90s movies

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]

Shakma

SHAKMAThere are many phylogenetic similarities between humans and baboons. So much so that in 1984, a baby born with a rare congenital defect survived for a time with a transplanted baboon heart.

But it was probably a monkey brain that was responsible for the silly Shakma, an alternately violent and moronic nature-run-amok movie with a premise stupider than even some of the less evolved members of the genre.

Med students are prepping for an elaborate off-hours role playing game in a university research hospital, a healthcare colossus apparently stripped of telephones and lacking in basic security. The game is some kind of knighthood/damsel-in-distress test of wits, employing costumes and walkie-talkies, and most peculiarly, overseen by the school’s dean! The participants even bet on the outcome, because as we all know, medical students are known for having endless downtime and loads of disposable income.

One lab animal, from which the film’s title is derived, is the subject of a corticotropic study, the peptide involved in stress responses. And boy, is this baboon stressed. Left for dead after a trial gone awry, the Old World Monkey twitches back to life and begins to hunt down the eggheads who wronged him.

What follows is occasionally engrossing, frequently dull, and at times ludicrous. A metaphor for life perhaps?

Roddy McDowall, sans reference to Planet of the Apes, is the dean Dr. Sorenson, in a thankless role sitting in an office blathering into a walkie-talkie. Christopher Atkins (the love interest of Brooke Shields in The Blue Lagoon) is Sam, our apparent hero. Ari Meyers (Kate & Allie) is pining after him despite looking like jail-bait. She’s dressed like Desdemona by way of a flamenco-restaurant. There’s a black guy who, after the chatting up of his girl is interrupted, returns to court her with the “now…where was I?” cliche. He also does a truly terrible Scotty impression from Star Trek.

shakma-horror_movie

There’s a few other victims as well, none of whom is consequential or interesting.

Soon, the angry grey beast is hurling itself at the med students and prof, all of whom are reduced to barricading themselves in labs, cabinets, closets, and stairwells. Hiding from one animal in a 10-storey building is a feat apparently beyond the capabilities of these future men and women of science.

Not as violent as it could’ve been, Shakma is extremely bleak and often lackadaisically paced.

As one jokester on social media put it, “You know what this movie needs more of? More slow walking down hallways.”

Shakma is also known as Panic in the Tower, which makes it seem like some 70s inferno disaster movie. It’s certainly a disaster, but not in that sense.

**1/2 (out of 5)

[CHECK OUT OUR SHAKMA / MONKEY SHINES PODCAST!]