Meredith Baxter in Bump in the Night (1991)

The Wake Up Call

Once upon a time Martha "Red" Tierney (Meredith Baxter) was a hot shot reporter, but a failed marriage and a drink problem has left her not only in a mess but also a single parent. Although not much of one when she is passed out on the couch whilst her eight year old son Jonathan (Corey Carrier) gets himself dressed and heads off to school all by himself. Except Jonathan isn't going straight to school as he has secretly arranged to meet his father in a diner which he goes to on his own. The trouble is that he doesn't meet his father as he is picked up Lawrence Muller (Christopher Reeve) who convinces Jonathan that he is a friend of his father's but is really a creepy chid abductor. Now Martha is going to have to battle her drink problem as well as her issues with her ex Patrick (Wings Hauser) to use her investigative skills to track their son down.

To start on a tangent; everyone remembers Richard Thomas as John-Boy Walton and he was great as the loyal son but the character has dominated his career and some of his best performances came in surprising roles when he played bad guys. It is the same with Christopher Reeve as he was a hugely talented actor capable of playing a variety of roles but because he was so good as Superman that role ended up dominating his career. As such when you watch "Bump in the Night" his performance as a child stealing paedophile is seriously unsettling. In fact it is the out of character casting of Reeve as the creepy Lawrence which makes "Bump in the Night" as he gives the character a level of tension which makes you afraid he is going to snap at any time whilst when he turns nice guy it makes your skin crawl.

Unfortunately whilst Christopher Reeve is brilliant in a difficult role the rest of the movie is a bit ordinary in comparison. The whole storyline of Martha being a drunk, the sort who carries a bottle in her handbag so she can sneak into a toilet to quell her shakes, but who confronts her problems to play investigator is forced. The way she pieces things together so quickly whilst her drunken artist friend draws a picture of Lawrence with next to no pencil movements is all wrong. It is the same with the subplot surrounding Martha and ex Patrick not getting on as it ends up a cliche time filler, nothing more. Don't get me wrong as there are some good ideas when it comes to why Jonathan was taken and who else becomes involved but for the most it seems forced.

What this all boils down to is that "Bump in the Night" has its positives especially a performance from Christopher Reeve which is better than the movie deserves. And I say that because this is a movie which goes for the dramatic but forces it far too often.