A simple night of babysitting takes a horrifying turn when Helen realizes the boogeyman really is in little Lucas’ closet.
One of the biggest casualties in the studios’ Age of Marvel has been horror films. Once a staple of the industry, they have joined Westerns on the ash heap of cinematic history. From Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein in the 1930s to Freddy and Jason in the 1980s, horror had a good run. Now, even the most successful franchises – see the late 2000s/early 2010s “Paranormal Activity” – are descended from low budget indie features. “Child Eater,” which has its roots in a short of the same name and was funded on Kickstarter, is thus the quintessential 21st-century horror film.
Directed and written by Erlingur Óttar Thoroddsen, “Child Eater” is long on dead and short on jump scares. This is good – cheap jump scares are one of the pitfalls of lazy filmmaking. Instead, we are treated to a hefty banquet of the macabre and disturbing. The eponymous child eater is a blind man who eats the eyes of children to restore his eyesight (this makes for a particularly horrific opening scene) but disappears after one incident that draws the attention of the generic Middle America town that he torments. “Child Eater” begins a generation after the last attack, with a young boy (Colin Critchley) who is new to town, reporting sightings of a mysterious old man in the woods, all while his babysitter (Cait Bliss) finds herself unwillingly caught up in a battle with a real-life boogeyman.
“Child Eater” is a success by the standards of the horror genre merely because it doesn’t insult its audience with trite clichés and hackish acting. While there are many of the usual tropes – small town, pragmatic sheriff, a child with an affinity for the supernatural, single parent, beautiful young woman, a stock boyfriend character who’s a shmuck – they are mostly understated and seem to fit. The dread slowly builds over the eighty-two-minute runtime, culminating in a terrifically terrifying finale. Bolstered by a beautiful backdrop and fantastic cinematography, “Child Eater” is a treat.
While the film’s Kickstarter roots may not appeal to everyone – perhaps you’re the kind of person who prefers more traditional horror fare – there’s very little to dislike about it. Director Thoroddsen is Icelandic, and it’s hard to think of a culture with a stronger folklore background in all things bizarre (google “Iceland elves”. Trust me. You won’t be disappointed.) This comes across over the course of “Child Eater,” and I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that this had some connection to an Icelandic story (though the villain is purportedly the “boogeyman”). Either way, it feels good to root for the little indie movie that could, and this one is worth your time.
Available on VOD, Digital HD, & DVD March 28th