Directed by Erlingur Thoroddsen, and based his 2012 short film of the same name, Child Eater is an homage to ‘80s horror. Soon to be released by MVD Entertainment Group for Boulderlight Pictures, it’s one of those movies which gets so perfectly summed up in one sentence, one can’t help but be hooked.
“A simple night of babysitting takes a horrifying turn when Helen realizes the boogeyman really is in little Lucas’ closet” is the tag-line equivalent of an elevator pitch. Given that, and a little girl holding her missing eye before the title card — if that doesn’t grab the viewer and fully pull them in, nothing will. Cut to “25 Years Later,” and the film’s off and running.
Helen (Cait Bliss), daughter of the local sheriff, is babysitting for the Lucas (Colin Critchley), the son of a new arrival in her small town. She’s recently discovered that she’s pregnant with her boyfriend, has only told one of her friends, and definitely isn’t in the mood to be watching a kid, especially in the house formerly owned by Robert Bowery, who years ago would steal the eyes out of young children to keep himself from going blind.
Then comes a phone call to the sheriff’s office with the words, “he’s awake,” and things really kick into gear. Thoroddsen gets the basics of the plot together and the characters introduced, and then slowly begins ratcheting up the tension. Every other scene begins to ache with taut discomfort, and then Lucas disappears. Once he’s out of the house, Helen and newly-arrived boyfriend, Tom (Dave Klasko), venture into the woods to search for him.
“They thought he was dead, but evil never dies. In these woods, it lingers. Dwells.”
It starts with a snow of feathers, and then the couple venture into an abandoned summer camp. As any longtime viewer of films like The Burning, Madman, Friday the 13th, Sleepaway Camp, Cheerleading Camp, or any other number of slashers knows; a summer camp after dark is where characters go to wander with flashlights while being stalked by a mysterious presence. It’s a familiar trope, but an effective one, and used to great effect in Child Eater.
Speaking of effective, scarred characters with a creepy look. Robert Bowery (Jason Martin) looks like Nosferatu crossed with the zombies from Shock Waves, and in the dark, the look is wholly sinister. It’s part of a powerful special effects work led by Fiona Tyson, who creates briefly-glimpsed, but shocking scenes of bloody gore.
However, as far as tropes go, do not expect Child Eater to follow the expected plot line. Thoroddsenthrows twists and turns at the viewer, and subverts expectations as the story goes along, and it’s exhilarating to watch a movie that’s willing to do the unexpected in a genre with so many rules which always seem to be set in stone. Thankfully, that’s not to say that sometimes, a killer is actually lurking around the corner waiting to tear someone’s eyes out, though. Thoroddsen is willing to kill quite a few people to make his point at just how nasty Bowery is.
Thanks to cinematographer John Wakayama Carey, Thoroddsen’s film looks amazing. Carey shoots the film like classic genre pictures, using angles and framing that bring to mind familiar themes. The way he brings these images to life and combines them, however, emphasizes the difference between light and dark. The film begins dappled and sunlit while the shadows hide a real menace. He also uses skewed lensing to create an off-kilter look, allowing scenes to have a sense of menace even without music, dialogue, or an actual setting.
The acting’s a little flat at times, but the performances are genuine, and that is the only quibble with Child Eater. Not the greatest acting can be forgiven for a tremendous story. Bowery might not have the wit or gravitas to become a new Freddy or Jason, but his ocularly-damaging ways are very certain to haunt any viewer’s dreams for many nights to come.
A bad-ass killer, artful cinematography, and powerful practical effects make Child Eater a must watch.
Child Eater comes out March 28 via MVD Entertainment Group on VOD, digital, and DVD. You can also follow them at their FACEBOOK, TWITTER, or INSTAGRAM for more information.