Monday, March 23, 2015

Bless This Mess

When a film made in the last twenty years achieves that rare feat of earning a 0% 'fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes only to turn up in the Horror section of Netflix Instant, there's simply no way said film will not get its day to shine here at the Doll's House.

Quick Plot: Kim Basinger plays Maggie O'Connor, a NYC nurse and lapsed Catholic whose life (but not hair) takes a dramatic turn when her junkie sister Jenna (May's always welcome Angela Bettis!) dumps her newborn daughter in her care. 

Merry Christmas!

Six years later, young Cody has grown into a pleasant but possibly autistic little girl enrolled in a Catholic school. Meanwhile, FBI agent Jimmy Smits is hunting a serial killer taking out fellow six-year-olds while a former child actor/drug addict named Eric Stark (the always bug-eyed Rufus Sewell) has made headlines with his Scientology-ish anti-religion religion founded on self-help, clean living, and of course, satanism.

There are a lot more details that eventually connect Maggie to devil worship (among them: Christina Ricci as a heroin addict, Ian Holm in a wacky one-scene cameo as a strangely accented priest, and many, many, many terribly rendered CGI mice). There would have to be for a fairly bland 110 minute horror film. Made during the end of the 20th century's brief flirtation with apocalyptic Y2K end of days, Bless the Child is fun to imagine as the Catholic Church's most expensive commercial.

It's also fun when Christina Ricci's head rolls off.

And when a stern nanny stabs a priest's assistant in the eyeballs with her knitting needles.

And when I realized that child actor Holliston Coleman (easily the best thing in the movie, aside from the stern nanny and Christina Ricci's loose noggin) looked familiar not JUST because she once guest starred on Law & Order: SVU, but far more so because she had a small part in that Tori Spelling A Christmas Carol movie (aka A Carol Christmas, because it's a play on words) I reviewed way back when.

Anyway, director Chuck Russell is a far more talented filmmaker than Bless the Child would suggest. This is the man who gave us Nightmare On Elm Street 3, The Mask, and my favorite of all, 1988's The Blob. How he ended up here is something I don't want to think about. The script (based on a popular novel and adapted by at least three screenwriters) is both too complicated and too sparse. We're never actually told WHY or even HOW li'l Cody is the chosen one, or what being the chosen one means other than "Rufus Sewell wants you to embrace Satan with his goth minions and flying monkeys or else die." There's a lot of buildup about how the deadline for whatever black mass in question is counting down on Easter, but, well, WE DON'T ACTUALLY KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THAT DEADLINE IS REACHED.

You see my point.

Bless the Child is only a good movie if you've a) never seen a movie or b) believe Catholicism to be the most kickass thing in the world. For all others, it's probably a big skip.

Although it does include a brief glimpse at an adorable puppy.

The adorable puppy is used to lure an innocent child to his death.

But you know, PUPPY! 

High Points
The tone is all over the map, and I honestly don't know how much of the cute head rollings and demons were supposed to be scary vs. campy, but the fact that these scenes made me laugh means I was certainly entertained

Low Points
I'd like to forgive this film's embarrassing CGI for being a victim of its time, but then I remember how great Starship Troopers's completely computerized bug attacks were three years earlier and not only have I lost all the pity I had for the visual effects department, but I've also inserted the Starship Troopers Blu Ray into my player and what were talking about again?

Lessons Learned
Winning an Oscar gives a woman many special powers, but none quite as useful as evenly curling your hair with 0% frizz after your perfectly straight mane runs through mild rain

Angels do indeed exist, and they are the jerks who hold the subway doors open and make the rest of us straphangers late

All kids understand death because of The Lion King

Chekhov's Law of Knitting Needles holds strong: if they get their own closeup, they will most certainly be shown a scene or two later as a multi-purpose murder weapon

Look! It's--
Spartacus's wonderful Oenomaus himself (Peter Mensah) as an angelic janitor. Yes, in addition to angelic children, construction workers, bus riders, and subway door holders, Bless the Child has angelic janitors.

Bless the Child is not by ANY means good (remember: 0%) but we've seen far worse. As a relic from the year 2000, there's something kind of entertaining in seeing the mix of Y2K-influenced fears, early CGI, and movie star mode Kim Basinger fighting a predictable battle against a poorly rendered Satan. I don't really recommend anyone give it a chance when there are plenty of far stronger independent devil-centric films out there, but those with Netflix Instant and a thing for '90s theatrical horror might find themselves chuckling.

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