After watching so many franchise horror sequels for this year’s Horrorshow, my low expectations for movie sequels have only been reinforced. Despite constant change in the movie industry over the last century, sequels are still treated by producers as mostly a moneymaking proposition, and not an artistic one. Hollywood is a business. We get that here at Missile Test. Not every sequel can be The Godfather Part II. Conversely, not every sequel that fails to live up to the original is as bad as Highlander II: The Quickening. Most, like Child’s Play 2, fall into a mediocre middle, an uncanny valley where a movie resembles what came before, but in a less convincing way.
Written by series creator Don Mancini, and directed by John Lafia (who had a screenwriting credit in the first film), Child’s Play 2 picks up not too long after the first film ended. Alex Vincent (in top billing!) returns as young Andy Barclay, the child who was terrorized by the spirit of insane murderer Charles Lee Ray, inhabiting the child’s doll, Chucky (Brad Dourif returns to voice Chucky, as does modeller Kevin Yagher and his effects crew). Catherine Hicks, who played Andy’s mother in the first film, does not return. Her character has been consigned to an insane asylum for sticking to the story that a possessed doll went on a murderous rampage in her apartment.
According to the internet, so it must be true, Hicks was set to reprise her role in an early scene, but this was cut before filming. There were certainly other behind-the-scenes machinations that kept her out of the film, but I’m not interested in more than superficial digging. I’m no A.O. Scott.
Whatever the reason, whether it was a lack of interest on Hicks’ part or a negotiation over a fee, if she thought she was through with Chucky, she was sorely mistaken, having been married to Kevin Yagher for the last 30 years. She’s probably spent more time around that damn doll than any other person on the planet besides her husband.
Anyway, Andy’s absent mother isn’t the only person in the care of the state. Andy has been snatched into the child protective system, and is placed with a new couple, Phil and Joanne Simpson (Gerrit Graham and Jenny Agutter), while the authorities try to parse the events of the first film. The two are experienced foster parents, with another, rebellious youth named Kyle (Christine Elise) in their care.
That’s the introductory stuff gotten out of the way, but what about Chucky? At the end of the first film, he was a burned, melted, dismembered mess. Getting him back in the hunt was the toughest acrobatics of the plot, and I can’t say Mancini and company stuck the landing.
The company that manufactures the Good Guy dolls that Charles Lee Ray possessed is unhappy with the bad press surrounding the events of the first film. So, their response is to gather up Chucky’s remains, and refurbish the doll to factory specs to see if they can figure out what went wrong. That sounds somewhat reasonable, but in execution it doesn’t work all that well. Just like Hammer had to find myriad ways to bring Dracula back from the ashes, how Chucky comes back is not nearly as important to the film as the fact that he does, indeed, come back. So, it’s forgivable.
Once the plot is established and Chucky is back in Andy’s life, the film just sort of plods along until the climax. Chucky gets in a few kills here and there, Andy tries to convince the adults that the doll is alive to no effect, and Elise shows that she was the inspiration for Kristin Stewart’s acting career.
The final sequence, with Chucky chasing Andy and Kyle through the Good Guy factory, is where the film finally comes to life. Up until then, I was wondering how this film had received an ‘R’ rating. It had seemed the MPAA ratings board was feeling particularly moralistic when they considered this film. Then the finale happened and it all made sense. It’s a gooey, gory, nasty finale that provided a satisfying end to a film that, otherwise, I was struggling to stay engaged with. If only so much fun and abandon had been present throughout.
Despite this not being the easiest of watches, the basic DNA of the first film is still present. Chucky is still a wild horror flick slasher, and Dourif is still excellent as his voice. This film’s financial success meant that there would be more to come.