Bless the Child


Director: Chuck Russell

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Bless the Child Bless the Child (2000) from a novel by Cathy Cash Spellman is filmed with an abject pokerface, by the director of Nightmare on Elmstreet 3: Dream Warriors (1987) & The Scorpion King (2002).

In today's environment of satiric, comic, or even unintentionally goofy horror, it's nice that there is still an area of horror cinema that can be done without making horror nothing but a dumb joke: mystical Catholic horrors inspired by The Exorcist (1973).

Jimmy Smits plays more or less the same murder-investigating detective he played on NYPD Blue -- so his quitting a popular television show to be a Movie Stahhhh does not seem to be panning out. He was bigger than life & handsomer than heck on television, but on the big screen he remains a small-screen face.

Bless the ChildKim Basinger turns in a lovely performance as the motherly aunt of the messiah, heading up an impressive cast that is far better than the screenplay merited. But this cast pulls it off fairly well, even as the script collapses.

Only a couple years before this film, Basinger was a major star in major films, reaching her peak with L.A. Confidential (1997).

The year 2000 seems a little soon for her to have already fallen to the wayside, into minor exploitation cinema. But since she fell to the position of a second-string actress, I'd be just as happy to see her in more horror films.

The filmmakers didn't scream-queen her at least, which is good. Unfortunately she hasn't leapt on other horror scripts sicne this one, so I guess it wasn't her thang.

Christina Ricci's small role as a street girl trying to get out of the satanic cult was extremely, extremely well played. I wish she'd been the star instead of Basinger & Smits frankly, it could've been a great film just for the sake of her presence.

Bless the ChildThe satanic villain with his weird buggy eyes was effectively creepy, a monster movie monster who didn't need make-up to be a monster, & the capper of his creepiness is he's at the same time strangely good looking.

The addition of Ian Holmes two-thirds of the way through the story, as the Aware & Believing Priest who promises every assistance -- where the hell did that come from? He appears, says "I can help," then never appears again. I guess he meant "I can help -- pad this film out to an hour & a half."

The special effects were not over used but when they were used they were effective. The occassional appearance of helper angels who were just regular joes & janes was one of the nicest touches -- showing that the most evocative stuff is still to be done without any special effects at all.

Bless the ChildThe idea of the little girl messiah was marginally effective -- but really conveying the childhood of a messiah is a tough gambit, & in this case, she's just a kid, & really never captured any sense of heavenly origin.

The climax when the little girl messiah is on the verge of being sacrificed, it really looks like a standard satanic cult sacrifices virgin thing, so has no particular depth & extra oomph due to her messiah status.

One gets the impression from this ending that in the original script there was quite a different climax which would've made use of Ian Holmes inexplicably missing character. It's like someone at the last minute decided a standard Virgin Sacrifice would be cool instead.

That gimpy choice left a lot of unnecessary little scenes throughout the film that never had any pay-off. The nuns praying together miles away for the angels to appear was really dumbass. And the angels of light looked really stupid.

Bless the ChildAfter we'd already seen helper angels who were nice ordinary folk, the only reason for the angels to all of a sudden be glowy computer graphics would seem to be because the production crew were grasping for straws to spice up the ending.

It's like they finally gave it to the computer geeks & said, "We give up, you design something," then didn't give the geeks enough time to do anything of merit. Why no one relied on the ability of the actors is anyone's guess, as it had been going along so well until the money-shots mucked it up.

So it was a messily ineffective ending. And even with all that supernatural stuff going on all over the screen, who saves the day?? Not the messiah. Not the glowy angels. But a cop with one of those handguns that never run out of amunition. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Bless the ChildThe happy ever after coda was also dumb, even though I am sick of tacked-on endings that with one last gore-gag assure us the film isn't really over. In Bless the Child at least the ending is not undone with one more predictable, unnecessary & ineffective Boo!

Still, the fact that a gawdawful Messiah is among us now should have evoked a worry about the great battle of demons & angels that occurs when the messiah returns at the end of time to lead the heavenly hosts against Satan.

Instead we get the impression the kid might grow up to be a prophetess at best, of a religioius cult wussier than the satanic cult but nevertheless just a cult, & who the hell cares just so long as in the meantime she gets to go to Disney World & enjoys the cartoon channel.

Yet trivial as the film was I didn't feel robbed of the matinee price. The film's ernestness & the effectiveness of most of the film except the climax, & the temporary presence of Christina Ricci, made it worth the trek to the cinema.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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