Child’s Play 2 is the gold standard for horror sequels. I’ve written before about Psycho 2, the apotheosis of legacy sequels before legacy sequels was even a thing, and while Child’s Play isn’t quite so profound a reinvention, it does successfully expand on what Child’s Play could be, emerging as the most accomplished entry in the long-running series.
The sequel, released 23 years ago this November, picks up two years after Chucky the Killer Doll (Brad Dourif in one of the genre’s greatest voice work examples) was dispatched by Andy (Alex Vincent) and his mother, Karen (Catherine Hicks). Play Pals, manufacturers of the incredulously popular line of Good Guy dolls are endeavoring to pull themselves out of a public relations nightmare. A killer doll will do that to a toy company, you know?
The doll wasn’t the problem, they reason—that crazy kid was. As a result, they intend to reassemble Chucky’s remains. A fluke electrical surge reanimates Chucky and his killer instinct, and he sets out to find Andy again and take over his body for good.
Child’s Play 2 does a lot right from the get. Where Child’s Play (still a very, very good movie, mind you) often played things too straight, Child’s Play 2 is regularly whimsical and tongue-in-cheek. The first movie had Karen straight-faced buy a contraband doll from a rando in an alley. The sequel has Chucky beat Andy’s teacher Miss Kettlewell (Beth Grant) to death with a yardstick. 2 better understands the innate camp than its predecessor.
Vincent is also a more assured performer this go-round. He’s gamely joined by recurring franchise player Christine Elise as foster sister and killer doll foil, Kyle. Wisely, Child’s Play 2 imbues its sequel setting with the kind of logic most horror movies evade. Karen, having backed up Andy’s claims about Chucky, is institutionalized off-screen. It’s grim stuff, but it tracks realistically.
Andy is now in foster care, living with the Simpsons, Joanne (Jenny Agutter) and Phil (Gerrit Graham). They’re the worst, but their house is sensational, adding to the aforementioned fairy tale whimsy that elevates Child’s Play 2 above its horror sequel brethren.
Welcomely, the pathos comes hard and fast. For all the death and killer doll hijinks, director John Lafia and returning writer (and creator) Don Mancini recognize the value Andy brings to the proceedings. Alongside Kyle, Andy would feature in several other entries, whether theatrical or televised. Taking his journey seriously, never bucking under the weight of sequel expectations, keeps Child’s Play 2 grounded with one playful hand still in the air.
It’s unlike anything ever seen before, and truthfully, anything seen since. The Child’s Play series itself has certainly gone in a different direction. Child’s Play 3 would be the last of the early run that feels connected to the original series. That isn’t a bad thing (Chucky, the show, is fantastic), but with the 1998 release of Bride of Chucky, the series became less grounded, more elevated, queer camp. I love where it’s gone, but there was something endearingly simple about where it had been. Just a sad orphan boy, a killer doll, and the bodies that pile up along the way. Sure, Gene Siskel wasn’t’ a fan, reportedly asking, “Who was this trash made for and would you want to sit next to them in a theater,” but you can’t win them all. I would sit next to them, no question.
Child’s Play 2 gets bigger and bolder, expanding Mancini’s world in exciting, vicious ways. It feels like the end of the era (unless you’re a Child’s Play 3 fan, in which case the era ends there). It’s got the greatest finale in the franchise, a thrilling pursuit through a doll factory, and features the strongest character dynamic with the interplay of Kyle and Andy. They go from begrudging roommates to life-saving partners with ease, and to this day, they remain one of my favorite pairings in the entire genre.
Child’s Play 2, more broadly, remains one of my favorite horror sequels of all time. It’s the entry I’ve seen most often, though no matter how many times I watch it, there’s always something new—an architectural detail, some remarkable puppetry—I catch make it feel like the first time. Do yourself a favor this November and honor one of the greatest horror sequels of all time. It’s more than mere child’s play—it’s a masterclass.
Child’s Play 2 is now streaming on Tubi.
Tags: Child’s Play