Child’s Play 2, despite somehow being seen by some as better than its predecessor (the only—and I repeat, the only—thing about it that even remotely sparked my interest), is exactly what I feared it would be: a pretty lackluster sequel to a surprisingly clever and unique horror flick. For hardcore Chucky fans and slasher buffs, it’s admittedly far from the worst way they could kill 84 minutes (and this very short runtime moves things along briskly, so it also worked well as a fairly enjoyable lazy-Sunday watch with my dad), but nobody else really need apply.
Now, if you knew about Siskel and Ebert’s absurd moralistic hatred for the film going in (I didn’t), it’s hard not to assume that it’s a brutal, disturbing splatterfest that only the most dedicated of gorehounds could bear to stomach. With all due respect to those talented movie geniuses, it’s not even close to that. In fact, excepting a few satisfyingly gruesome moments, it’s not even that much worse than its predecessor (which Ebert actually liked, and Siskel, despite not enjoying it as much, wasn’t nearly as harsh on) on the gore front, making it just as accessible for mainstream horror fans. Whether it’s truly worth them watching is another matter, though.
Child’s Play 2 opens with Chucky’s charred body being cleaned up, polished, and perfectly reassembled by the Play Pals corporation, who’s apparently doing this to reassure stockholders after the events of the first film. (I don’t know why just reconstructing that one doll would achieve that effect, but all right.) Then a power surge happens, and it doesn’t just electrocute the person working on the formerly possessed children’s toy, but even jolts Chucky back to life—psychotic tendencies and all.
Meanwhile, little Andy Buckley, now in foster care after his mother was booted to a mental institution for believing him about Chucky, gets shipped to a new family, who’s also caring for a “rebellious teen girl” stereotype named Kyle. (She becomes more central to the plot later, albeit just so she can transform into another horror trope: the tough, resilient “final girl”.) Chucky, still fixated on putting his soul in Andy’s body, somehow finds his way there, and bludgeons the place’s other Good Guy doll for the sake of better disguising himself*. Andy knows what happened, but of course, nobody believes him.
Chucky follows him to school and, in trying to get to him, rather comically kills one of the teachers there. Still nobody believes him (and that particular death oddly never brings the police to Andy’s door, as such an event instantly did in the first movie). Predictably, things get worse and worse, and most everybody that doesn’t believe him winds up dead. Who would’ve thought.
The only real sparks of imagination here appear at the very end, when Kyle, Chucky, and Andy all wind up in the same Play Pals factory where the Good Guys are made, resulting in some surprisingly ingenious and entertaining bursts of bloody mayhem. If the ridiculously grisly damage repeatedly inflicted on Chucky throughout this sequence isn’t enough to sell you on that, then a memorable death-by-doll-eyes-machine should do just the trick.
Still, looking back at the first Child’s Play, I can’t help but reminisce about how much better it was. There was far more tension and unpredictability surrounding Chucky’s true nature and motivations (particularly what he wanted to do with Andy: initially, he actually had him unwittingly help get revenge on the doll’s foes, and only tried to steal the boy’s soul towards the very end), and the result was a genuinely fresh and creepy experience. Here, on the other hand, you already know what Chucky is, what his intentions are with Andy, and what he’ll do with anybody who gets in his way, so most suspense is of the more conventional “spooky-basement” or “he’s-not-there-oh-wait-he-actually-is-there” variety. Needless to say, it’s not nearly as effective.
Would I still give Child’s Play 2 a mild recommendation to fans of the first film? Sure—it’s not nearly as bad as it could’ve been, and ultimately does provide enough solid thrills to be worth a watch. Coming off its predecessor, though, it’s still a pretty big letdown.
*Speaking of Chucky’s disguise, there’s one really, really dumb plot hole revolving around that. When making sure that “Tommy”—the false name Chucky takes on to better fool the child—isn’t actually Chucky, Andy opens his battery case and, upon seeing that it’s full, breathes a sigh of relief. But Andy never knew that Chucky originally ran without batteries: his mom did. Additionally, she never even told him that afterwards, so there’s literally no reason why Andy would know such information.