Friday, April 23, 2010

Breaking a cinematic taboo over and over

Beware! Children at Play (1996)
Starring: Michael Robertson, Rich Hamilton, Robin Lilly, Mik Cribben, and Lorna Courtney
Director: Mik Cribben
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

Some films--most perhaps--have their origin in a single idea or a single visualized scene. If those films are done poorly, it's obvious what that idea was. With "Beware! Children at Play", I think that idea was, "Hey... no one ever kills little kids in movies. Why don't we make a movie where we kill a dozen or more!"

In "Beware! Children at Play", horror novelist and paranormal investigator John DeWolfe (Robertson) travels with his wife and daughter to a small, isolated New Jersey village where his old Army buddy Ross (Hamilton) is the sheriff. More than a dozen children have vanished from the village in recent months, and Ross wants John's assistance in getting to the bottom of the matter. As they investigate, they uncover terror, tragedy, some really pathetic acting, and a very, very far-fetched plot.

With the exception of the climax, this film is about as predictable as they come. There are some mildly creative spins on the epic of Beowulf and Grendel, and there's enough meat to the story to keep the viewer engaged... so long as that viewer has a high tolerance for nonsense, bad acting, weak gore effects, and a town inhabited by every backwoods stereotype imaginable.

Oh... and you should keep in mind my first paragraph. If you don't like the idea of little children dying in droves, you should not even consider this movie... because a mass-murder of children is the film's high point.

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