Monday, April 28, 2008

Beware: Children at Play

Watching a film from Troma is often a bit of an endurance test. These are, after all, films that pride themselves on being total pieces of crap, and this one in particular has the added hurdle of an abundance of child actors to deal with. A fairly universal problem with the evil child subgenre of horror films, is that children tend to be really, really terrible actors, and when a film is so low-budget and poorly made that the adult actors are at the general level of child actors in more normal horror movies, you know you’re in for a pretty bumpy ride.

The film is basically a ripoff of Children of the Corn, as a family ventures into the bible belt of New Jersey (just one more reason to sneer at the Pine Barrens, really) at the request of the local sheriff. Apparently, for the past couple years now, a child has disappeared once every two months, and now adults are starting to vanish as well. It seems that a young boy who watched his father get caught in a bear trap and slowly go mad and starve to death in the woods ten years before has started raising his own cult of cannibalistic children out in the woods that is obsessed with Beowulf. As the sheriff and his friend, an occult investigator, try to figure out what’s going on, the townsfolk start falling under the sway of a fundamentalist that believes they must all do as Abraham did and kill all of the children, for they are clearly now demons.

So if this movie is a complete piece of crap, why did it even merit one star? Well, I’ll tell you. Partly it’s because of how, for a Troma movie, it’s surprisingly straight-faced, rather than their usual mugging-for-the-camera nonsense that generally drives me nuts. Just as a tip for any budding young horror directors out there: generally we would prefer that you actually try to make something good and fail, rather than try to make something lousy and then throw in a bunch of lame self-referential jokes to show how you’re right there with us or whatever. The main reason, however, for the little bit of a rating that it gets, is for the ending. I’m going to go ahead and spoil it here, so if you’re actually planning on seeing this (and why would you?), you should probably stop reading now. Anyway, at the film’s climax our main hero (the friend of the sheriff) finds the camp of the evil children, and beats the hell out of the lead boy so that he can get his daughter back. As he’s taking her away, the whole town shows up with guns and surrounds the camp. After the crazy religious guy babbles for a bit about Abraham, our hero says that if a single child is murdered here, he’ll have them all charged as accessories to murder. The religious nut responds by shooting him right in the damn head and then we get about ten minutes of the townsfolk murdering all the children. Not all from gunshots, either. Quite a few are taken down with axes, knives, pitchforks, whatever happened to be lying around, I guess. It’s a surprisingly awesome way to end a movie that’s about as far from awesome as one gets. If only the rest of the film had shown that amount of grotesqueness, this could have been something really worth watching. As it is, at least you know it’s going to end better than it began, right?

Rating: *

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