90s movies

Sorority House Massacre II

Five sexpot sorority sisters track down a real estate bargain…a downmarket California mansion that they can put in a low-ball offer for without an inspection? That’s just speculation on our part, as the abode in Sorority House Massacre II: Nighty Nightmare is a real fixer-upper. In real estate parlance, it has “good bones,” but nothing else (nothing else except…BAD MOJO…ominous cackle).

Little does the fivesome know, there’s a heavy breather neighbor peering at them behind his drapes across the way. Luckily, the girls busy themselves tackling beer and tequila and within the first 7 minutes, the Greeks* are given the particulars about the “old Hokstedter place,” by one of their own, a Goth-lite named Janie.

The new sorority digs was “the best they could do for the money,” and we know what that means in horror. But that’s the first of their (many) mistakes, the others being, taking part in elaborate seance (and in the midst of a nasty storm to boot) and letting their greasy neighbor in to regale them about how the bodies were found.**

This is pretty audacious, gonzo film-making. Director Jim Wynorski, a year after making the send-up, Transylvania Twist (featuring a self-parodying Angus Scrimm in Tall Man form) returns to helm what is a straight-ahead slasher with a, uh…twist: flashbacks from a different movie entirely. Yes, as the girls get backstory aplenty, it’s paired with flashbacks from The Slumber Party Massacre! Guess oversights like this can be expected when a film’s entire production took about a week and a half.

Sorority House Massacre 2 follows the girls-in-a-house motif, established in Black Christmas, and carrying on through Halloween and up to any number of seemingly interchangeable “massacre” movies.

There is lots of door jiggling, a basement animal trap, which became a hallmark of horror in the 2000s, and of course, copious screaming.

Not much to be said about this sequel, but it does feature a few Wynorskian touches: to wit, lingering, and what some might call gratuitous, shower and strip sequences.

** (out of 5)

(*Fraternity/sorority colloquialism; **reiterated by a cop: it was a “real butcher job, body parts were scattered all over the house, fingers in the sink, scalps on the mantel, guts cooking on the oven.”)

 

Child’s Play 2

childsplay2With a nasty disposition and a hairstyle that’d be the envy of Keith Urban, Chucky thrust himself into the public consciousness in 1988.

A mere two years later, Child’s Play 2 picks up where its understated, and it should be said, fairly spirited predecessor left off, with the killer ginger doll on the hunt for  young Andy (role reprised by Alex Vincent).

Little orphan Andy has been taken in by doll aficionados, the well-meaning Chicagoan foster family Phil and Joanne Simpson. (Is there any more prosaic a name for a dull suburban dad than Phil? It’s a tradition carried on by the stellar and heartfelt ABC comedy, Modern Family.)

It’s in the Simpson homestead that the spirit of the Lakeshore Killer, Charles Lee Ray, still trapped in a freckled doll, pummels his “Hugs to the end” “dollppelgänger” Tommy with a rare porcelain statue.

Why is Chucky back? In addition to the fact that first Child’s Play film grossed $45 million you mean?

Well, in a toy lab, Chucky’s unscrupulous creators at Play Pals have rebuilt him from the ground up to prove there are no manufacturing defects. And thanks to that ever-popular deus ex machina known as lightning, the spirit of Chuck is back to make another buck, asphyxiating the Play Pal CEO’s personal assistant and going on the lam.

The Simpsons are less than thrilled with the ever-unreliable narrator Andy’s claims about a sentient doll and worry if they can look after the psychologically troubled youngster. Naturally, Andy’s troubles at home extend to the classroom, and it’s there that Chucky sets up Andy by drawing profanity on his homework. And later, Chucky wails on poor homeroom teacher Miss Kettlewell with a wooden ruler.

childs_play2

Andy tries to subdue his nemesis doll in the basement with an electric knife, but Chucky is on to him, hooking poor Phil Simpson in the foot and chucking him to the concrete.

Mostly disjointed, Child’s Play 2 does come alive at times, although not frequently enough to match the first one, Tom Holland’s opus.

Overall though, it lacks the quirk, the punch and the novelty of the first film, relying increasingly on the doll’s ever sassy barbs. Still, there’s enough to chew on to justify its existence (and that’s saying something given the state of horror sequels).

*** (out of 5)

[Be sure to check out our Child’s Play podcast]