Child’s Play 2. 1990. Directed by John Lafia. Screenplay by Don Mancini.
Starring Alex Vincent, Jenny Agutter, Gerrit Graham, Christine Elise, Brad Dourif, Grace Zabriskie, Peter Haskell, Beth Grant, & Greg Germann.
Rated R. 90 minutes (extended).
Father Gore’s a huge fan of the original Child’s Play and other entries in the franchise, particularly the third movie and the recent Cult of Chucky. The series merges slasher horror with Don Mancini’s expert take on the advertising industry and unfettered American capitalism centred on the industry of kids toys. The whole thing’s so on the nose you’d think the premise would be beyond cheesy. And even if it is at times, it works so well because of the talent involved.
Child’s Play 2 has its fair share of commentary, again, on the toy industry manipulating parents into allowing their children to be moulded into tiny young consumers. Unfortunately it’s mostly a rehash of the first movie. There isn’t much in the way of new things to say, neither are there many new ideas here. Although one of the best aspects of this sequel is its focus remaining on Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent), now taken from his mother, who’s in a psychiatric hospital, and forced into foster care. This is yet another subtle comment about capitalism’s effects on the individual when it comes to children. Mancini has big things to say, though they don’t always come across as well as in other portions of the franchise.
At the start, Child’s Play has a great sequence where the old Chucky’s reconstructed, stripped down and given a whole new set of clothes, a new pair of eyes, and a fresh coat of skin. The corporate entity behind the Good Guy dolls, PlayPals, doesn’t want any negative blow back from the Barclay family. This is perfect because of the concept of creative destruction in regards to capitalism, which Marx, Engels, and other theorists saw as necessary to the capitalist process: destroy, rebuild, create new capital, repeat process however often as is necessary to the economic meat grinder.
PlayPals hopes to avoid negative press, plus they’re able to go on making money with a new improved doll in place of Chucky. Of course it doesn’t work. To make matters worse, in resurrecting the Good Guy they likewise resurrect the spirit of ole Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif), who returns intent on getting into a human body. Just like new products trotted out by companies, the new Chucky’s better at killing— or, more inventive.
There’s also the fact Chucky’s cute in appearance, he’s meant to disarm. This is exactly how children’s marketing operates, as the outer shell of kids products, the sweet exterior masks capitalism’s insidious intent to transform children into consumers, attracting them and hooking their parents as consumers, as well. One of the best parts in this sequel is the Pinocchio reference, drawing on the story’s wooden boy becoming real as a tongue-in-cheek joke. Furthermore, it’s a darkly humorous comment on the life capitalism/consumerism gives to objects. We allow these items into our homes and lives, despite their effects, often ignoring processes which allowed them to get there (i.e. child labour, unfair wages, unsafe work conditions, etc). We allow objects to have a life of their own— think of 2018 and how a large majority of us treat our phones and computers as preciously as children. While Mancini gives homage to another doll who came to life, he’s also slyly satirising our deep, personifying love for material objects.
Andy experiences the fallout of a family due to capitalist forces. He’s taken from his mother and put in a foster home, all because people don’t believe in a killer doll. Not unlike how families are ruined financially and emotionally because of a capitalist economy – kids winding up in foster homes, parents on welfare, addictions, among many other results – and wind up displaced from one another. Even at school Andy has trouble when Chucky – a.k.a deadly capitalist force – manipulates things to make it look like he’s a troubled kid from a broken family. There’s nothing capitalism doesn’t touch.
People put themselves at risk to have the latest, best products only for it to irreparably alter their lives negatively— the situation we see figuratively play out during Child’s Play 2, as Andy attempts to warn his foster family about the dangers of the Good Guy doll and he’s ignored by all the adults. In a sense, Andy’s undone the brainwashing of materialism after he and his mother faced off against Chucky the first time, whereas the adults in this sequel remain indoctrinated.
In its basics, Charles Lee Ray’s entire plan stands in for the same aims as capitalism: to fully control the individual. He needs Andy in order to not stay trapped for eternity in the form of a plastic doll. This parallels capitalism in how it needs young people and children, to figuratively embody their desires and create new needs in turn making more money off them. During the finale, Andy’s able to beat Chucky – in a showdown at the PayPals warehouse, surrounded by thousands of Good Guy dolls – with a little help from fellow foster Kyle (Christine Elise), as the little killer’s ironically put back on the assembly line to be crushed into a heap of bloody plastic remains along with a couple more additional deaths before the capitalist spirit’s been effectively killed. That is, until the next sequel.
“Ade due Damballa. Give me the power, I beg of you!”
For all its rehashing of the first movie, Child’s Play 2 still offers commentary along with its excellent slasher kills and wisecracking Chucky action. Even as a vehicle for Dourif to have fun and the viewer to watch a doll murder, it’s decent horror fare. Father Gore’s an absolute horror fiend. Double the fun when a good genre flick can double as a means of tackling social issues or politics, and the horror genre in specific has the ability to tell those sorts of stories in unique fashion.
Not my favourite of the series. Doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable, even more than normal when October rolls around. Something about the Child’s Play series calls me back to being young, seeing their VHS covers on the shelf at the video rental place in my town. There’s a nostalgia about these movies. As I get older, there’s further significance to their stories, too. Nothing will change the fact it’s plain and simple horror joy to watch Chucky wreak havoc on everybody around him. That will never get old.