Allow me to start by saying: The 1988 original is great. But there’s more than one reason why 1990’s Child’s Play 2 is the ultimate Chucky experience
2020 marks thirty years since Child’s Play 2 was released theatrically, and a good three decades down the line, the debate still rages on: Is it truly a better movie than the 1988 original? It’s a discussion that’s bound to lead to some spirited conversation, if not an outright horror nerd donnybrook. And while both sides certainly have their merits, I find myself siding with the camp that prefers the 1990 sequel.
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Yes, Child’s Play certainly deserves applause as an outstanding straight-laced murder-mystery movie, but part two takes the concept a step further and gives us the definitive Chucky experience. Count me among the many who laud this one as the apex of not only the Child’s Play series, but as the ultimate killer doll movie overall.
Whether you want to process the movie as a whip smart allegory for the deleterious effects of toy advertisements on juvenile minds, a metaphor for that iffy transitional period between childhood and pre-teen adolescence or even a furtive diatribe against the national foster care system, one thing is for sure: Child’s Play 2 is an immensely entertaining movie, and one that holds up a lot better than most horror movies from the timeframe.
And yes, I do consider it objectively better than the beloved ‘88 film, for five very pertinent reasons. Which, wouldn’t you know it, I’ve gone on ahead and outlined below — you know, ‘cause I’m just such a Good Guy and all…
One: The Emphasis is Actually on Chucky
The same way many horror purists believe Freddy Krueger didn’t become The Freddy Krueger until Elm Street 3, I firmly believe that the concept of Chucky didn’t fully come to fruition until part two. Remember, in the first movie, we didn’t even know that Chucky was the killer until almost an hour into it, so for the most part in the 1988 flick, Chucky was relegated to, you know, just laying around the set. But there’s no mystery element in Child’s Play 2, and from the outset we know that Chucky is the one responsible for all the murder and mayhem. This allows Brad Dourif to truly go full ham in the role, bringing a sense of grandiloquent showmanship to the character that the original film was lacking. While Child’s Play may have introduced Chucky to the horror pantheon, Child’s Play 2 is the movie that solidified the villain as one of the all-time icons of the slasher subgenre — if not the single most charismatic horror movie antagonist of all-time.
Two: It Strikes the Perfect Balance of Horror and Humor
Let’s be real here. The idea of an evil, murderous Cabbage Patch Doll is inherently silly, and the more you try to play the concept seriously, the lamer it gets. Thankfully, Don Mancini penned the script for Child’s Play 2 with tongue planted firmly in cheek, eschewing the “straight” thriller dynamics of the first flick for a moderately more self-aware (and decisively more comedic) screenplay. But while there’s certainly a fair bit of quasi-sardonic, self-mocking comedy in the script, that doesn’t mean it skimps out on the scares. Indeed, no other Child’s Play movie does as good a job at balancing the yuks and the genuine suspense as part two. From here on out, the series just continued to slide deeper into self-parody. But in Child’s Play 2, the old Chuckster still manages to convey a sinister presence, and even comes off as legitimately terrifying at all the right moments.
Three: The Kills are Way More Impressive
Outside of the claw-hammer to the back of the noggin kill (which, admittedly, is a fantastic one), most of the kills in the first Child’s Play movie were pretty humdrum — if not downright goofy, as is the case with the infamously lame voodoo doll scene. Needless to say, Child’s Play 2 ups the ante with not only a higher overall quotient of kills, but some Chucky-coordinated homicides that remain some of the finest in the annals of the slasher subgenre. The school marm getting battered to death with a yardstick? The social worker getting flayed alive next to the Xerox machine? The guy from Ally McBeal getting suffocated with a plastic bag? And of course, we have to give props to the flick’s coup de grace, the scene where the unlucky toy factory inspector gets his pupils poked out by a pneumatic press — it certainly gives new meaning to the phrase “the eyes have it,” doesn’t it?
Four: Kyle is One of the Best Horror Heroines Ever
Yes, Catherine Hicks did a fantastic job playing Andy’s mom in the first Child’s Play movie, but at the end of the day, there really wasn’t anything that new about said performance. I mean, movies about mothers protecting their kids from supernatural hokum have been a staple of the horror genre since its inception, and it’s not like she showed that much charisma while being chased around her apartment by a homicidal My Buddy doll. In my humble opinion, Christine Elise gave us a far more original and endearing heroine in her portrayal of Kyle in CP2, the rebellious teenage protectorate who transforms from your stereotypical angst-ridden early ‘90s mallrat into a mini-Sarah Conner with really questionable taste in hats. Strong-willed yet vulnerable and motherly but still independently–minded, Kyle truly is one of the more nuanced, relatable and, really, laudable heroines to come out of the early ‘90s horror cosmos. Indeed, one can’t help but wonder why it took the masterminds behind the franchise twenty-seven years to bring her back into the series fold in the first place.
Five: The Factory Chase Conclusion is Downright Superb
As we all know by now, coming up with great climaxes in slasher movies is pretty damn difficult. Thankfully, Child’s Play 2 succeeds where hundreds (probably thousands) of similar films have faltered. CP2 gave us a grand finale that feels not only atmospheric and intense, but unique and satisfyingly grandiose. Whereas the ending of the first movie primarily took place in the tight, cramped and darkened confines of an apartment, the concluding paint-the-walls-red bonanza of Child’s Play 2 goes delightfully against convention, taking place in a spacious locale that — for a change — is actually very well lit. The idea of putting the grand finale in a warehouse glutted with thousands of Good Guy dolls gives the movie a brilliant air of suspense, and the last-second fake-out over Andy’s “possession” is actually a pretty freaking fantastic plot twist that doesn’t get anywhere enough credit. And really, who could ever complain about Chucky’s goopy, gory and gunky demise — dismembered, impaled by plastic, partially melted and then exploded into a shower of PVC vinyl, Raggedy Andy hair, intestines and denim? Now that, my friends, is how you properly conclude a horror movie!