Chucky is back in theaters, and he got a lot of help from one Omaha man.
The reboot of “Child’s Play,” the horror film famously featuring a kids’ doll that comes to life as a murderous fiend, was brought to life by Tom Elkins, an Omaha-based film editor.
This version of “Child’s Play” is a contemporary take on the 1988 horror classic. A single mother, Karen (Aubrey Plaza), gifts her son Andy (Gabriel Bateman) a Buddi doll, unaware of its sinister nature.
Elkins, 54, has worked in Hollywood for more than two decades, and his résumé includes editing the Tom Hanks-fueled “Inferno,” as well as a long list of horror films including “The Haunting in Connecticut,” “Flatliners,” “Annabelle” and, now, “Child’s Play.”
And he’s excited for his latest work to hit cinema screens.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how it’s received,” Elkins said. “The movie does not take itself too seriously. It’s trying to be funny and scary and little bit heartfelt. It’s very self-aware, which makes it kind of fun.”
Elkins will even take part in a special screening at 7:45 p.m. Friday at Aksarben Cinema. Before the screening, Elkins will talk about the film and take questions about his work.
After finishing his work in May in Vancouver, Elkins has been back in Omaha with his wife, Suzy, and two daughters. We caught up with him while he was on his way to the film’s L.A. premiere to talk about his excitement about Chucky, going up against another toy movie (“Toy Story 4”) and being a part of Hollywood filmmaking while living in Nebraska.
The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: How are you celebrating the release?
A: We’ll be at the premiere. Then Friday night, we have this running thing now at Aksarben Cinema. Since I first started doing movies as an editor, they would show the movie and make a thing out of it. Before the movie, I talk bout it and answer some questions. That should be fun. It’s a nice little tradition.
Q: You’ve been doing some big projects. What was it like doing “Child’s Play”?
A: The gravity of doing a Chucky movie hit when I saw him in “Ready Player One.” If Spielberg thinks he’s a pop-culture icon, the pressure’s on.
Also, when you look at the chatter online, it’s pretty divisive. Fans are polarized in how they feel about doing a Chucky remake. There’s the team for Brad Dourif (who voiced Chucky in all previous releases). And then there are people excited for Mark Hamill.
Q: Chucky is a mix of a real puppet and some CGI. What was it like to manage that?
A: Sometimes he’s CG, sometimes he’s a practical puppet. Most of the time, he’s a puppet. And the puppet itself was practical, but the eyes were created through CGI. But the movements of the face itself and the way the doll smiles and grimaces, that’s all on camera.
But it was a challenge. You go back and forth and back and forth. The constant dilemma was that, at some point, you have to lock picture so you can get the visual effects going. If you don’t start, you run out of time. So you’re showing the movie to an audience with Chucky looking in various stages of development.
Q: This is obviously a reboot, but did you take any inspiration from the original 1988 movie?
A: Not really. This movie’s very different from that one. This movie is actually quite funny, and some parts are even a little bit emotional. It felt more like a Spielberg movie than kind of the grit and cheese of the original Chucky. In that way, it’s really quite different than the original.
It’s “Child’s Play,” but it’s a different vibe.
Q: Did that factor into your editing choices?
A: What was so fun about this film, from an editing point of view, it was equal parts scary and funny. You got to flex your comedy muscles and horror muscles at the same time. It was super gratifying in that regard. Usually in a scary movie, you’re kind of minimizing the laughs because it takes away the tension. But the script and the director were going 100% for laughs.
It was an interesting way to balance humor and horror so they don’t step on each other.
Q: What about playing with this movie’s tie to modern technology? This time, Chucky is web-enabled.
A: Stories about possession, ghosts, demons and spirituality — all that stuff has existed for thousands of years. This is a new kind of haunting. It’s completely based on technology that’s only existed for less than a decade. All the movies that are doing it now, they’re pioneering new ways to scare audiences.
But it has challenges, too. When you’re dealing with a film about something that is scary or possessed, you have a lot of license. You can click the lights on and off. If you need a jump scare, I can create a noise upstairs from something walking around. You get a little chill.
But with technology, there’s rules. You can’t create something happening for no reason.
Q: Is it amusing to have your scary toy movie go up against a wholesome toy movie in “Toy Story 4”?
A: Have you seen how the marketing folks at Orion have done? (Several posters depict Chucky murdering “Toy Story” toys in various ways.) It’s super inventive, and people are talking about it. But what did Woody ever do?
Q: Do you have a next project lined up?
A: Because we live in Omaha and we don’t live in L.A., every movie for me is kind of a location shoot. Especially being in Canada for so long, you kind of have to give yourself some time together.
I’m running off all over the place making movies, and you can’t do it without a supportive spouse. She puts up with a lot.
I’m forcing myself to hold off on the projects, but part of the magic of living in Omaha is you can afford to do that. There are definitely some things brewing, but none of them start before the end of the summer.
That’s the peril and the joy of the business. You have to have the stomach for the idea that it’s project-based, and when the movie’s over, that’s it.
What the 10 worst movie moms teach us about bad parenting
Mother’s Day, which is Sunday, is the day we celebrate good mothers everywhere, chronicling their contributions to positive child-rearing and, ultimately, a better society. But that’s not what the following is for.
This is about the bad moms, the worst moms in movie history, who, through some mix of negligence and abuse, have done a real number on each of their movie children.
Note: In many cases, the following mothers were married to equally awful fathers. I do not mean to diminish the role a bad dad plays in raising and messing up his children. It’s just that it’s not Father’s Day we’re talking about here.
— Micah Mertes