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Suffer, Little Children (DVD)

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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

BUY IT NOW!

  • Suffer, Little Children
  • Special Features
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User Rating 3.2 (15 votes)

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 160 – A QUIET PLACE

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Lately, it seems as though comedy actors are cutting their teeth as horror directors and absolutely killing it! This year’s indie horror darling comes in the form of John Krasinki’s A Quiet Place. Chris has been sick as a dog, so the haomie Christine from Horrible Imaginings Film Fest is filling in to discuss whether A Quiet Place is 2018’s horror heavyweight, or just a lot of noise.

What Bruno took was what changed me; it only amplifies your essence. It simply makes you more of what you already are. It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 160!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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THE DEVIL AND FATHER AMORTH Review: Friedkin Goes Mondo Catholic

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Starring Father Gabriele Amorth

Directed by William Friedkin


Hitting theaters this weekend in NYC and LA is William Friedkin’s new documentary, The Devil and Father Amorth. And right away I am asked: “Is it ‘good’?” You don’t watch a documentary like this with that in mind. Faces of Death, Traces of Death, Mondo Cane. They are not here to be “good”—they are beyond words like that. Beyond good and bad.

It is more like the sideshow—Behold! See what has not been seen before! The Horror! The Forbidden! And you hand the man your ticket — you see The Arabian Giantess at the flea market in New Jersey, and maybe it is a sleight of hand and made of papier-mâché, but it was worth that dollar, and now you have a story. You have bought your way into the unknown.

The Devil and Father Amorth is light on science (and length – it runs just 68 minutes) and heavy on faith. If you have been exposed to Friedkin’s — or more specifically, William Peter Blatty’s — work, there is the struggle with belief in the Roman Catholic faith, and also in the search for evidence of the miracle. You could also prove the Force of Divine Good if you could face the opposite side of the coin—the Force of Evil, in the vernacular of Catholicism—the Devil himself. Paradoxical, yes—faith exists without proof; and so what is the drive to tell the world God exists, the Devil exists?

In the documentary we learn Rome is filled with the possessed. Hundreds of people are contacting the Church about their own possession or the possession of their loved ones. The Most Holy Father Amorth is the person the Vatican has tapped to perform exorcisms—thousands of them. And sometimes he has repeat business. Christina is one such woman, exorcised nine times and still susceptible to the Force of Evil. Those of us who are non-believers look at this woman as someone who is troubled—but “through the eyes of faith,” obviously it is a demon.

Surrounded by her family, the rite begins, and you see… an actual exorcism. There is no enhancement, no Dick Smith make-up; it is not as dramatic as we want it to be. Should we get her help that is not in the form of a witch doctor? What about doctors? And so we meet them.

Friedkin brings the footage to top hospitals in NYC. Psychologists give their point of view. Then neurosurgeons. They don’t know what’s going on—the exorcism seems to help, but they do see that it might be a cultural remnant. There is a medical diagnosis for it, as it can affect anyone of any faith. But the doc never digs too deep. I am disappointed: I needed to know more. I don’t believe it.

Are they hurting Christina? Is she just another female the Church is suppressing, as they did with witches—the control, the stigma, of the female body and identity? None of this is explored because it’s just a 1-dollar ticket under the striped tent, just left of the dancing girls and the strong man—Actual! Exorcist! Footage! Hurry up and see!

As Friedkin mentioned himself, when someone asks you to film an exorcism, you say yes. So see it for the freak show. Expect nothing else. And either you believe or you don’t, based on how you were raised — mythology, religion, or superstition.

  • The Devil and Father Amorth
2.0

Summary

See it for the freak show. Expect nothing else.

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Tribeca 2018: The Dark Review – Atmospheric Zombie Horror Done Different

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Starring Nadia Alexander, Toby Nichols

Written by Justin P. Lange

Directed by Justin P. Lange


The zombie subgenre often goes through waves where it focuses on one aspect that changes the status quo before overdoing it completely. Romero’s slow shuffling zombies were the norm until we got fast moving zombies with Return of the Living Dead and 28 Days Later. There was even a period where we had smarter zombies, like in Fido and Warm Bodies. Now it seems like we’re about to enter an era where the undead are meant to elicit emotion, making us feel for those who have no feelings themselves. Such is the case with Justin P. Lange’s The Dark.

The film follows Mina (Alexander), a young woman who was murdered and stalks the forest that saw her demise. Anytime some unfortunate soul enters her area, they are quickly dispatched and become her feast. But when she stumbles across a young boy named Alex (Nichols) in the back of a car who shows signs of clear and horrifying abuse, she can’t bring herself to do away with him. Rather, she becomes his protector while trying to protect her own little world. As police and locals search for Alex to help bring him home, their own growing relationship seems to be changing Mina in ways she never thought possible.

Stylishly shot by cinematographer Klemens Hufnagl (The Eremites, Macondo), The Dark lives and breathes along with the forest in which it spends the majority of its time. The film feels very natural, as though no artificial lighting was used and we are brought into the world in which these characters live. Steel blue washes over the screen as dusk turns into night while light and dark contrast during the day. The only visuals that didn’t play well were Mina’s undead look and Alex’s scarred eyes, which were both distracting but possible to be overlooked.

Both Alexander and Nichols performed well enough, although the film spent too much time on the first two acts of their story, their combative phase and then the period where they build trust, leaving them scrambling at the end to show that they not only trust but are reliant upon each other. Alex finds trust in Mina after his horrific ordeal while Mina’s choice to protect and guide him sees her humanity slowly coming back.

Where the film goes awry is that it doesn’t know how to convey its message. We learn that Mina’s death was the result of a sexual assault by her mother’s boyfriend, who can barely look Mina in the eyes, turns violent. Alex’s captor is also a man of violence but that’s mixed with weakness and timidity. This is a theme throughout the movie, where the adults are wicked and/or self-serving and it’s only these teenagers, who certainly have endured a fair share of suffering, can be seen as worthy of empathy and understanding.

Also present and enough to stay in the back of my mind while watching The Dark were the strange and inconsistent ways it handled time. We learn that Mina’s death was several years, possibly more than a decade, prior to where we see her now. But when presented with an iPhone, she first doesn’t know that it has a history of previously made calls and then, without anyone explaining it, she knows exactly how to use it. Meanwhile, Alex’s scars on his eyes, which the movie hints were done by his kidnapper, suggest that he’s been held captive for months if not longer but the the opening of the movie suggests that it’s been a few weeks, at most. While not overly distracting, these are certainly issues that pop out.

These faults aside, The Dark is still effective and emotionally charged. With enough kills to satisfy the bloodthirsty, it will certainly have an audience who love films about the undead but are craving something with a different taste.

  • The Dark
3.0

Summary

Poignant and original, The Dark is not without its flaws. But it sure does know that horror doesn’t have to be solely of the flesh. It can just as easily be horror of the heart.

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