Elise Gardner explained, “He’s watched it plenty of times now, but he didn’t want to get in the way of my editing process by thinking about a version he saw before was what it was supposed to be. I don’t think he can see rough cuts of things and then be like, ‘Oh, I see now.’ He gets stuck. So, he made it a point not to watch it until it was done, which was weird but helpful. It’s interesting, I don’t want to speak for my dad because then I’m just also complimenting myself in a way, but I think he was surprised to see the dedication to making the documentary because there were a lot of loopholes to jump through, legal battles, a lot of learning and figuring it out as a first time feature filmmaker. Because I just went right out of film school and went and did this, and I had no idea what I was doing.

“So, for it to be something that was so personal to be that learning experience, I think he was super excited and hoping that one day everybody can meet up and work on something together, whether it’s the show or just having the time because the show is very time-consuming. But just having the time to go to dinner with everybody, and now it’s like, I can be a part of this thing that takes him away from home and understand it. I’m excited. I’m planning on visiting him finally because COVID restrictions are less intense on the set of season three this summer.”

But what does Tony Gardner think of his daughter’s debut?

The proud dad tells us, “Makeup and Creature Effects are essentially our family business. I’m really proud and really happy that Kyra’s more integrated into what we do and that she’s broadened her film family roots by reaching out on her own to meet everyone that’s part of the Chucky family. The fact that she enjoyed everyone so much and documented her journey in such an entertaining manner is pretty amazing to see. I think that she’s a great storyteller, and it’s cool to see her able to share stories that are so personal.”

See Kyra Elise Gardner’s debut feature and meet the family in Living with Chucky, now available on Digital and exclusively streaming on Bloody Disgusting’s SCREAMBOX!

Living with Chucky Screambox Original poster

The post ‘Living with Chucky’ – Director Kyra Elise Gardner on Growing Up with a Horror Icon [Interview] appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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