Tagline: Sorry, Jack… Chucky’s back!
Director: John Lafia
Writer: Don Mancini
Starring: Alex Vincent, Jenny Agutter, Gerrit Graham, Christine Elise, Brad Dourif, Grace Zabriskie, Peter Haskell, Beth Grant, Greg Germann, Raymond Singer, Charles Meshack, Stuart Mabray, Adam Wylie, Billy Stevenson
15 | 1h 24min | Horror, Thriller
Budget: $13,000,000 (estimated)
“Sorry, Jack. Chucky’s back!”
For those of you who remember, this was the acerbic proclamation that announced the return of a very different breed of antihero, and unless you were on the receiving end of a plethora of sadistic doll-related murders back in 1990, it was a return that was very much welcome. If you don’t remember, take a quick look at this trailer for the much-anticipated Child’s Play 2, the inevitable follow up to Tom Holland’s cult sleeper hit, and a movie that would spawn a decades-long franchise of rare endurance.
The main reason for this is Chucky and the actor who provides his inimitable personality. Brad Dourif is perhaps most notable for his young turn as the deeply troubled whipping boy of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest‘s militant oppressor, Nurse Ratched, but Holland’s creation taps into a very different side of the actor’s capabilities, giving us a horror superstar who is part Jason Voorhees, part Arnold Schwarzenegger, and thus a star was born.
While most slasher franchises turned to the self-reflexive following the censorship impositions of the BBFC and MPAA, Chucky was in on the joke from the very beginning, and by the time the sequel came to fruition the sadistic comedy had been cranked up to preposterous levels, the kind only a murderous cuddly toy could conjure. It’s easy to forget just how much of a revelation Chucky became as horror entered the notoriously barren ’90s. Dourif’s anarchic killer was the talk of school playgrounds everywhere back in the early ’90s, resulting in a series of child-led copycat crimes that plunged the series into disrepute by the time Child’s Play 3 hit the shelves, but in spite of those unfortunate incidents, the series is very much comedy-orientated.
The fact that Chucky is actually a voodoo-practising serial killer trapped inside a cute, freckle-faced ‘Good Guy’ doll is the ultimate horror movie irony. It is also the perfect pretence for a sadistic mind such as Charles Lee Ray, whose spirit is somehow returned to a charred-beyond-recognition doll that the cheapskates at the Good Guy factory would rather clean up and rebuild than simply make anew. How the police ever let that valuable piece of evidence back into corporate hands is a head-scratcher that keeps the plot ticking along nicely, but Chucky is nothing if not fortuitous, and fortune very often favours the sinister.
Of course, nothing has changed for Dourif’s Lee Ray, the deceased criminal responsible for adding flesh and blood to a toy of cute grotesquery. He still needs to transport his soul into the body of the first person he came into contact with, and sets off on a journey to track down the now-fostered Andy (Alex Vincent), after his mother, presumably refusing to dance with sequel ignominy along with Chris Sarandon’s hard-boiled cop (apparently Sarandon is not too enamoured with the attention his role in Child’s Play receives), is conveniently confined to the nut house.
Foster mother Joanne (Jenny Agutter) has no idea what she’s getting herself into when she discovers Andy at a local foster home, a fact made evident when her chosen son finds a Good Guy doll nestled amongst his new toys. Andy also has a foster father named Phil (Gerrit Graham), a man of such little patience and empathy he threatens to take Andy back to the foster home after his doll-related outburst, leading Andy to feign love for the red-headed threat sitting ominously in his room, something Chucky quickly takes advantage of.
Luckily for Andy, he is fortunate enough to inherit a spitfire surrogate sister named Kyle (Christine Elise), also fostered, whose Madonna facade and understanding of what it is to be misunderstood uncovers Lee Ray’s perfect disguise with the threat of a cigarette butt, but not before he’s laid waste to a mostly deserving support cast in a series of increasingly sadistic ways.
Child’s Play 2 is much more violent than its predecessor, and although it fails to match the scares of the original it stays true to the delayed reveal of the first movie, only this time we’re in on the absurdity, and are able to delight in the ignorance of a perfectly sane cast in a less than sane situation. The movie also benefits from the kind of improved animatronics that turn Chucky into an all-too-real creation that lends Dourif’s incredible voice performance further credence, and what the sequel loses in mystery it more than makes up for with sheer sadistic joy.
Child’s Play 2 does everything in its power to ramp up the voltage, with more deaths, more foul language, and a series of over-the-top sequences that wouldn’t look out of place in a Rambo sequel. Even more desperate to reclaim his flesh and blood, our ironically named Good Guy is prone to fits of incredible frenzy, the kind of violent outbursts you can’t help but laugh at, in spite of their largely cruel and unforgiving nature. By now, Chucky and Dourif have cursing down to a fine art.
In the end, that proves key to the movie’s success: its understanding of the Chucky character and the way in which it handles him. Bigger and bolder is the only way a character like Chucky could have gone, and director Lafia realises this, as does screenwriter Don Mancini, the two of them reuniting after co-penning the first movie along with previous director Holland, and in spite of his well-documented disputes with Mancini stemming from their work on the original movie, you just know this movie brought a smile to his face.
It certainly brought a smile to mine.
For sheer irony, the best kill has to go to the fitting demise of a Good Guy factory worker who is knocked onto the production line by a grinning Chucky and fitted with his very own pair of Good Guy eyeballs.
Eyes to see you!
Most Savage Attack
Finding her dead foster mother gagged and tortured, a disbelieving Kyle is pounced upon by our sinister Garbage Pale and subjected to a fit of frenzied biting, complete with wildly kicking legs and the kind of guttural screams befitting of the serial killer who lurks inside.
Most Absurd Dialogue
Having been locked in a cupboard by Andy’s militant teacher, a formerly sadistic Chucky turns to promise and persuasion in an attempt to convince the troubled tyke to let him out.
Inevitably, it doesn’t last long.
Chucky: ‘Please, let me outta here, Andy. It’s dark in here. I promise I won’t kill anyone else, okay? Now open the goddamn door! Let me out, you little dick! Let me the fuck out!!!’