Tag Archives: Animal Cruelty

Baby Blues (2008)

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This movie made me want to take a hot shower. A soulless, brainless slasher pitting a group of prepubescent siblings against their homicidal, postpartum mother with the worst twist ending since “Orphan?” Who thought that was a good idea? Okay, I admit, a good movie could have been made with this subject matter. Why do you think I rented it? In hope of an edgy, subversive good time.

But that would require the film to maintain a somewhat serious attitude. Instead, the kid-mangling mama (Colleen Porch) at the center of this sick little horror film shoots off one liners like fucking Freddy Krueger while dispatching of  her clan. “Playtime is over,” she snarls while tracking her ten-year-old son Jimmy (Ridge Canipe, who admittedly does a great job with the material he’s given.)

And later, after slaughtering Jimmy’s younger brother like a pig, “When are you kids going to learn that this hurts me more than it hurts you?” A satire of family values, you say? But it just feels so cheap. Meanwhile, the kids run around the family farm covered in blood and pissing themselves in fear and the filmmaker’s ugly, nihilistic vision comes full circle.

Postpartum Psychosis is a real and terrifying condition, and offering it up to the masses as a cheap schlock-fest isn’t doing anyone anyone any favors, especially those affected by the disorder. The way the filmmaker blithely beats you with a blunt, ridiculously kitschy ending only makes the film more of a failure. I know, I know, any good real-life horror and thriller film is a exploitation of something. Don’t be so sensitive, you say?

There was just something so sleazy about the proceedings. If the director has at least tacked this slaughterfest with an honest, true ending, the worst transgressions might have been forgiven. But the ending is so bad- so irredeemably, utterly, inconceivably bad- I have to be honest with you. This one is a dud.

I’ll admit, there’s something luridly fascinating about watching a child take an adult role under extreme circumstances- Daddy (Joel Bryant)’s away on business, and Mum’s cracked under the burden of mental illness and is determined to kill her kids- what will the newly appointed “man of the house'” do? What is he capable of in order to protect his siblings? But that’s where the fun ends.

Visually “Baby Blues” isn’t bad for a low-budget film. The richly saturated, intense color can be jarring, but ultimately doesn’t distract from the story too much. The sound is questionable, but still audible. I many ways, it is technically well-made. The set-up of the terror is pretty standard. Everything fits together a little too easily- if something is mentioned early on, be assured that it will very obviously come into play later into the film.

There are scenes- the ending, the sequence where farmhand Lester (Gene Witham) does the unthinkable and turns his back on the killer to examine the injuries of a freshly killed dog, exclaiming, “Some kind of animal…” that the film reminds us that it is just that- a movie.

A cynical, small-minded movie that is determined to make a profit on viewers’ morbid curiosity. Don’t buy into the urge to watch a movie sporting an ‘extreme’ premise. After a questionable build-up, the payoff is worse, cheaper, lamer than you can readily imagine.

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Joshua (2007)

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Holy crap. The kids aren’t all right. The kids aren’t all right at all. And nine-year-old Joshua Cairn (Jacob Kogan) is such a malicious, evil little prick who commits atrocities with such a sense of glee (as gleeful as Joshua’s studiousness and seriousness will allow) that you will not feel anything but hate and loathing for the malignant little tyke by the end. But hey, this movie is pretty good, and for fans of evil-child movies, it’s that much better because “Joshua” maintains a relative sense of realism throughout.

Poor Brad (Sam Rockwell.) No sooner is little newborn Lily out of the hospital than Brad’s wife Abby (Vera Farmiga) starts to mentally deteriorate big-time (Post-partum depression’s a bitch) and child prodigy Joshua starts to act a little… well, homicidal. The family dog, Joshua’s pet hamster, and the class pets at Joshua’s elite private school (an institution that attracts snobs like a cadaver attracts flies) start to meet with fatal accidents, and Brad begins to suspect the worst when the family unite swiftly disintegrates. But could all the mayhem really be being orchestrated by Joshua?

Sam Rockwell is becoming one of my favorite character actors, bringing likability to Joshua’s very flawed dad. Vera Farmiga is a top-notch actress too, but sympathy is in short supply for this shrieking, hysterical woman (I know the horrors of mental illness all too well, but Abby’s out to lunch.) a Netflix user described Kogan’s portrayal of Joshua, the homicidal maniac, as ‘stiff,’ but I actually thought he did a pretty damned good job switching his behavior between that of a wide-eyed schoolboy and a malicious nutcase. This is nothing. Wait until the cretin hits puberty, starts growing hair in strange places. Your problems are going to triple overnight.

As a self-proclaimed fan of every cinematic psychological curiosity under the sun, “Joshua” offered more that enough bizarre insights into human nature. I like how Joshua sets his parents against each other. I love the dynamic of the struggle of power between father and son. Brad’s main concerns are sexual frustration and keeping his family unit from falling to bits. Joshua’s motivations are a little more mysterious. Is destroying his parents his ultimate endgame? Or does he have an even more sinister agenda in mind?

This is the rare movie I wouldn’t mind a sequel to (however,considering the limited release and the child actor’s age progression, the chances are next to nil.) With all the Hollywood hits that get upteen million sequels, here’s sleeper hat feels like it might actually benefit from a sequel and has a nada chance of getting one. Does that seem right? No, not at all, but that’s how the movie industry works. Better get used to it, kid.

“Joshua” achieves it’s goal of being creepy and unnerving, and not just from the initial shock of a small child doing horrible things. There’s definitely a sense of unease at watching the terrible things that happen to the these poor people (except the nine-year-old, may his snotty ass burn in Hell.) It’s a set of disasters that can befall anyone, if a real life Joshua is thrown into the mess, devoid of supernatural or demonic factors. This kind of storytelling is potent and used to good effect here, without the usual crap clichés or plot devices.

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The Snowtown Murders (2011)

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Based on a series of gruesome real-life killings that occurred from 1992-1999 in Australia, “The Snowtown Murders” is an often annoyingly confusing but also creepily compelling thriller that takes it’s subject matter seriously rather than exploit it for cheap shock value. Which is not to say “The Snowtown Murders” is not shocking. It is the story of how an entire town is beguiled by an unhinged psycho, and how that psycho takes an abused boy under his wing and melds him into his protege.

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Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) is an underprivileged Aussie teenager who has pretty shit luck all around. He and his younger brothers are sexually abused by his mom’s boyfriend Jeffrey (Frank Cwiertniak,) and his thuggish older brother Troy (Anthony Groves) rapes him. His mom (Louise Harris) loves her sons but also seems to be unable to rise to the occasion of parenting them. Then she leaves Jeffrey and is introduced to John (Daniel Henshall,) who initially seems to be the full package- good-looking, charming, and great with the kids.

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But something seems a bit ‘off’ about John. He talks constantly about torturing and killing child molesters. I mean, it’s foolproof, right? No one wants to be the one to contradict him. Everyone hates pedos, but John’s rants seem quite obviously to be a part of an obsession. And he’s a man of action, John is. He’s got charts and posters all over his house tracking sex offenders. Then people start disappearing.

Not just sex offenders. Jamie’s amiable druggie friend, Gavin (Bob Adriaens.) Mom’s gay bestie, Barry (Richard Green.) And later, with Jamie’s assistance, that slow kid next door (Robert Deeble.) At first, Jamie seems horrified by the carnage going on practically on his doorstep. Horrified when John instructs him to shoot his own dog. But Jamie is sick of being the perpetual butt of abuse. He thinks becoming John’s assistant is the way to man up and put an end to taking it up the ass (all too literally.) And John is just getting started.

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The amazing thing about this cast was that all of them, besides Henshall as John and Richard Green, are non-professionals simply talked into playing in a movie. This is particularly extraordinary for Pittaway, who forces you to sympathize with his deeply damaged time bomb. Henshall has a genuine glint of malice in his eye that goes beyond ‘play-acting the psycho.’ He looks and more importantly, FEELS dangerous. The closest thing I can think to compare it to is Noah Taylor is Red, White, & Blue. I can’t think of a single actor or actress who seemed to be dragging down the cast.

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It took me a second viewing to really appreciate the movie. The first time, I found it very hard to follow. The second time, I also found it hard to follow, but less so, and I appreciated it’s unnerving combination of gritty urban realism and extreme violence. This is a thinking movie, so you have to primarily focus on it to process what is happening (no tap-tap-tapping away at your ipads, multi-taskers!) I’m glad I thought to see this a second time, even though it was a tough watch. Multiple watches might serve distractable viewers well.

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Tyrannosaur (2011)

Emotionally devastating and rewarding, a study of desperate individuals with seemingly nothing to lose, “Tyrannosaur” is one to put on your watch list. Now. Featuring electrifying performances from Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, and the criminally underused Eddie Marsan, it is as riveting as it is disturbing and shocking.

Joseph (Peter Mullan) is a man seething with rage and contempt. When we first see him, he is leaving a bar after a fight. Irritated suddenly by the whining of his dog, tied up outside, he gives it a fatal kick in the ribs.

Joseph seems to have this effect on everyone who crosses his path, and he certainly seems incapable of any lasting change, but that doesn’t stop kind Christian charity shop worker Hannah (Olivia Coleman) from trying to help, to Joseph’s great puzzlement.


Hannah, despite her soft and motherly exterior, has a heapful of s**t going on at home. Heartbreakingly unable to have children, she is also saddled with the world’s biggest d**k as a husband – James (Eddie Marsan,) who abuses her in every way possible.

How these two lonely souls find each other is the subject of this discomforting drama, which to me is the most genuinely distressing film since Simon Rumley’s “The Living and the Dead.” “Tyrannosaur” thrives on that stark realism we’ve come to expect from the Brits, but goes deeper than most Brit flicks, let alone American films.

I was in one state of distress or another throughout the film. The violence can be upsetting, especially if you are an animal lover, but don’t let a couple of scenes prevent you from watching what is most certainly one of the best British films of the last ten years.

Writer/director Paddy Constantine (actor/co-writer of the also great “Dead Man’s Shoes”) touches his characters with a little something extra, refraining from turning them into dim-witted caricatures. You get something from this film that you don’t get very often- the feeling that you have watched a truly great movie. And how great is that? Recommended.