Horror Movie A Day: BEWARE! CHILDREN AT PLAY (1989) Hold on! Hold on! Don’t get your bowels in an uproar!
Published at: Oct. 2, 2009, 6:15 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the first 2009 Horror Movie A Day.
[For the entirety of October I will be showcasing one horror film each day. Every film is pulled from my DVD shelf, recorded on the home DVR or streamed via Instant Netflix and will be one I haven’t seen. Unlike my A Movie A Day or A Movie A Week columns there won’t necessarily be connectors between each film, but you’ll more than likely see patterns emerge day to day.]
Keeping the killer kids theme alive we move from yesterday’s awesome, underseen NOTHIN BUT THE NIGHT to the not so awesome late ‘80s Troma flick BEWARE! CHILDREN AT PLAY.
I guess I should have known better than to expect this movie to be anything but a cheap, poorly acted, poorly written, poorly shot, poorly scored, poorly everything piece of filmmaking, but this era of Troma releases does give us such gems as THE TOXIC AVENGER, SURF NAZIS MUST DIE, SGT. KABUKIMAN N.Y.P.D. and CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH. Call them cheap (they are), call them silly (they are), call them borderline retarded (uh-huh), but goddamnit if they’re not fun as hell to watch.
BEWARE! CHILDREN AT PLAY does have its fun moments, but I’m afraid that it never really lives up to its potential. I mean, a movie about cannibalistic children that haunt the woods of some tiny hick town because they’re obsessed with the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf can’t help but have some intrinsic entertainment value, but it’s genuinely tough getting through the amateur filmmaking.
You know when you watch independent movies and it always seems like the editor cuts into a scene about a second too early and cuts out a bit too late? That dead space is a clear indicator that the filmmaker doesn’t know what the hell he or she is doing. It makes everything awkward even before the horrible acting is unleashed on you.
The director, Mik Cribben, who also sprinkled baby powder in his hair and beard to star as the old fire and brimstone spewing Farmer Isac Braun, has a lot of experience working in the industry, but only ever directed this one film. It’s not his calling and that’s clear from the jarring opening of a father and son camping out and playing an uncomfortable game of “catch and tickle” in the woods.
Of course daddy steps into a bear trap and goes slowly crazy as his wound gets infected. There’s no help to found and the kid just watches his dad start spewing nonsense including lines from Beowulf about gobbling flesh and gulping blood.
We find out later that he’s a professor that teaches English Literature and “Anglo-Saxon.” Yes, he does teach Anglo-Saxon or “Angel Axen” as the both city-educated, but apparently still small-town dumb sheriff keeps saying.
Our main character is a writer of true life occult or “ghost hunter.” He also writes about psychic phenomena and alien abduction. His wife hates this and is also an expert on English literature. If she wasn’t then she couldn’t tell us all about Grendel and Beowulf later in the movie.
The little kid from the beginning ate his father and now has a thirst for human flesh and if you’re a kid you can easily catch this particular brand of crazy just by close contact. He’s snatching kids from this small town, including our dumb sheriff’s daughter, and making a Lord of the Flies-like cult of murderous cannibal kids with the unfortunate nickname of “The Woodies.” That’s because they live in the woods, not because they all have erections in case you were wondering.
So, the novelists’ little girl is kidnapped and it becomes a race to reach her before she’s brainwashed, too. All of that culminates in the hands down best part of the movie. I’m going to spoil it, so if you had any desire to go into this maybe 2/10 star movie then be warned.
They kill the shit out of the kids. The crazy Christian director/farmer leads the fed up townspeople to the camp of the kids just when the author rescues his daughter and kills “Grendel.” By killing the now late teen kid from the opening the spell is kinda broken.
But the Christian mob wants their blood so we see mothers killing their children. It’s all awkwardly staged like the rest of the movie, but I can see people getting genuinely affected by what they see here. Because it’s low budget Troma they don’t give a fuck and show a gun going into a 9 year old’s mouth and the resulting brainsplattering as the trigger is pulled.
You don’t get a full cult children holocaust scene enough, I say. But I don’t know if it’s particularly worth watching the crappy movie that leads up to it.
Final Thoughts: This might be a fun movie to get a group of friends together and get drunk to. It’s on Instant Netflix. In fact, I watched this on my Xbox. The quality is crap, but there won’t be anybody clamoring for a pristine anamorphic HD transfer of this one.
Now, I’m going to give you a really good killer kids exploitation movie to either pair with BEWARE! CHILDREN AT PLAY or replace it altogether.
DEVIL TIMES FIVE is a really fun, dark killer kids movie from 1974. This has drive-in written all over it. Very cheap, but still that semi-pro kind of cheap that the best exploitation of the ‘70s tends to be. Director Sean MacGregor does some weird shit here, but it all works and feels like a real movie unlike BEWARE! CHILDREN AT PLAY which feels more like a home video.
MacGregor gets the award for best use of slow-motion ever in a cheap ‘70s killer children movie. The dude loves slow-motion so much, uses it so often, that I have to wonder if he sired the Wachowskis.
There’s one scene where the kids beat some poor bastard to death in a cellar that is probably 2 ½ minutes long and in reality took 25 seconds to shoot. Slooooowwww moootttiiiooonnn… And not the high quality slow motion, either. No, this is old school “decided after the fact” slow motion that stutters. Get a look at what I’m talking about in the trailer:
Yes, that trailer gives away all the deaths, including the best of the bunch… the piranhas in the bathtub gag. Be that as it may, I’m betting you want to watch that movie now. The Devil Times Five Leave No One Alive!
I miss that kind of filmmaking, where a prematurely balding, fairly ugly, but rugged man with a mustache can be the lead lusted after by all the women in the movie.
The basic premise of the movie is that a winter resort lodge occupied by three different couples on vacation take in a group of 5 kids. Turns out they were in a car accident as they were being transported from the local insane asylum. Although they appear innocent on the surface they each have a lust for murder.
What’s great about this film is the tone. That’s what you don’t get these days. For all the blood and gratuitous nudity (on the part of the adults, of course) and cursing and all that I think the single biggest sticking point for a modern censor board like the MPAA would be the tone. It’s bleak and brutal. As cheesy as this movie gets what keeps it from becoming BEWARE! CHILDREN AT PLAY is the underlying hopeless tone.
You know from the get go that these kids are going to win. And they do. Sure, the adults are pretty worthless people, but you start to feel for them in the same way you feel bad for the gazelle running its ass off from a hungry lion. It takes a special kind of exploitation movie to make you relate to the hunted and not the hunter.
So, yeah. If you haven’t seen this movie add it to the queue. There’s a really good DVD transfer out there. You’ll dig it.
Here are the next week’s worth of HMAD titles:
Saturday, October 3rd: CAMERON’S CLOSET (1988)
Sunday, October 4th: AFRAID OF THE DARK (1991)
Monday, October 5th: THE PIT (1981)
Tuesday, October 6th: BRAIN DAMAGE (1988)
Wednesday, October 7th: BRAIN DEAD (1990)
Thursday, October 8th: VISITING HOURS (1982)
Friday, October 9th: MACABRE (1980)
Why not continue the kids in horror movies theme with CAMERON’S CLOSET? Let’s do it! See you tomorrow for that one!
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