Supernatural

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]

I Am Zozo

I_Am_ZozoThe 2014 film Ouija spelled out “BOX OFFICE HIT” on the board, as the film took in a whopping 100 + million bucks. Ouija: Origin of Evil nearly did the same.

I Am Zozo (2014) predates Ouija by two years, but of course, doesn’t have the Blumhouse backing.

Shot very capably on Super 8*, the film features a group of collegians off to a cottage for some Halloween fun and frolic. This abode is located on an island, and their Styx-like crossing adds some heavy Gothic ambiance.

I Am Zozo, to its credit, spends ample time investing in its principals.

But maybe it shoulda been called I am Yo-Yo, as in Ma, because the tale begins with a rather bedraggled cellist Tess, who doesn’t look like she’s ready for the Boston Philharmonic. Teary-eyed Tess, bow in hand, recounts to a sympathetic therapist that she “was once normal.”

Then there’s Nick, a budding amateur magician who dresses like one. He channels (among other things) self-styled skeptic James Randi.

Mel is a pretentious Wiccan, that silly fad religion with no cohesive intellectual tradition, but a terrific character to have for a movie of this type. Naturally, she explains the finer points of Samhain to a credulous Tess and breaks out a Ouija board.

i_am_zozoNick enlightens the two girls about the finer points of “idiomotor action,” in which people make movements unconsciously, i.e., that Ouija boards are basically nonsense. This, as they prepare for the night’s repast, a freshly caught fish, gutted in a rather pointless and lengthy montage.

As the kids get increasingly drunk, they naturally conjure up spirits, one of whom, Zozo, tells them exactly what time they’re going to die.

Kelly McLaren is terrific as Tess, and these kids are pretty darn likeable. There’s also some authentic dialogue (“Do you have a gun in the house? You kidding, my dad’s a liberal!”) and solid atmosphere for a smidgen budget.

But we have to admit, we’re not the target audience for this by virtue of its tameness and our aversion to the mystical (we like our supernatural horror Italian – with vivid gore). As liminal horror for the newbie set, I Am Zozo is a perfectly functional and well-made psychological thriller, a film which will hopefully turn them on to more intense experiences.

*** (out of 5)

*I Am Zozo was the winner of a the Best Feature and Audience Choice Awards at the 2012 U.S. Super 8 Film Festival