FTP: Suffer Little Children (1983)

JANUARY 18, 2023


After watching Skinamarink last night, I wanted something a little more traditional for a horror movie viewing. And yet of all the movies in the pile (less than 70 now! Down from 150 or so!) I managed to single out Suffer Little Children, which comes from the same line that brought us the WTFery of Things and Sledgehammer, and might be more incompetent than the two of those put together. But I could at least tell you what it was about without needing prompts from the official synopsis to fill in some gaps, so it got one over Skinamarink in that department.

In fact if this was made with any degree of skill, I might genuinely enjoy it, as the plot kind of rules. Our setting is an orphanage where a new resident is dropped off with just a note saying they could care for her. The note identifies her as Elizabeth, but nothing else about the girl is known, nor can she speak to explain things herself. But it takes all of 12 seconds for us to be clued into her nature, as another girl there makes fun of her and is quickly knocked aside by a door that slams on her after Elizabeth gives it an evil stare. But instead of laying waste to all the kids who live there, Elizabeth recruits a few of them into her budding Satanic army, which ultimately leads to a mega bloodbath – the kids either join or get killed with all of the adults who work there. So it’s some low key Children of the Corn kinda stuff (albeit predating that film’s release by a year), but without any of the respectability that movie offered. As poorly made as it is (shot on video by film students for 7,000 bucks), it’s no surprise that it ended up attracting the attention of the Video Nasty folks, on account of all the child on child (or child on adult) violence that occurs in the name of Satan.

(They probably clutched their pearls over the finale too, where another biblical character enters the proceedings. It may be 40 years old but I wouldn’t dare spoil the surprise.)

In fact I kinda liked it even as is, and probably would enjoy it more if it wasn’t padded and weighed down by the subplot of a former resident who has become a major pop star. He stops by his old place to meet the kids before performing a charity concert set to benefit them, and strikes up a relationship with Jenny, the overworked social worker who runs the place along with another guy who clearly has a crush on her. The rivalry between the two men and the budding romance between Jenny and the faux Rick Springfield is tedious stuff at best, and has no real payoff beyond the mild novelty of a horror movie about Satanic cults where the rock star is completely innocent, even oblivious, to those shenanigans.

I also have to dock it for a confusing (even by this movie’s standards) bit immediately following a date between the two, where Jenny is suddenly upset about an event with the kids. From her scattered outbursts, it seems she took the kids to the pool and Elizabeth instigated some of the kids to distract her by pulling off her bikini (!?) while she attempted to drown the others? The vague recollection suggests the scene was meant to actually be included at some point and the dialogue here serving as more of a recap, but not seeing it - after suffering through five minutes of the runtime devoted to their date instead! – felt like a real cheat, robbing the middle of some much needed action. I assume budgetary/production limitations kept them from being able to properly film such a major scene, but why have the epilogue to it? Just cut the whole thing so we're not aware of what we're missing.

Still, the super gonzo final five minutes or so make up for it, and it’s only 75 minutes with credits anyway, so hardly a waste of your time as long as you have an appreciation for this sort of thing. I basically break down movies into three categories: under 80 minutes, 80-99 minutes, and 100+ minutes. 80-99 minute movies just have to be competently made and/or amusing more often than not to get a pass, and anything over 100 has to be genuinely good. But for these sub-80 minute movies? Give me one or two things I’ll remember a year from now and we’re good. And this one does! Even if I somehow forget what I described above, I'll always remember that this 1983 movie begins with narration explaining that it's a reenactment of events that took place in 1984, because that it just too incredible to let fall out of my memory. So the system works!

What say you?


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