The Chucky sequels are interesting to me because they're technically continuations, but almost every movie hits a different subgenre. What's your sequel philosophy, and why do you think you've been able to keep making these movies?
Mancini: It's so hard to get anything original done in Hollywood now, but they do want to make sequels, so I just try to seize that as an opportunity. Any good story is about surprising the viewer and subverting their expectations. When you're dealing with a sequel, the viewer comes to it with all kinds of preconceptions. So that provides me with an opportunity to fuck with that and pull the rug out from under you. I actually find making sequels fascinating and kind of fulfilling in that way. I like to think that even though we're making sequels, they're kind of originals because it's really important to me that each one has a different feel.
With Cult of Chucky, I wanted to do something very different from the last movie, which was very gothic. Or, you might have a certain expectation, knowing that this movie is a mental hospital movie, so I didn't want to do what you would expect: the crumbling, Dickensian ruin. Aesthetically, we'd kind of done that with Curse of Chucky. Instead, I wanted to go the other direction: very modernist, minimalist, black and white in color, which really excited me creatively, because we'd never seen Chucky operate on that aesthetic canvas before.
What made you want to subvert those preconceptions, if Hollywood doesn't often go for truly original work?
Mancini: It's partly just a philosophy that I've developed over the course of doing this. By the time we'd done Child's Play 3, the lesson I'd learned with that movie was that I was starting to repeat myself. That was a problem, and it could, if I wasn't careful, spell the end of it all. When it came time to do another one, with Bride of Chucky, I thought, OK, I need to do something radical. So we turned it into a comedy, which in retrospect was really the best thing we could've done, because I think that set a precedent for us to be the horror franchise that was willing to be fluid. I think that's really helped keep us alive.
I also think I've learned a lot from working in television the last few years [Mancini has recently worked as a producer and writer on Hannibal and Channel Zero], because what I'm doing is similar to serialized television. It's all about the long game, and about telling stories about characters and relationships and squeezing as much drama as you can out of those. We have 30 years and seven movies behind us now, so as a writer I always approach it character-first. I think, OK, what is Nica like now, after her experiences in the last movie? What would happen if Nica intersected with Tiffany? What would happen if Tiffany intersected with Andy Barclay. Come to think of it, where is Andy in his life now?