When used in horror as either victims or killers, children – second only to puppies and kitties in innocence – are a great way to evoke some very uncomfortable fear. Countless films, such as Village of the Damned and Who Can Kill a Child, have done a fantastic job of freaking us all out by turning wide-eyed babes into dangerous little devils.
While horror’s killer kiddies are a pretty even gender mix, females of the species tend to make up the majority of pint-sized victims: Don’t be Afraid of the Dark, The Last Exorcism, Silent Hill, Dark Water, and the list goes on. It seems likely that this is based on an ingrained sentiment in western society that a daughter is the purest of the pure and in the most need of protection, therefore putting them in constant danger is a surefire way to elicit a response from the viewer.
The two films in this entry are twists on the daughter-victim trope that both play into it, and subvert it as well. The first casts its kid as both victim and antagonist simultaneously, and the second has its daughter be the impetus of the action but keeps her mostly absent from the film. Although their budgets are a little higher than regular BoaB fare, these titles are still fiercely independent productions that deserve a watch.
BLOOD: Prepubescent splatter-a-plenty
BUDGET: $150, 000
A small Arizona town loses its power, its outside communication, and its children all at the same time, and everyone understandably loses their cool. After a hefty amount of mass panic led by the local pastor, the children return seemingly unharmed except for our young mother Anna’s daughter, Joey Girl (Olivia Cavender), who is missing a tongue. Once brought home, Joey starts to bug-out; she screams, levitates, attacks her father and the pastor, and scratches the word “Adramelech” into the wall. The other children follow suit, quickly turning from innocent babes to bloodthirsty beasts and attacking the inhabitants en mass. While this whole ordeal is going on, Anna experiences strange visions that inform her that the children are possessed by a demon, and urge her to save them. With no contact with the outside world, the small town is forced to use any means necessary to defend themselves against the whippersnappers-gone-wild.
The film starts off a little slow and strange, with a chunk of time devoted to Anna (Gabrielle Stone, daughter of Dee Wallace) and her boyfriend Creighton (Carl Jensen IV) bemoaning the disappearance of Joey Girl, breaking up the monotony with the odd vision (e.g., the ground pulsating and bleeding; a freaky, donkey-faced figure) without the benefit of great acting or dialogue. However, when the kooky kids come back to reek havoc, there’s tons of terror, primarily concerning savage swarms of screaming school-agers.
A trippy mix of films like Night of the Living Dead, The Children and The Exorcist, Speak No Evil overcomes its weaknesses with some great carnage for the killer-kid in all of us.
BLOOD: Graphic, realistic, practical, and a lot of it
BUDGET: $500, 000
Treading on familiar ground, this punishing title offers a twist to your normal torture horror and a lot of painful practical effects.
After the daughter of Derek (Michael Thomson), an extremely caring and loving father, goes missing and turns up dead, his life understandably falls apart. Deep in depression, with the police investigation at a stand still, Derek by chance discovers his daughter’s murderer to be, not only a serial child-murderer and rapist, but someone close to him. Instead of turning him in to the seemingly inept coppers, Derek takes it upon himself to right this wrong in a very medieval, DIY method.
Unlike other torture-heavy horrors such as the Hostel and Saw series, half the film plays out as a rather engaging drama, and when its gears finally shift into horror, the victim is someone much more deserving of this fate than the hapless fodder of the aforementioned films. All the torture (e.g., burning, dismemberment, and barbed wire used in the worst way possible) is ever more horrifying, hard to watch, and morbidly amusing – especially since Derek takes so much glee in it – as you aren’t rooting for the victim to escape and prevail but arguing with yourself as to whether this retribution is just. Another element that gives the film more depth than typical “torture porn” is the time spent on Derek’s premeditation. You see him researching on the internet and casually questioning knowledgeable acquaintances about human pain threshold, wound cauterizing, torture devices, etc., instead of having him unrealistically stacked with the knowledge like other films’ torturers.
Chris Sun, whose first film Come and Get Me was tackled by the Gore-met in Rue Morgue #132, is one of the few writer/director/effects artists that can make compelling horror films that center on gore but don’t depend solely upon it. Do yourselves a favour, gorehounds: give Daddy’s Little Girl a watch.
Speak No Evil is still touring the festivals and cons, but can be streamed over at MINDPLATE.tv. Daddy’s Little Girl is also yet to hit video in US and Canada, but is set for a January 7th release in Australia. You can visit its production company Slaughter Fx on Facebook or regular internet.
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