Sequels

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]

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

a_nightmare-on-elm-street-2_freddys-revengeA Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is the Saved by the Bell of horror: stupid, corny, crappy and inexplicably popular.

And it’s a shame because the sequel offers some dynamic set pieces and the occasional kernel of what might’ve been a really good movie.

However, it’s marred by crappy performances. By contrast, A Nightmare on Elm Street, in addition to having atmosphere to spare, had dynamite leads, genre movie kingpin John Saxon, future star Johnny Depp (Glen) and the equally capable Heather Langenkamp (Nancy).

What both films have in common other than a cackling Freddy, is an in-class dream sequence and teen leads who guzzle coffee to stave off sleep. The key difference is Nancy’s dream sequence in the first film is actually dreamlike. She falls asleep during a classmate’s Shakespeare read-through and the boiler room and hallway scares are set up perfectly. And the bags under her eyes as she’s drawn to the coffee maker in the family kitchen is totally on-point.

The way these two scenes are handled in Freddy’s Revenge are forgettable, literally, as this reviewer cannot summon the powers of memory to write them up.

A_Nightmare_on_ELM_Street_2In the sequel, Jesse is the teen whose family has moved into the infamous Elm St residence, on the market for five years due to the horrors that happened therein. (Editors’ note: a home stager would’ve helped: “Get rid of these bars on the windows. It hurts the curb appeal!”)

Anyway, Jesse is plagued by homoerotic nightmares including being left alone on a school bus with attractive girls (OK, admittedly, they were all stranded in some kind of Dante hellscape), visiting a leather bar, seeing his bare-assed gym teacher in the shower, and being told by Freddy that “[he’s] got the body, I’ve got the brain.”

The homo eroticism extends to his waking life as well. In the film’s opener, he rolls around on the ground in short-shorts with bully Grady (he of Venetian blind abs). They become unlikely fast friends, and then a bedraggled Jesse presses Grady about whether he can spend the night at his place. Grady says something to the effect of shouldn’t you be down in the cabana banging your girlfriend rather than spending the night here with me?

There are exactly two scenes where Freddy’s Revenge really comes alive: a protruding tongue that mars a roll in the hay between Jesse and girlfriend Lisa (probably a coming out party for his sub-conscience?) and Grady’s gruesome bedroom death.

Otherwise, this is an occasionally inspired stinker that very nearly derailed the series before A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors put it back on track.

**1/2 (out of 5)

[Please listen to our podcast discussion of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2]