Suffer, Little Children (DVD)

Starring Nicola Diana, Colin Chamberlain, Ginny Rose

Directed by Alan Briggs

Distributed by Severin Films/Intervision


When it comes to suffering at the hands of Dark Lord Satan, why should adults have all the fun? Severin once again plumbs the depths of depravity, delivering yet another fun-filled freak-out from Intervision, Suffer, Little Children (1983). This rarely-seen shot-on-video (S.O.V.) school production (!) from the U.K. did a little suffering of its own once it finally scored a release in its native land, losing around two minutes to censors and living in obscurity for the past 30+ years. The version being released on DVD is now fully uncut, allowing modern audiences to revel in the production values afforded by a school budget and a consumer grade camcorder.

One afternoon at the Sullivan Children’s Home, a young mute girl named Elizabeth (Nicola Diana) appears on the front porch with no proper identification. Maurice (Colin Chamberlain) and Jenny (Ginny Rose), the owners, agree to take her in and try to find out where she has come from. Elizabeth is a quiet loner, though her shyness belies something powerful hidden within – telekinesis and a fondness for black magic. While Maurice and Jenny find themselves wrapped up in staging a benefit concert for the home, to be performed by a former-resident-turned-pop-star, Elizabeth takes this free time to indoctrinate two of the girls in the home to do her bidding. After first scaring the girls half to death by causing them to share a dream, wherein zombies emerge from the ground and lumber after them, Elizabeth controls their minds and turns them into full-time slaves. If anyone crosses Elizabeth’s path, it is their wrath to be faced.

This is one ambitious group of kids, that much is crystal clear. First off, please take a moment to trip out (and applaud) the fact that a school of kids chose to make a feature about a diminutive demonic messiah who kills her peers and rallies the orphaned youth to perform a black mass ritual intended to call forth Ol’ Scratch himself. Once you get past the amateur nature of the production and the lack of any cinematic polish whatsoever, this is a nasty little gem full of spite and sorcery. And seriously, the black mass Elizabeth conducts during the climax is heady and psychedelic and just when you think someone is going to come along and break up Fisher Price’s My First Incantation the whole thing culminates with Satan successfully conjured. And who better to fight him back to the underworld than Jesus Christ (no shit), whose power moves use the same sound effect as Jet Jaguar in Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973). You can’t make this shit up.

This is Acting 101, folks, and of the few Intervision S.O.V. titles I have seen thus far the cast here is certainly the roughest. But knowing these are kids who made this feature and have clearly poured whatever they can into making it something unique, none of the lesser qualities should be singled out. If there is some consolation here it’s that everyone is uniformly average across the board, so no one performance comes across as terrible because they’re all just passable enough. And I liked that. It’s endearing in a nostalgic kind of way. I found myself grinning at the in-camera editing and title cards that were created, too. It’s like finding a box of your parent’s old home videos and one of them happens to contain evidence of Satanism and the occult. Homebaked horror brings with it a certain level of comfort; blame the rose-tinted glasses I got in the ‘80s.

Once again, Intervision delivers the S.O.V. goods by giving new life to another ancient relic most haven’t even heard of, let alone forgotten. By dusting off the cobwebs on these unsung horrors the label is breathing new life into pictures that barely had a pulse, in addition to benefitting a base of retro horror nuts that are always eager to dig into anything obscure. The level of insanity seen in the climax of Suffer, Little Children forgives any shortcomings that came before; it’s an unpolished gem that won’t appeal to horror fans that like their movies slick and expertly shot. But if you like to get down and dirty with some sleazy S.O.V. cinema then you, my friend, are in for some treats.

Nearly every Intervision title looks the same because they are all shot on video and released to DVD; limitations are clearly in place. That being said, the 1.33:1 4×3 image looks like a well-worn VHS tape found in a dusty attic after a 30-year slumber. It’s grainy. It’s fuzzy. Colors bleed. Detail took a permanent vacation. Tracking lines abound. Is it pretty? Christ, no. Is it perfectly fitting and exactly how this film should look? Abso-friggin-lutely.

Likewise, don’t expect to be bowled over by the English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track. Accents are thick enough to qualify for Jenny Craig, while the poorly captured quality of the audio renders many characters indecipherable. I advise you turn on the subtitles. At one point a character eats cereal and the sound of the cereal bubbling in the milk is louder than the person speaking. This is emblematic of the entire track. At least the score is rad, with its no-fi keyboard cues and rad synth sounds. Subtitles are available in English.

“School of Shock – An Interview with director Alan Briggs” – The former rock promoter has some colorful stories to tell, especially the one about the film’s potential distributor.

“Seducing the Gullible – An Interview with “Legend of U.K. Nasty” Era Fanzine Critique John Martin” – Get some more info on the film’s botched release by a man who knows the story of the fight between the BBFC and the distributors.

A trailer is also included.

Special Features:

  • School of Shock – An Interview with director Alan Briggs
  • Seducing the Gullible – An Interview with “Legend of U.K. Nasty” Era Fanzine Critique John Martin
  • Trailer

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Anthony Arrigo

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