Most horror franchises quickly run out of ideas, and there are very few that have made it past two or three parts without a major drop in quality. The Chucky series is the big exception. Cult of Chucky is the latest movie in the killer-doll franchise, which started back in 1988 with the cult smash Child’s Play. Seven films later, creator Don Mancini is still finding new ways to keep the franchise fresh, with each movie changing settings, style, actors, and story, but all anchored by the iconic, foul-mouthed murderous doll at the center.

Mancini, who also directed episodes of TV’s Hannibal and is a producer on the horror anthology show Channel Zero, has written every Chucky movie since 1988 and directed the last three. The 54-year-old filmmaker explained that changing the formula each time is the key to the franchise’s ongoing success.

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“I always want to do something different,” he told GameSpot. “I don’t want to make the same movie over and over again. I’m interested in what’s going on with these characters and what would be an interesting new story to tell with them. So, that’s how I proceed. I’m very inspired by the characters, and I’m also very inspired by the actors that are playing them.”

“To me, sequels are unique opportunities,” he continued. “Any good narrative is about subverting expectation. And I think that sequels provide a unique opportunity to do that, because people come with a lot of expectations based on what they have seen before. So, that gives me a unique opportunity to surprise them.”

Brad Dourif (who played Grima Wormtongue in The Lord of the Rings) has provided the voice of Chucky from the very first Child’s Play. Since 1998, he has been joined in three movies by Jennifer Tilly, as Chucky’s bride Tiffany, while Dourif’s daughter Fiona stars in both Cult and 2013′s Curse of Chucky. Mancini recognizes that the strength of his cast is a hugely important element.

“One of the cool things about having a franchise is that I am writing to specific actors,” he explained. “We’re are really lucky with Brad and Jennifer–both Oscar nominees. Fiona is amazing. Since we worked together the first time on Curse of Chucky, she’s really starting to break out.”

Mancini explained that he doesn’t start writing a new Chucky movie until he knows that the key cast members are available. “They definitely have to be locked in,” he said. “We have to know that this is going to work with these specific actors. But that is nine-tenths of the fun, because these are the same actors that have been doing these roles for many films and many decades.”

As for Chucky himself, it’s impressive that in an age of extensive, increasingly affordable digital effects, Mancini has resisted turning the doll into a CGI creation. The director admits that animatronics are a vital part of the character’s appeal, and the one time he did go the digital route wasn’t exactly popular with fans.

“On the last movie [Curse of Chucky], I did one CG shot of Chucky,” he said. “It was something we had shot with the puppet, but it was the one shot that didn’t work. Since it was a shot that was kind of in shadow, we thought we would get away with it. But the fans zeroed in on it, they spotted it, and they hated it. So, lessoned learned, never again.”

“I also think it is important for the actors to have something tangible on set,” he continued. “So, Chucky is on set. He is a character who is performing right there in the scene with Fiona, Jennifer, and all of them.”

Cult of Chucky shifts the setting to a psychiatric hospital, where Fiona character has been incarcerated after she is framed for murder by Chucky and Tiffany. Mancini explained that a decision was made to build a hospital set rather than film in a real one.

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“We built all of that,” he said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to shoot in a real hospital, just because aesthetically, I wanted to push the stylization of it. The aesthetics of the movies are another thing I want to do differently every time. On Curse, we had done the gothic vibe with that house, but I didn’t want to go that route with the asylum. I wanted to do something very modernist and minimalist.”

Mancini went on to state that, with this new movie, his influences were more the surrealist horror of directors such as Brian De Palma, Dario Argento, and Mario Bava, rather than the slasher movies to which the Chucky movies are often compared.

“My interest in the horror genre, it’s not gritty horror movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” he said. “Those are great and have their indispensable place in the genre, but for me personally, that’s not what motivates me creatively. I’m much more about finding the perverse beauty in horror.”

Finally, Mancini revealed that Chucky very nearly had a different name. “In my original script [for Child's Play], Chucky was named Buddy,” he said. “This was when I wrote it in the mid-’80s. But it turns out there was a doll on the market called My Buddy, that I was not familiar with that at the time. So, the name was originally Buddy, but I think Chucky is better. Because Chucky phonetically has the consonants with ‘Ch’ and ‘K,’ and Chucky sounds violent. Chucky to me sounds like the sound of a knife plunging into a pumpkin and pulling out. Or a body!”

Cult of Chucky is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and Video on Demand.