Is it good for a franchise to peak with its second installment? Probably not if it goes on to spawn four more sequels.
Such is the case with Child’s Play 2, as it is easily the best film in the entire series. That’s not to say the follow-up movies don’t have their enjoyable qualities, but none of them can equal what Child’s Play 2 accomplishes. Original kills, fantastic mechanical effects, a sly sense of humor and a score that’s far more epic than a Child’s Play sequel could ever possibly deserve; this is Chucky at his absolute finest.
Child’s Play 2 (Universal Studios)
Following Chucky’s (Brad Dourif) rampage, Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) has been sent to a foster home while his mother undergoes psychiatric examination. As Andy adjusts to his new life, the Playpals Corporation has managed to recover Chucky’s corpse. Determined to find out why their product went “haywire”, they rebuild the doll from the ground up. Brilliant. Born anew, Chucky tracks down Andy and proceeds to make his life a living Hell, all the while waiting for an opportunity to possess his body and become human once more. Andy’s only hope is his foster sister, Kyle (Christine Elise), but she isn’t in a hurry to believe him.
So, what is it that sets Child’s Play 2 apart from all the other films in the series to the point of making it stand out as the best? Well, there’s a lot of reasons why it’s so good, but for me, what immediately springs to mind is the score by Graeme Revell. All the great slashers have their own unique and iconic theme music, and Chucky should be no exception. Revell crafts a creepy melody which perfectly suits the Child’s Play universe, sounding like a twisted jack-in-the-box carol. It’s as memorable as any other horror theme, right up there with Freddy’s and Jason’s. The rest of Revell’s score is magnificent, booming and a far more epic and moody experience than you’d expect from something like a killer doll movie. One of the greatest crimes of the franchise, if you ask me, is that Revell’s theme was dropped after this movie and never reused for any of the sequels. An absolute tragedy, as it was such a fitting and perfect beat for Chucky.
Child’s Play 2 improves upon the original in just about every department. Image Engineering’s mechanical effects for Chucky are simply amazing, making this the most visually impressive installment in the series. Chucky’s movements are incredibly lifelike and nuanced, leading to some really amazing moments. The scene where he strides out of the closet toward Miss Kettlewell, slapping a yard stick in his hand and making menacing comments, had me absolutely convinced as a kid that Chucky was alive. Needless to say, many beds were wet.
John Lafia’s direction is a nice mix of creepy, atmospheric moments and balls-to-the-wall action. A good example of the former is the scene where Chucky first arrives at Andy’s foster home on a dark and stormy night. As Andy’s foster mom hums a soothing tune, the camera slowly pans down the dimly lit hall, eventually arriving at the staircase where Chucky stands, lit only by the flashes of lightning. As for the latter, well, the entire climax at the Good Guys factory is just one heart-pounding moment after another, as Chucky chases the protagonists through the maze of boxes to the dangerous assembly line, all the while losing body parts and replacing them with stuff.
Don Mancini, the series creator and script writer for every single installment, pens a sequel that ups the ante. Since the cat’s already out of the bag that Chucky’s alive, Mancini wastes no time in having him spring into action. While the first installment was a pretty serious affair, the humor only coming from the ridiculously stupid murders, with Child’s Play 2, Mancini sneaks in some genuinely funny gags that play toward the goofiness of the plot. Each installment in the series would lay the comedy on thicker and thicker, eventually spiraling out of control until Curse of Chucky dialed things back, but Mancini remains nicely restrained with this one. The bit where Chucky, posing as a normal Good Guy doll, can’t remember his fake name always gets a laugh out of me.
So far as cast goes, while the previous movie had the spotlight split between Andy, his mother and the cops, everything pretty much rides on Andy this time around. Alex Vincent does a great job, and I feel weird saying that, as I usually can’t stand child actors. Andy’s foster dad, Phil, is played by Gerrit Graham, whom you might remember as Dr. Crews from Friday the 13th Part VII. He has a knack for playing assholes who get their comeuppance. Christine Elise’s Kyle is a good, strong-willed protagonist. While she harbors a punk-like attitude, it never overshadows her character enough to make her annoying.
I also feel compelled to mention that there’s an alternate cut of this movie, complete with an alternate ending. I grew up on the TV cut shown on the Sci-Fi Channel and the USA Network, and because they cut out objectionable material, they made up for the lost time by inserting extra scenes here and there. In the case of Child’s Play 2, a new ending was added featuring Chucky being reborn on the assembly line. This, of course, clashes with the continuity of Child’s Play 3, but whatever. They don’t play this cut on TV much anymore, either, but you can find the scenes on YouTube without any trouble.
Child’s Play 2 is Chucky’s finest hour (and twenty-four minutes), showcasing the absolute best the series could achieve. As a matter of fact, I’d recommend it over even the original Child’s Play. It’s just that good.