Child in the Night (1990) starring JoBeth Williams, Tom Skerritt, Elijah Wood, Darren McGavin directed by Mike Robe Movie Review

Child in the Night (1990)   3/53/53/53/53/5

JoBeth Williams and Tom Skerritt in Child in the Night (1990)

Bass on a Hook

Eight year old Luke (Elijah Wood) was out with his father to get pizza when they stopped by his father's office to pick something up only for there to be trouble and his father murdered. Refusing to leave his father's side Detective Bass (Tom Skerritt) calls for a psychologist to help and Dr. Jackie Hollis (JoBeth Williams) arrives. Having managed to persuade young Luke to let go of his dead father and tell the cops what little he knows Jackie finds herself forced to assist Bass in the case as it appears that Luke knows more than he is saying but using a defence mechanism of Captain Hook and Peter Pan to deal with the stress of what he saw. But as Jackie manages to unlock the secrets which Luke holds she begins to fear she could be the next to be murdered.

Let me break "Child in the Night" down to its two parts starting with the relationships. On one hand we have this interesting relationship which forms between Jackie and Luke as she sets about gaining his trust in order to unlock the secrets of his mind hidden behind his seeming fascination with Peter Pan and Captain Hook. It is not only nicely acted by JoBeth Williams but also by Elijah Wood who seems to have a ridiculous amount of talent for such a young child. Then there is the inevitable relationship which forms between Jackie and Bass and whilst Skerritt plays his part nicely, starting of as antagonizing but showing his character's softer side as he develops it is unfortunately a cliche.

Elijah Wood in Child in the Night (1990)

That brings me to the mystery as we have what happened in the office that night. Now on one hand you are intrigued to work out who the killer is and why young Luke is unable to deal with what he saw in a normal way. But on the other hand you can assume from the word go that Jackie is not only going to end up in a relationship with Bass but also end up in danger when she gets close to the truth of what happened as well as why. In truth whilst I enjoyed the mystery of it all and accept that some times cliche is needed so that a movie isn't too taxing the familiar aspects which fill "Child in the Night" kind of drags it down. Not only that the character of Bass is a lover of old Bogart movies and some times the dialogue seems like it is trying too hard to sound inspired by older movies.

And that is the thing about "Child in the Night" as it is a made for TV movie and as such features all those things which hold it back from being more original. The styling, the dialogue, the characters and the camera work it is all typical of a made for TV movie from back in 1990. In fairness TV movies especially thriller from the 1990s are generally better than those made today but still the sense of familiarity which engulfs this is a draw back.

What this all boils down to is that in part "Child in the Night" is good, it has mystery and is nicely acted. But it is a TV movie and features not only a familiar style but also familiar elements from characters to subplots which hold it back.