Tuesday, March 28, 2017

In short: Child Eater (2016)

A rather pretty US small town with some pleasantly creepy locations. Sheriff’s daughter Helen (Cait Bliss) is babysitting little Lucas Parker (Colin Critchley). Lucas and his father have just moved into the local bad place, a house that supposedly once belonged to the town’s very own serial killer who went around murdering children (and whoever got in his way), eating their eyes to fend off an eye illness. Jeepers Creepers.

Unlike a lot of urban myths of that sort, the story about the local bogeyman is based on facts, for there really was an eye-eating child murderer once living in the Parkers new home. The more supernatural aspects of the tale will turn out to be true, too, for the arrival of a child with really tasty eyes awakens the Child Eater (I’d call him the Eye Eater, but what do I know?). Helen’s got a very special babysitting night before her.

The first half of so of Erlingur Thoroddsen’s Kickstarter financed horror film based on his own short film is rather strong: the production demonstrates a great eye for finding creepy locations, and the director has a moody style of shooting them; outside of action sequences when it becomes rather generic, the score is atmospheric and dense; character introductions and exposition are handled with speed yet aren’t too superficial, also on account of an acting ensemble that does well throughout; the villain very much sounds like a modern urban myth, and his first kill comes with the ruthlessness of 70s horror, presenting the sort of eye mutilation Lucio Fulci would have enjoyed with the appropriate enthusiasm.

The longer the film goes on, the more obvious a handful of problems become. Firstly, there just isn’t enough plot (or even just events) to fill the full 80 minutes of runtime, so there are some moments of the film awkwardly shuffling its feet, like when it first transports Helen to safety in the hospital, and then returns her to the place of action after a handful of pretty pointless scenes, mumbling something about responsibility (which is supposed to be connected to her being pregnant but really isn’t). Secondly, while the horror scenes are generally effective and well-handled, too many of them feel a bit too much like variations of other scenes from other films rather than scenes belonging organically to Child Eater’s story, with certain elements seemingly happening because this is a horror film and not because they are an intrinsic part of the specific horror film at hand.

This doesn’t mean Child Eater isn’t a worthwhile film. As I said, its first half is very good, and while the second one does leave marked room for improvement, there’s a basic level of visual craftsmanship and a general ability to create mood on display you don’t regularly get in indie horror. It’s the type of film that is too flawed to truly get excited about but that does leave this viewer looking forward to what Thoroddsen’s going to do next.

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