Sunday, January 8, 2017

Child’s Play 2 (1990)

It’s some months after the end of Child’s Play. Nobody believes the crazy story little Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) and his mother tell about the murders around them having been committed by a doll possessed by a serial killer out to steal Andy’s body, so Mum has been locked up in a psychiatric facility, and Andy is temporarily given into the joyous hands of the foster system. The film never tells us who the police think killed all these people, though they don’t seem to suspect Andy or his mother.

Be that as it may, out to prove that there was nothing at all wrong with their doll Chucky, the company who made him refurbishes the thing, finding nothing (which seems rather curious, what with the thing bleeding in film number one and all), but providing Chucky with the opportunity to live again (and of course to still be voiced by Brad Dourif). Of course, Chucky quickly sneaks and murders his way out.

While that’s going on, Andy is being given to his first foster family. As these things go, Joanne (Jenny Agutter) and Phil Simpson (Gerrit Graham) aren’t bad fosters at all. Well, Joanne’s pretty fantastic at least, while Phil – sceptic of Andy right from the start – will soon show that he’s not the kind of guy you want to have take care of a child with any deeper psychological problems. Andy quickly bonds with Joanne and even more so with the Simpson’s other foster kid, late teen Kyle (Christine Elise) but things take a rather dark turn once Chucky arrives and infiltrates the house as an undercover doll (damn you, mass marketed toys!). Chucky is still attempting to steal Andy’s body, but can’t help killing more people than can be good for his plans.

To enjoy John Lafia’s lesser sequel to that likeable (and sometimes cleverer than people – including myself – give it credit for) semi-classic Child’s Play, one really needs to keep in mind that it doesn’t take place in the real world, not even in the kind of real world where doll-possessing voodoo serial killers are to be found, but in Horror Movie Land.

It’s a place where kids who have gone through a deep trauma are quickly released from an institution to be given in laymen’s hands never to see a psychologist afterwards, where a possessed doll can just phone Foster Central, say it’s a little boy’s uncle, and get all the information about him it needs, where teachers lock unruly little boys up in their classroom (or is that an American thing, like voting insane crypto-fascist billionaires into the highest office?), where factories are built by M.C. Escher and contain absurd health hazards, and where protagonists only ever flee in the most idiotic direction. It is in fact a world where dolls possessed by serial killers are among the more probable things you’ll encounter.

If you’re like me, you can swallow this bizarre nonsense without even having to flinch, and may very well enjoy Child’s Play 2 for its virtues, like the way Don Mancini’s script may contain double the late 80s horror movie stupidity of its predecessor but also features many a clever little flourish to make the main characters a bit more believably human than you’d expect in their surroundings. There’s a sense of respect for the characters (well, most of them) many a horror film of the era lacks to its detriment which helps some of the kills become slightly more than just another murder on the check list. It’s also remarkable how Alex Vincent’s acting has improved in leaps and bounds in comparatively short time.

When that isn’t enough, it is generally a lot of fun to watch Mancini and Lafia (standing before a future of middling TV work) apply all the tricks of the thriller director’s trade to even the most ridiculous of set-ups.

To my own surprise, I even found myself rather pleased with the film’s sense of humour. Late 80s horror movie goofiness abounds, yet Child’s Play 2 never steps over the fine line between silly fun and annoying idiocy (unlike, say, the Nightmare on Elm Street films very quickly did), always realizing when to stop kidding around.

All this doesn’t come together to turn Child’s Play 2 into a masterpiece but it’s an unpretentious and well crafted bit of a good time (with people dying in horrible ways).

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