Child's Play is deeply flawed, but there's something about this horror flick/psychological thriller that will attract many viewers. They'll ultimately leave confused and unsatisfied, but will have found the journey kind of weird but kind of fun. Child's Play would be a much better film if Sidney Lumet had made up his mind about a lot of things -- primarily about whether this is about the supernatural or the psychological. The main thread is explained away as psychological, but too many of the subsidiary supernatural questions raised are not resolved. The film and Lumet want to have it both ways, but they don't set up the groundwork necessary to make ambiguity acceptable in this context. Lumet also goes in for far too many obvious horror-movie clichés -- the soundtrack drives home what is already blatant and obvious, and the lighting seems to come from a fright flick from ten years earlier. Granted, he's working from a screenplay that lacks sufficient subtlety and nuance, but one still expects more from a director of his skill. Even with these flaws, Child's Play has moments that fascinate and enthrall, and the basic setup can't help but draw a viewer in, at least for a while; whether one stays engrossed depends upon the individual. Fortunately, the film has a captivating James Mason turn, as well as a skillful Robert Preston performance, to keep interest alive. At fade-out, viewers may feel a bit cheated by the resolution, but they may also find themselves thinking back over moments and images and shuddering with delight.
by Craig Butler review