Zombie Kid Horror
Trivia Tobe Hooper was initially attached to direct. I doubt that would have made it any better though.
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2nd Aug 08
Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five avoid going out in the sun for a year and develop a fetish for pick-axes and human flesh.
Zombie kids have a long and varied history in the annals of horror cinema. Who can forget little Kyra Schon starkly stabbing her mom to death with a trowel in perhaps the grimmest moment in Romero’s grim-fest Night of the Living Dead? 70’s cheapie The Child is rough around the edges, to say the least, but it cannily exploit’s the inherent creepiness of a zombie kid. Mary Lambert, director of Pet Sematary, may have taken the Shamelessly Manipulative route in depicting the onscreen death of a cute child, but she also succeeded in bringing to (undead) life a genuinely nasty, sneering, ankle-slicing zombie toddler. And, on the flipside of the coin, we have the gruesome head-blasting demise of that melancholic pigtailed adolescent in what is arguably the crowning gore moment of Fulci’s The Beyond.
Wicked Little Things, part of the Lionsgate / After Dark Horror Fest in the US way back in 2006, emerges in the UK under the could-it-be-more-generic title Zombies. Maybe someone thought “Wicked Little Things” sounded too much like a porn movie for enthusiasts of horny midgets (count me in). Still, surely someone could have come up with something more imaginative than “Zombies”? Was “Ashen Faced Flesh-Munching Brats” even considered? What next, a UK-only retitling of The Strangers to “People You Don’t Know Have Invaded Your House” in case we miss the point?! Ah, what’s the use. It’s hardly worth getting worked up about…mostly because this movie, from the workmanlike director of one-time 80’s “video nasty” THE SLAYER (that’s the one with the it’s-all-a-dream ending and the pitchfork exiting through a gal’s boob), is hardly worth getting worked up about.
In Carlton, Pennsylvania, around the year 1913, an explosion traps and kills several local urchins. In the modern day, freshly widowed mom Lori Heuring and her two kids inherit a house in the hills of Carlton, representing the last of their bloodline. The townsfolk offer predictably ominous words of welcome : Crazy Ralph would be proud of quietly doom-laden lines like “We don’t make deliveries there…”. The marvellous Hammer Horror tradition of grim-faced extras saying things like “Ooh, you don’t wana be going up to Castle Dracula on a night like this…” continues unabated.
Heuring’s inherited house is poorly lit and rat-infested but, hey, who can be fussy these days? Her oldest daughter, obligatory teen lead Scout Taylor-Compton (Laurie Strode in Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake) hangs around with bog-standard local teens who warn her of zombies in the area. Legendary character actor Geoffrey Lewis, making a late entry into horror flicks following a terrific turn in The Devil‘s Rejects, gets an easy pay-cheque as an ill-fated handyman. And Ben Cross has the kind of scared / scary Local Oddball role that Donald Pleasance may have played circa 1978. He also speaks every line like he’s auditioning to be an 80’s-style trailer voiceover guy. (Now, Mr Cross, just say the words “In A Time Of War…”).
And what of the menace that haunts and terrorises the tragedy-laden community? Appearing sporadically the “wicked little things” are those aforementioned mine kids, now a small gathering of pallid, pick-ax wielding zombies silently stalking the townsfolk - including predictably doomed characters like Bastard Prospector Dude - in retribution for their premature collective demise. These underage representatives of zombiedom are sinister when first glimpsed in foreboding long shot…but director J S Cardone proffers far too many close-ups of scowling brats unenthusiastically munching on severed limbs. The overall feeling is that these unscary pre-teens missed the turning for the My Chemical Romance concert and ended up in a horror movie by mistake.
Cardone shows some zest in evoking the look and feel of a traditional Gothic horror flick : full moons, dry ice, indoor fog, mist-enshrouded woodland and dialogue references to Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, at least help give the movie some spook-house atmosphere. Sadly, it’s largely uneventful for much of the duration, and even the splatter-laced final half hour is unremarkable. More damagingly, the movie fails to make the most of the disturbing notion of a group of people forced to kill a bunch of kids to stay alive themselves. This unpleasant concept - and the theme of violent, rampaging kids itself - was covered with unequalled intelligence and power by Who Could Kill A Child?, the most upsetting and gut-wrenching Euro horror flick of the 70’s.
Versions Known by the slightly less expectant title of Wicked Little Things in the US
1st Apr 04 Influenced by the American short story The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs, Dead of Night is an early 70’s US b-horror film written by Alan Ormsby (Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, Deranged) and...