Finding a genuinely frightening horror film, or even one so inept it twists itself into an unintentional comedy, is a simple enough task. Finding a horror film that wallows in uninspired mediocrity is even easier. Stumbling across a piece of outsider art masquerading as
In a catalog stacked with trashy films that defy every conventional filmmaking norm, Suffer, Little Children might be InterVision’s most compelling release to date.
Suffer, Little Children is, on its surface, a mundane, paint-by-numbers horror effort. A young mute girl arrives at an orphanage, strange things start to happen around the house and eventually it’s revealed that she’s actually Satan, or a Satanist, or something else altogether not nice that would make any good Christian boy blush. If you’ve seen any classic “demonic child” films like The Omen or Cathy’s Curse, then you’ve already got 3/4ths of the film’s plot committed to memory.
While the narrative may be lacking, the film excels in the spaces in between its story beats. There’s something deeply unsettling about Suffer, Little Children’s aesthetic that’s difficult to pin down. The house the film takes place in feels like a hastily furnished abandoned building, pictures of Bengal tigers inexplicably adorn nearly every wall and each hard cut is somehow more jarring than the last. It’s the type of film that makes other InterVision oddities, such as the endearing Phobe: The Xenophobic Experiments and the madcap
I don’t know if I’m supposed to be watching this.
And therein lies the magic of Suffer, Little Children. It’s a horror film that succeeds by failing spectacularly. Conventional movies rarely have the opportunity to draw out anxiety from their audience by being this batshit insane. So insane, in fact, that upon its initial release it was immediately banned and seized by the British censor board for indecency and the exploitation of the unpaid child actors.
I don’t want to spoil too much of the film’s gore-soaked third act but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the final sequence, where the aforementioned exploited children are blasted to smithereens by the most literal Deus Ex Machina ever committed to video. Jesus Christ himself literally shows up and disintegrates every satanic child with the power of strobe lights and laser beams.
And that is truly the essence of Suffer, Little Children. Unnerving. Incompetent. Goddamn brilliant.