13 Days of Halloween Day 12: Child’s Play 2 (1990)

When I think of Child’s Play 2 (1990), I hear the words of Yogurt from Spaceballs (1987) in my head saying, “God willing, we’ll all meet again in Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money!”  It is not that it is bad, but I see Child’s Play (1988) as a steak dinner and Child’s Play 2 (1990) is more of a hamburger, but a hamburger from Applebee’s instead of McDonald’s. It has some really tasty parts, but it is not steak.

John Lafia, one of the writers from Child’s Play (1988) returns, but this time is in the director’s chair. Don Mancini returns as writer, Kevin Yagher returns behind the scenes, and Alex Vincent reprises his role as Andy. Noticeably missing are Karen (Catherine Hicks) and Detective Norris (Chris Sarandon). Reportedly, the film was to begin with a trial with Karen making a short appearance, but this was cut for unknown reasons. Sarandon was supposed to return too, but did not due to the budget. Without director Tom Holland, Lafia and Mancini were able to control the tone of the movie and also included several scenes that had be scratched from the original film.

In this installment, Karen is in a mental institution and Andy has been given to a foster family, Joanne (Jenny Agutter) and Phil (Gerrit Graham) Simpson along with their foster daughter Kyle (Christine Elise). For those trivia hounds out there, this is Christine Elise’s film debut. She was a whopping 25 years old playing a teenager! Meanwhile, in an effort to show there is nothing wrong with their toys, Play Pals Toys acquired the Chucky doll and refurbishes it. This backfires in a Frankenstein-esque scene when Chucky (Brad Dourif) comes to life and the two technicians working on the doll are electrocuted. Chucky keeps his reanimation a secret long enough to steal information about Andy’s whereabouts from an executive and then kills the executive.

The Simpsons house is a pretty, two-story home furnished with antiques and is painted blue and pink. I am not sure about the color scheme, but, while watching it, my roommate said that she thought the home looked like a doll house. It would be interesting if this was the intent of film makers to design the house that way to contrast with the urban apartment of the first film. The Simpsons’ have a great bedroom for Andy complete with curtains Joanne made especially for him, but Andy quickly finds a Good Guys doll named Tommy. If Joanne took the trouble of make special curtains, why would she not check the inventory of toys for a Good Guys doll? It seems like she would periodically check the condition of the toys and would have checked the inventory once she is knows about Andy’s background. This serves as a great moment to remind the audience of what Andy is going through, a good fake out, and a way to lull Andy and the Simpsons into a false feeling of safety. Further into the movie, it also serves as a great way for Chucky to infiltrate the home undetected. There is also a scene later that parallels one from the original movie. Andy opens Chucky’s battery compartment just like his mother did, but this time it contains batteries.

Without Karen and Detective Norris, the film is a meager 84 minutes, making it the shortest of the films in the franchise. Their absence also significantly changes the tone of the movie. The first movie had a very “cop thriller” feel as Karen investigated the doll and Andy was interrogated. The sequel was much more focused on Andy’s point of view and struggle to survive not only Chucky’s attacks, but a world without his mother that does not believe him. With the focus of the movie on Andy, is was up to Vincent to carry the movie and hold his own. Once again, he delivers. With the subtly of Vincent’s expressions we see he is trying to fit in and appease the Simpsons and the staff at the foster agency. Despite his young age, he shows a natural ability. It is a shame that he did not do more acting.

The Simpsons have to die. It is a Chucky movie, after all! Throughout the movie, Kyle and Andy have been getting closer and with the death of their foster parents, it is now Andy and Kyle against Chucky. In this way, Kyle acts in the similar role that Karen had in the first movie’s climax. It is interesting to note that the filmmakers gave us some visual cues to this during the film. When we first me Kyle, she is clad in black, smoking a cigarette, and closed up in her bedroom. As the movie progresses, she becomes more social in the family dynamic and her clothing softens.

Whereas the first film was darker and more of a thriller horror movie, this movie is much more of a straight up slasher. No time is spent on Chucky’s or Charles Lee Ray’s origin or loose ends. Andy reminds us basically who Chucky really is for the folks who did not see the first film. Death abounds in entertaining ways and Chucky has more smart aleck one liners. He also has a more maniacal laugh or at least cackles while killing much more often. Brad Dourif’s lines were recorded before the filming began. This technique allowed for the Chucky puppet to match up better with the dialogue. Unlike the first movie, there is some visible CGI, but not with the manipulation of Chucky. The CGI did not age well and seems to cheapen the film. I almost consider this movie lighter than the first, if a horror movie could be described as light. The deaths are faster paced instead of toying with us a little like the death of Maggie (Dinah Manoff). The death of a Play Pals executive is drawn out more than the others. In fact, we do not even see the death of Joanne. Instead, Kyle just discovers her dead body. I found this surprising. Why introduce her and try to establish a connection between her and Andy if we do not get to see the shock in her face when she realizes Andy has been telling the truth? It seems like a cop out.

The most memorable and exciting part of the movie is of course the battle royale between Kyle, Andy, and Chucky at the Play Pals Toy factory. The factory is full of Good Guys dolls ready to be shipped. The beginning of the movie showed us Chucky being refurbished by hand, but the ending bookends the movie by showing us the factory where the dolls are being made with a giant machine. I have to put out, while colorful and huge, the assembly and machine do not make any sense and looks to be the slowest and most inefficient piece of machinery ever! It does provide a nice setting and many dangers for Kyle, Andy, and Chucky to crawl through during their face off.

It is at the factory that Chucky tries to switch his soul into Alex’s body and realizes he has spent too much time as a doll. I would have loved is he somehow utilized all the Good Guys dolls that were stored in the factory some type of army (wink wink). They did provide good dressing for the set and depict just how popular the Good Guys dolls are in the film’s universe. In fact, there are several times we see Good Guys merchandise sprinkled in the film. The fake out doll Tommy in the Simpsons house, Chucky uses a Good Guys shovel when he buries Tommy after destroying him, kids on Andy’s school bus can be seen in Good Guys shirts, and kids are also sporting Good Guys clothing in the foster facility Kyle breaks Andy out of. It would be like a kid was traumatized by a possessed Elsa doll from Disney’s Frozen (2013). That chick is everywhere!

Just like the first film, Chucky takes a licking, but keeps on ticking until he is turned into giant gob of melted plastic and then blown up! The original ending let the audience know Chucky was still not through, but filmmakers went with the “happy” ending instead. Well, happy for a Chucky movie.

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