Behind-the-Scenes of this week's horror flick, Seed of Chucky

Chucky the killer doll is back, but if you didn’t see Bride of Chucky, you might not be prepared for the follow up, Seed of Chucky. Bride took a more comical approach to the Child’s Play series with Chucky turning his former lover into a female doll. The two go on a killing spree while battling through domestic issues, complete with Martha Stewart jokes and a doll sex scene that predates Team America: World Police.

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Seed continues the story with the orphaned offspring of Chucky and Tiffany. Since the child is not anatomically correct, they don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl, so he’s either Glen or Glenda. Get it? In trying to become proper parents, Chucky and Tiffany again become feuding spouses, only now the spoof is of the family dynamic, not just the couple.

Writer/director Don Mancini, who wrote the previous four Chucky films, is careful about how he describes the tone of the film. “The movie is certainly not The Grudge or Saw,” Mancini said. “It’s a very different animal. This is the climate into which we are opening, the success of those movies. I just think people want different things from different movies. This is a movie that’s more in the tradition of something like Evil Dead II or Dead Alive, not that I’m comparing myself to those masters. I’m just saying, that’s the sort of movie we wanted to make.”

Jennifer Tilly, who played Tiffany in Bride, now plays herself playing Tiffany in a movie about the Chucky and Tiffany murders. The real Tiffany hopes to transfer her soul into Tilly, while Tilly is trying to sleep her way to a role in a biblical epic directed by hip-hop artist Redman. However, the film isn’t quite as inside Hollywood as the likes of Scream 3 or Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.

“I felt like we had just the right amount of that in the movie, because really the focus should always be on the family of dolls,” Mancini said. “I thought that the Hollywood thing provided an interesting backdrop. What led me to that was that when I was working on the script initially, I didn’t want to repeat myself. I could have had Chucky and Tiffany and Glen end up in the home of and ordinary woman or family. But I felt I’d done it already, so I felt like the context to put the dolls in needed to be something new. So I thought by having Jennifer play herself and put it in Hollywood just sort of like created a funny and interesting new context to put the dolls in. But I think the focus always remains on the family of dolls. That’s what’s the most important.”

If the film’s comedy is not unique enough for new viewers, perhaps the style will be. Shot on sets constructed in soundstages, Mancini achieved an old Hollywood vibe, even mimicking techniques of horror masters. “I definitely wanted a sense of artifice and stylization. I mean, all of the movies, to greater or lesser degrees, have had a certain degree of stylization in the look of them, because I think that that’s necessary to provide the proper proscenium arch for the doll. What it means is it’s a very definitive visual framework around which the drama is taking place. A certain self-consciousness I guess. Since the dolls themselves are sort of stylized versions of human beings, that stylize dramatus persona, I don't think it would work correctly in a completely naturalistic, realistic environment. If you were doing a straightforward horror movie with a doll, I think you could do it that way, but doing a horror comedy, which as this movie is a parody of domestic dramas like Kramer Vs. Kramer, I think the world needs to look a little bit over the top. That was the conscious decision. I was very influenced by Brian DePalma movies and with the colors, Dario Argento movies. In Jennifer Tilly’s house, the highly contrasting colors from room to room. One of the things that we did in the set there is because so much of the movie takes place in that set, you don’t ever want to feel like you’re trapped in a box. So, we designed it so that there are big archways looking on into rooms beyond rooms and we have the contrast in colors between the sort of royal blue of the foyer and the gold of the living room. And then there’s a stark kind of womb red color in another room. Kind of like Suspiria, just a really bold look. I mean, it’s just a certain sensibility that I like.”

The sets were built at the Castel Studios in Romania, where a growing number of Hollywood productions are working. But why not take advantage of all the Hollywood studios when you’re making a film about Hollywood? “Because it’s cheaper than actually filming in Hollywood. It’s cheaper than Canada. It’s why so much filmmaking is going to eastern Europe now. One of your biggest savings is in construction. And with these movies, as with any puppet movie, you have to build everything. You can’t film on location because you have to build sets six feet off the ground so the puppeteers can be underneath. And in this particular movie, so much of it took place in Jennifer Tilly’s house, even around the house and we needed a continuous set for that John Waters sequence, the Rear Window/Body Double sequence. So the Castel Studios where we shot have the second biggest soundstage in Europe, second only to the 007 stage at Pinewood. So they had that stage where we actually built this full scale Spanish Colonial house, not just the façade, but if you went there, you could see you go in there and all of the rooms and the stairs and upstairs are just all like a full scale house and yard and the streets and the street corner and the intersection. We built all of that on the stage, shipped in palm trees from Egypt and built this little corner of Beverly Hills on the soundstage there.”

The killer dolls are more animated in Seed of Chucky than they have ever been, thanks to improved technology in animatronic puppets. “The main improvements are in the oral, the mouth articulation. Now we’re able to 100% lock the vocal performance, the synchronization of the lips into the computer so that that’s never a variable on the set. We never have to rely on take to take, the puppeteer articulating all the syllables. We lay all the vocal tracks down, it’s the first thing we do. Then the puppeteers rehearse to that and the guy who does the mouth locks it in. Once he gets it right, it’s locked into the computer and then that’s done. So that’s the main advance and that’s a huge time saver. There was also just in terms of animatronics, we were able to, as with any technology, things get smaller as they get more advanced. We’re able to essentially improve Tiffany’s acting ability from the last movie. There was kind of a problem we had in Bride of Chucky because Tiffany’s head is smaller than Chucky’s, so literally the range of her facial expressions were more limited than Chucky’s because you couldn’t fit as many servo mechanisms in. But now, because everything is smaller and more sophisticated, we were able to do that. So actually that was something that Jennifer was really happy with. She felt that Tiffany had become a much better actress in this movie.”

Seed of Chucky opens Friday.

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