“It doesn’t matter. Wherever I go, Chucky will find me.”
CHILD’S PLAY 2 is an unnecessary but entertaining continuation of the story of young Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) and that time when his mom accidentally bought him a doll that was possessed by the soul of Chicago serial killer Charles Lee Ray, a.k.a. The Lake Shore Strangler.
We pick up two years later. Andy is being put into foster care while his mom Karen is in a psychiatric hospital for believing in killer dolls. We only see her in a photo, but I’m gonna assume she’s in there doing pullups and getting buff like Sarah Connor when she was locked up for similar reasons. Andy goes to stay with Phil (Gerrit Graham, POLICE ACADEMY 6) and Joanne (Jenny Agutter, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON) Simpson, though Phil doesn’t seem to like him and has very reasonable concerns about whether they’re qualified to raise a horribly traumatized kid.
Andy grew up in a small apartment in the city, now he’s in this huge house, he gets his own room with a bunch of toys, which he’s excited to see, but obviously he misses his mother. He doesn’t know when he’ll see her again, or how long he’ll be able to stay here. And he’s never had siblings before, but now there’s this teenager named Kyle (Christine Elise, BODY SNATCHERS). He walks into her room and she’s smoking and gives him attitude. She’s been the for three weeks but hasn’t unpacked because she’s never been able to stay anywhere for more than a month, and doesn’t expect that pattern to change. Andy overhears the Simpsons talking about him and feels bad, he gets scared of dolls, he’s not used to having a dad at all, let alone a strict one. But Kyle reassures him that Phil’s not that bad (she’s had much worse). So it’s just a movie about the challenges of being a foster child or a foster parent and stuff like that. That’s pretty much it.
Well, except actually I should mention Chucky comes back to life too. The movie starts with the ridiculous but visually appealing notion that Play Pals Toys Inc. feel they need to painstakingly restore the burnt Chucky doll to prove (two years after the fact?) that it wasn’t tampered with by someone at the factory to say scary things to a kid. He now seems to have metal inside instead of human flesh like last time we saw him. Not sure what happened there, but he’s revived and kills him up some toy company executives.
Lucky for Chucky there’s another, non-possessed-by-serial-killer Good Guys doll named Tommy in the house. They were gonna get rid of it because it scared Andy, but it’s still around when Chucky shows up and switches places with it. Even though it’s alive he feels he has to murder it by bashing its head in and burying the body. That’s just how Chucky is.
I’d say there’s a little more humor than in the first one, but it’s mostly very dry. I like this tone. There’s a great sequence of him digging a grave for Tommy with a plastic sandbox type shovel. There’s a POV shot from inside the grave as Chucky, lit by lightning, hair blowing in the wind, tosses the dirt in. Then a bird’s-eye-view shot pulls up to reveal this is going on under a swingset.
It makes sense that cinematographer Stefan Czapsky then became Tim Burton’s guy for EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, BATMAN RETURNS and ED WOOD. That’s a nice visual gag, starting with this sort of gothic horror movie look and then revealing that it’s happening in a backyard. But it also sets up another great moment when Kyle is lounging on the swing with pretending-to-be-an-ordinary-doll Chucky nearby, watching her feet kick at the dirt. There are some really funny reaction shots.
I guess they built off the technology they created in the first one to get a more sophisticated performance out of Andy. He’s still a tiny kid but he handles a bigger part because he’s more natural at it. Phil Simpson is kind of a dick sometimes, but also sympathetic because it would be hard to take care of a kid that’s screaming about his doll Chucky being back and “please listen to me, I’m not lying! You have to kill him or he’ll get me!”
There are some actual sweet moments, like when the Simpsons are surprised to see him casually holding what he thinks is the Tommy doll, trying to move on with his life. And I really like how Kyle becomes his protector after she learns that Chucky is real. They form a sibling bond stronger than a biological one because they share having lost their parents (and foster parents!) and having faced a Chucky threat together. Kyle brings a little bit of that DREAM WARRIORS troubled-outsider-teen appeal, and just like in part 1 Andy earns some respect by holding his head up high while living a shittier life than your average horror protagonist. Like, he couldn’t afford to go to Camp Crystal Lake, and he doesn’t have his own phone to have a tongue come out of.
Also, Andy is pretty pro-active for an 8 year old. There’s a cool part that seems like a Chucky POV opening the kitchen drawers looking for a good knife, and then you realize it’s not Chucky, it’s Andy. He chooses an electric carving knife and goes down into the basement looking to carve himself up some Chucky meat. For his troubles he gets bit on the ear and blamed for the murder of his foster father.
Oh yeah, and hats off to Kevin Yagher, because the puppets are also improved. Chucky’s on camera way more, has much more dialogue and action and changing expressions. He even walks around and you can see his whole body. He rides the hood of a car, gets thrown through a window, holds various people hostage at knife and gunpoint.
This is the beginning of really seeing the personality of the character. There’s still some of the spooky motionless doll stuff, and director John Lafia knows how to play with the audience, for example when Greg Germann from Ally McBeal keeps gratuitously manhandling the doll, holding it by the face, letting it get soaked in the rain, slamming the trunk on top of it repeatedly, etc., while we wait for Chucky to have something to say about this. But before the 20 minute mark Chucky has already come to life, made a phone call and committed a carjacking.
It’s a cool idea for the showdown to take place at the factory where the Good Guys dolls are made. They have really lackluster night time security, and it’s weird how much of the assembly line can operate without any humans, but it’s a perfect place for a long battle with a doll. There’s running through a maze of doll boxes, riding on conveyor belts, trying to injure Chucky with the machinery that created his corporeal form. I have to say, I do not particularly believe the part where the security guard is killed by the machine inserting Good Guy eyeballs into his head, but that’s okay. I’m not complaining. The climax just keeps coming up with more cool visual gimmicks, like when they dump hot rubber on him and he comes out looking like some disgusting Cronenberg monster.
The way they kill him this time (which actually might remind you of a specific Cronenberg movie) is a beaut. And then they just walk away, a couple of kids without parents or a home, but they’re alive and they have each other. The end.
There’s a not as good alternate ending for the TV version, not even included on the DVD, where Chucky is still alive:
This is of course part 2 in the series, and I noticed some weird parallels with another part 2 that you all love unconditionally called STAR WARS 2: ATTACK OF THE CLONES. It occurred to me when Kyle and Andy are on the conveyor belt trying to dodge the machinery coming down at them that it was the same idea as when Anakin and Padme are in that factory on Geonosis. And then if you think about it there are all those stacks and stacks of Good Guys doll boxes, it’s like the clone army. And part 2 is where Anakin gets his right hand cut off. Same thing happens to Chucky in his part 2. (Actually, his is more badass. He tears off his own hand to escape a cage, knowing that his insides were now human and it would be all gory muscle tissue and veins and shit. Then he rams a knife into the stump to use Ash style.)
Anyway my point is that Don Mancini based this partly on George Lucas’s early prequel notes, and vice versa.
Here’s another little thing I noticed: the Simpson family has a subscription to the Chicago Sun-Times. Later, Chucky gets into the back of a Sun-Times delivery truck for his I believe third attempt to do a voodoo spell to transfer his soul into Andy’s body. That made me wonder if Roger Ebert liked CHILD’S PLAY when he reviewed it for the Sun-Times. Turns out he gave it 3 stars and called it “a cheerfully energetic horror film of the slam-bang school, but slicker and more clever than most.” But the ads just quoted his line “Chucky is one mean SOB.”
Ebert doesn’t seem to have written a review of CHILD’S PLAY 2, but he did review it on the show and provided what could’ve been an even better quote:
“Malignant and unwholesome… it’s good filmmaking but it made me feel unclean and disturbed… as a human being I wish I hadn’t seen it!” raves Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times.
I agree with Roger’s head, but my heart likes it much better than his heart. In fact, I think I like it a little better now than I did when it came out. In the CHILD’S PLAY series it stands out for balancing a high volume of Chucky scenes like the later sequels with the more serious approach of the first movie.
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Eazy E, who had the poster on the wall in his studio at least in STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON if not in real life.
Now, allow me to connect Chucky and his part 2 to some of the other great horror icons.
1. The stunt coordinator of CHILD’S PLAY 2 is Dick Warlock, who played Michael Myers in HALLOWEEN II.
2. Warlock was also stunt coordinator for FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 5: A NEW BEGINNING, but I guess technically that doesn’t connect him to Jason since… well, SPOILER.
3. In between parts 1 and 2, screenwriter Don Mancini wrote an episode of Tales From the Crypt that was directed by A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE director Jack Sholder. Also, director Lafia had previously done two episodes of Freddy’s Nightmares.
He’d also done the 1988 Dylan McDermott action comedy THE BLUE IGUANA, but his qualification for this was a co-writing credit on part 1. According to Tom Holland on that film’s commentary track, Lafia’s draft provided the classic checking-the-batteries scene, maybe the biggest scare in the movie. Here he’s obviously building off of Holland’s style and the existing Chucky doll and everything, but he does a very good job.
Despite that, he was never involved in the CHILD’S PLAY series after this. I guess his most notable subsequent work would be the killer dog picture MAN’S BEST FRIEND. Then he got into video games and interactive movies and TV including the earthquake movies 10.5 and 10.5: APOCALYPSE.
other horror sequels that came out in 1990: LEATHERFACE: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III, GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH, THE EXORCIST III: LEGION, TROLL 2.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.