|31 Days of Horror: Day 2|
Bless the Child begins with Maggie (Kim Basinger) coming home after a long day of nurse work. Waiting on her front stoop, though, is a bum. Maggie does her best to shoo the bum away, but it turns out that the bum is actually her sister, Jenna (Angela Bettis)! Jenna has always been the black sheep of the family, and it's been years since the two have seen each other. So, Jenna, how're you doing?
Holliston Coleman), a six-year-old autistic child. And if you've seen enough movies, then you know that "autistic" is interchangeable with "unique." In Cody's case, she is able to do all sorts of cool stuff, like spin things with her mind and raise the dead. Oddly enough, adults seem oblivious to these talents, probably because they're common symptoms of autism. Maggie only appears to be impressed with Cody's ability to chase away her boyfriends.
|"I know you look like Kim Basinger and all, but women who care about kids are a major turn-off. Later."|
|"Hey kid, do you want a nice, warm bowl of murder?"|
|"Most of my money comes from pleasuring hobos"|
|Basinger, after the script hit her on the head with Christ parallels|
The acting in Bless the Child should, for the most part, be varnished to keep it from harm while you try to destroy your copy of the movie. Kim Basinger is bland, at best, in the lead role. It almost feels like she doesn't understand English, and she just memorized her lines phonetically; she would say "we're out of milk" with the same emphasis as "a naked man is wearing a horse carcass in my bathroom." Maybe she thought her character was unfamiliar with the concept of human emotions, or maybe Basinger is a bad actress. Rufus Sewell, who typically relishes villain roles, isn't much better. His problem is that his character is supposed to be evil, and Sewell sleepwalks through the scenes where he is killing and drugging folks. He puts most of his effort into the scenes where he tries (and fails) to out-argue a six-year-old. As far as evil goes, that's some pretty minor league stuff, Mr. Movie Villain. Jimmy Smits is actually okay, but I question the likelihood of a single FBI agent having the freedom to follow whatever cases he likes. What is this, The X-Files? Christina Ricci also makes a brief appearance as a former cult member. She gives the best performance in the movie, and she isn't even that impressive. She just spoke like a rational person.
|"Seriously, it's not that hard. What's wrong with the rest of you?"|
Bless the Child was directed by Chuck Russell, who was presumably hired for his horror-directing experience. I don't know what to say about his direction. Well, I don't know what nice things I can say about his direction. Just because the man is a veteran in the genre doesn't mean he has the slightest clue as to how a supernatural horror movie should work. The acting is all over the place, from incredibly bland to inappropriately manic, to hilariously melodramatic. The action is handled poorly and unconvincingly; Russell apparently believes that severing heads doesn't get messy until the head falls off the body.
|Look ma, no arterial spray!|
|He sees the world with his dark eye and the nether realm with the pale one|
There are two conventional ways for a supernatural horror movie to be frightening. Either a supernatural being shows up and starts some shit, or humans acting on behalf of a creature do some extraordinarily reprehensible stuff, like eating human hearts or something like that. Bless the Child opts for "C: None of the Above." Sure, there is some dabbling in both of those key areas, but the otherworldly do little damage and the most reprehensible things in the script happen completely off-camera. There are only three on-screen deaths before the climax of this movie. One is a bum who is set on fire, another is a dude who gets knitting needles in his eyes, and the other is the victim of allergies (assuming she was allergic to blunt force trauma and knives). None of these are mysterious, creepy, or show any direct connection to the supernatural stuff that is happening in the rest of the movie. It doesn't fit the tone that the film is failing to set.
Bless the Child isn't just a bad movie, though. It is thoroughly and unintentionally ridiculous. Let's take the cult as an example. It is most popular with teens and twentysomethings, which makes sense, because most parents support their child's aspirations to someday drink the Kool-Aid. What I love to laugh at with the cult is that the kids --- the ones on the inner circle, anyway --- all dress in black, wear trench coats, and have bad haircuts. Because nothing says "join our cult" like surly teens dressed like Bauhaus fans. The logic of the cult members is hilarious, too. There's a fire in a church at the climax of the movie, and some serious shit goes down. Apparently, though, nobody left the burning building until the police showed up; some even stayed in the fire, apparently so they could jump out and get shot by cops. Nothing tops the arguments between Eric and Cody, though. Eric wants Cody to accept the Devil as her buddy because God doesn't exist (because one existing without the other makes total sense). How does he plan to force this six-year-old to join his side? Not by threatening to kill the only mother Cody has ever known. Not by promising to reunite her with the biological mother that she has never seen. Not even through something primal and ugly, like mutilation. No, Eric tries to convince her through logic. And fails miserably.
|This was in response to her saying "You first." Honest.|
Oh, and you know how a real horror movie would have the bad guys try to kill Maggie? They would probably chain her up, or feed her to a demon or something awesome. Not in this movie. No, these jerks capture her, drug her, place her in a car and stage a car accident. But they don't kill her and then fix the car to drive off a cliff, or anything reasonably simple like that.
|Maggie, explaining the way they should have killed her|
|This is the proper reaction to that scene|
...and I'm only being this generous because the car crash scene almost made me spit out my beer.