Suffer, Little Children (1983)

Suffer_Little_Children_0

A young, mute girl named Elizabeth appears one day at the doorstep of a children’s home with little more than the clothes on her back and a note asking the facility to take care of her. The caretakers at the home take her in, intent on searching for her family, but soon after her arrival strange things start happening and several of the children are injured or nearly killed. The head of the house wants to blame the oddities and accidents on a recently returned pop star who used to live at the home and came back to do a benefit concert for the children. But the incidents don’t line up with his appearances and the caretakers soon start to suspect that quiet Elizabeth may be more than what she appears.

Suffer_Little_Children_1She just wants to form her own lesbian herem. What’s wrong with that?

Suffer, Little Children (not to be confused with Suffer the Little Children) is a 1983 short film (about 75 mins) that was made as a school project with a non-existent budget, a handheld camcorder, a local acting troupe, a bucket of blood, a lot of knives  and a bunch of unpaid child workers. To say it is cheap and poorly made would be a vast understatement, but it’s weird enough and has a lot of heart, which keeps it from falling into the ‘pure crap’ category.

Suffer_Little_Children_2Hey, nice to meet you? Sorry we’ll be dead soon.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you could pinpoint any particular element of the film and claim it to be any good, either. The quality of the film itself is just about as low as you can go without looking like someone jumped up and down on the original tape. Everything is filmed to utilize fixed angles (with the occasional zoom) and the most convenient camera placement, as opposed to attempting anything aesthetically pleasing. So it basically looks like what you would get if you yourself tried to make a movie at your own house with a bulky 80s camcorder, strange posters and wall coverings included. But hey, at least they had a tripod to work with and didn’t force us to watch the whole thing with ‘shaky cam.’

Suffer_Little_Children_3Behold the film’s cinematic splendor….and obsession with tiger posters.

The film’s plot is about as generic as generic can be. If you’ve seen The Omen then you have a general idea of what you’re getting here. Throw in a little Children of the Corn and a pop group and you can basically put most of the other pieces together, too. There’s nothing here that you haven’t seen before or that really stands out. Most scenes just plod along from familiar plot point to familiar plot point until it finally reaches it’s inevitable conclusion. The only real standout is the ending, and that’s only because Jesus literally shows up during the last couple minutes to save the day, all while  accompanied by strange techno-ish music and a very persistent strobe light. 

Suffer_Little_Children_4Cause Jesus would be big into raves, right? Sure, why not.
(I made you all this gif, btw. I hope you like it.)

Suffer_Little_Children_5Oh, you also get a zombie picnic. I guess that’s special.

What it does do well, is talk. Considering the film’s short length, there is a ridiculous amount of dialogue in this little horror film. The exposition does well to explain things sure, but it also stutters the movie’s pacing to a damn near crawl. The film’s also peppered with scenes that do little more than help pad the film to over an hour, further drawing out the runtime of a movie that probably would have been better served to cut itself down to a solid 30-minutes. The only uptick the film has lies in the last 15-or-so minutes which, to be fair, are actually pretty fun and well put together for a class project. But by then you’ve sat through an hour of mostly talking, so the blood soaked spectacle of a finale will likely not be nearly enough to make it feel worth most viewers time.

Suffer_Little_Children_6Nice blood spurt. Must have hit an artery.

Suffer_Little_Children_7Okay, he definitely hit an artery.

Suffer_Little_Children_8

Suffer_Little_Children_9There’s a flying potted plant. The film quality is so bad you can’t even see the string holding it up.

Then there’s the sound, which may actually be the worst aspect of the film. There are no separate microphones or boom mics lying around on these sets, so everything you hear is being picked up by the crappy camcorder microphone. This means that, depending on the camera’s placement in the scene, you can either marginally make out what’s being said, or you can’t hear a damn thing and you have to jack up the volume. Which wouldn’t be too bad, except the movie has a tendency of BLASTING what should be background music over the scenes, thus drowning out any of the dialogue. Not that you can always understand what’s being said even when the movie isn’t trying to break your eardrums. While the acting is pretty serviceable for such a low budget project, it doesn’t seem like they figured out that they needed to slow down and project more to compensate for the crappy sound, so you often can’t hear them even when the camera’s right on top of them. At first I thought the part of the problem was just me not being able to keep up with the British accents and needing to watch more BBC. But after I turned the subtitles on I realized that even the damn subtitler couldn’t hear what was going on either and I felt some marginal relief.

Suffer_Little_Children_10The irony of that sentence is just too funny.

Suffer, Little Children is….kind of a weird ass movie. It feels like the kind of thing you’d try to make with your friends in high school and the end result is about as good as you’d expect. The whole thing looks like it was filmed in an abandoned house with decorations they found lying around on the side of the road. The picture quality is bad, the direction is bad, the pacing is bad, the sound is terrible and much of the dialogue is (poorly) improvised. The real standout here is the ending, which is phenomenal in its commitment to blood, violence and strobe-light WTFery. Those last 15-minutes or so at the end encapsulate what everyone who goes into a movie like this is likely hoping to see. But the first plodding 60-minutes are so slow and paint-by-numbers that it’s going to feel like a real slog for those who don’t go in totally committed.

Suffer, Little Children is available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

It is also available on DVD.

Suffer_Little_Children_rentSuffer_Little_Children_dvd

Michi

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