Genre: Science Fiction / Mystery
IMDB Rating: 7.2 / 10
You know those movies you watched back in the day with that guy in that place who did that thing? No, you can’t remember where it’s set or when it was released or what it’s about but there might have been a young girl in it and it was definitely good? Yeah, that pretty much sums up Child’s Play for me.
I watched this back in my early teens during the SyFy Channel’s glory days, and is the perfect example of a movie that is fondly remembered but really shouldn’t be watched again in the cold, harsh light of early adulthood. While not technically a movie in its own right (it’s actually an episode from a short-lived series called Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense), I didn’t know that when I set out to find it and it took a lot of digging to get my hands on a copy, so I feel fully entitled to review it as a film since none of the episodes fed into one another.
There’s something odd going on in the Preston household. Ann and Mike wake up early one morning to discover that their house has been completely surrounded by a solid metal wall, covering all the doors and windows and even extending over the roof. Ann, being your typical woman, lets her ovaries and feminine hormones get the better of her and spends the next 70 minutes of the film swinging between panic and desperation. Mike, being of British extraction, does the exact opposite, and proceeds to act like a very level-headed man and tries to find a way to get his wife and daughter, Sarah, out of their house. The problem is that the wall surrounding the house is solid. Axes don’t dent it, using a car as a battering ram doesn’t budge it, and even a makeshift bomb doesn’t rattle it slightly.
The wall isn’t the only problem the three have. The wall itself is warm, and with no ventilation the house is gradually getting warmer and warmer (starting out at 40° Celsius at the start of the movie and gradually rising). Then there are the stranger occurrences taking place in the house: the clocks, while still working, do not move, with the time constantly stuck at 4:10am; Mike and Ann, as time goes on, keep realising that they cannot remember anything about their lives beyond this night; Sarah is acting very strange, being utterly disdainful towards her mother and seemingly oblivious to the troubles going on around her; a mysterious symbol, first seen on their TV, begins to appear on all of the items in the family’s home, and the list goes on and on. And then there’s the matter of the boiling hot green goo seeping into the house through the chimney…
With time running out Mike and Ann will need to resort to desperate measures in order to escape or face the very real possibility of dying in their sauna of a home.
This is a mixed bag, and Child’s Play has not aged well in certain respects.
For the majority of the movie everything is absolutely fine, as it relies more on suspense and mystery than science fiction and special effects to drive the story forward. All you need for that to work is a house with very 80s decor, and in that respect the film absolutely nails it.
Without spoiling anything the problem here is that the entire story hinges on the twist at the very end, and this is where things fall apart a little. In the 80s the effects used for this would have been completely competent, and in my teens I remember it being a little cheesy but still perfectly OK. In 2016, though, the effects are laughable at best and absolutely cringe-worthy at worst. Unfortunately this detracts from the film’s overall presentation, and for me it was just a little too cheesy to completely overlook. This is the sort of movie that would benefit from a modern remake where special effects have been able to catch up with the original vision.
Child’s Play, on the whole, is a very mixed bag and more than a little uneven in its execution.
The story itself is very good and the ending is very clever, but the journey to get there is a tad bit overwrought. The actors playing Ann and Mike, while very competent in their own right, didn’t play well off one another, with Ann’s constant panic being rather jarring against Mike’s eternal calm optimism. Given the situation we needed to find a middle ground that we never quite got round to discovering. Sarah’s character also got to be a bit much, and her constant screaming and childish defiance eventually wore on my nerves. If we’d taken that down a notch or two the whole thing would’ve been a lot easier to watch.
When all is said and done there’s nothing wrong with Child’s Play, and if you’re watching it for the first time I’m fairly sure you’ll find it quite enjoyable. For me I think I remembered it a little too fondly and it just wasn’t quite able to live up to my rose-tinted memories of it.
My Final Rating: 6 / 10
Buy Child’s Play at Amazon.com