Tag Archives: Kidnapping

Gone Baby Gone by Dennis Lehane

GoneBabyGone

The world can be an unforgiving, ugly place, and Dennis Lehane does a good job depicting this while also portraying the mordant sense of humor law enforcement officers and police detectives sometimes have to adopt to deal with the darkness ‘out there’ as well as inside themselves. Still, there are some things being a hardened detective with a life time of seeing some hardcore shit under your belt can’t prepare you for- for Detective Patrick Mackenzie, the events of “Gone Baby Gone” are comprised of some such times.

I went into this book warily; I have minimal experience with mysteries of any kind, and I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to follow the twists and turns that made up the novel’s plot (true, to some extent; recalling many of the intricacies of the story leaves me drawing a big fat blank.) Also, it is the fourth in a series, so I’m kind of starting in the middle of a continuing storyline. However, while the former had me perpetually confused (it should be a piece of cake for seasoned mystery readers though,) the latter did not distract me from the book, which is fairly stand-alone even among it’s predecessors  and sequels.

The plot of “Gone Baby Gone” focuses on detective Patrick Mckenzie and his willful and beautiful partner/lover, Angela Gennaro, searching through Boston’s toughest neighborhoods for the abducted daughter of a neglectful addict mother. Not for the squeamish, it portrays the shadowy world of pimps, pedophiles, whores, and crooked cops in such a way that it will make you frown at humanity. Have we really evolved that much? Or we a not very funny joke God played on the hitherto unviolated earth?

I think Lehane particularly has a gift with character description, and providing character details so acute and well-observed that we can picture the creations he has offered up to us. The people making up this twisted urban world are frighteningly believable, with the possible exception of Leon and Roberta Trett, two over-the-top pedophiles; but even the sordidly kitschy moments admittedly have their place. In the search for little Amanda McCready, the two leads not only have to fret whether the’ll find her, but whether she’d be better off staying gone, possibly exposed to unspeakable horrors or maybe spared from a slow spiritual death at the hands of Helene, her selfish crack ho mother.

Sparing my visitors from major spoilers, I’ll just say that the ending really got me furious, in a good way (which is to say, the writing and plotting were not at fault.) After some seriously disturbing and shocking events existing within the plot, I was hoping I could be satisfied by an ending that seemed ‘right,’ just and appropriately comforting. But justice, as it turns out, is a double-edged sword. Would any other ending have seemed as contextually appropriate? Hell no. But I want my evildoers vanquished, my ending wrapped up, my protagonists making a final decision I don’t want to throttle them for.

I seriously wanted to kick Patrick in the nuts at the end of this book. He was a likable lead for the most part, but the final choice he makes is certainly not the one I would have picked. Then again who knows, if I was placed in a crazy situation like that? The compelling thing about the conclusion is it isn’t a simple showdown between good and evil. Both decisions have consequences, and both sets of consequences will hurt someone regardless of how carefully the final course of action is chosen. Am I fit to judge? No, probably not, but I still want to kick him in the nuts.

“Gone Baby Gone” is a quietly harrowing look of police officers working child abuse cases who often have to stand by powerlessly, even impotently, lacking the power to save damaged young people in the face of a broken system. Does society owe the Amanda McCreadys of the world to provide them with a safe place to live, to protect them from the monsters and molesters as well as the coked-up fuck-up living in their own home? Can we be expected to take on the responsibility of every such child? Are some of these kids beyond help? Toeing the line between popular fiction and literature, “Gone Baby Gone” offers a fresh, even occasionally funny voice in Patrick Mckenzie and a suspenseful plot.

Enter the Dangerous Mind (2013)

enter the dangerous mind

At times “Enter the Dangerous Mind” feels like an extended music video, but, for the most part, that’s okay. Just don’t expect a particularly accurate (or sensitive) portrayal of mental illness. This disturbing and somewhat exploitative psychothriller focuses solely on the most extreme and even deadly mental health crises, the James Holmes’ in a social group of mostly harmless individuals.

The story concerns a Paranoid Schizophrenic named Jim (Jake Hoffman, son of actor Dustin,) who makes… noise for a living. Well, technically jarring techno music, but I don’t want to get into semantics here. Jim develops these tunes to ‘drown out the noises in his head,’ but when he tells Wendy (Nikki Reed,) a cute social worker, that, it doesn’t seem to concern her. It should. Jim has a roommate (Thomas Dekker) who is the proverbial devil on his shoulder, urging him to get over his crippling shyness and get laid.

Jim begins a tentative relationship with Wendy, but an embarrassing bedroom incident triggers a downward spiral for the disturbed young man. As Jim becomes increasingly delusional, Wendy breaks off all ties with him, leading to horrific consequences for both of them.

The plot develops okay up til the silly ending (apparently not only do Schizophrenics kill dogs, murder people, and engage in horrific acts of self-mutilation, their disease is also as contagious as the common cold,) while actor Jake Hoffman does a good job as Jim, making his tics and affectations believable while keeping his character somewhat sympathetic despite the reprehensible things he does.

On the other hand, I didn’t like the jerky ‘hard-rock-music-video’ cinematography or the constant, grating electronica score. I don’t like electronic music; I never have, so you can imagine I found the omnipresent pulsing techno to be irksome, to say the least.

“Enter the Dangerous Mind”‘s commendable performances elevate it infinitesimally above average territory, and while the movie is not politically correct regarding the horrors of mental illness- not by a long shot- it does keep you guessing and capture your attention for it’s short duration.

It is similar in subject matter to the recent film “The Voices,” although “The Voices” is the superior film due to it’s visual verve and it’s cheeky sense of humor regarding the portrayal of extreme insanity. Both movies could easily be called “Dating a quirky, weird guy becomes a health hazard when…” Poor Wendy. like Anna Kendrick’s character in “The Voices” believes she can save her troubled beau from himself. But sometimes, girls, being nice and considerate and compassionate to a guy who is batshit crazy just doesn’t cut it anymore. Once in a while a restraining order does what all the kindness in the world can’t.

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The Captive (2014)

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All in all, “The Captive” is a pretty lame movie. It incorporates a ‘ripped from the headlines’ story with an admittedly good performance from Ryan Reynolds (who’s obviously trying to shed his ‘pretty boy’ image, with some success, but that doesn’t make this movie good,) but ultimately proves to be an unthrilling film that fails to be realistic or compelling.

Most of the fault seems to be with Kevin Durand, who plays a mustachioed pedo freak which such cartoonish abandon that one can only sigh and weep for the direction this movie takes. Durand’s Mika (but I’ll call him pedostache, mm-kay?) kidnaps young Cass (played by Peyton Kennedy as a child and Alexia Fast as a teen) from under poor Reynolds’ nose and does unspeakable things to her.

Reynolds, her dad, is blamed by his grieving wife (Mirielle Enos) for leaving Cass in the car for just a minute as he went into the pie shop to get dessert for his the three of them. Luckily, police officers specializing in child abduction and sexual abuse Nicole  (Rosario Dawson) and Jeffrey (Scott Speedman) are on the case.

It’s every parents worst nightmare, and great fodder for a thrilling, terrifying crime story, but something is missing. And it’s a shame that, with Reynolds performing so admirably, the central villains performance often lowers the film to ridiculousness.

Mika is an ever-so-slightly effeminate deviant with a pencil-thin pedostache, bleached buck teeth, a habit of crossing and uncrossing his legs constantly, and a penchant for opera, in other words, a live-action cartoon character who is impossible to take seriously in a film that is otherwise for all intents and purposes, earnest.

What the film doesn’t realize is that pedophiles look like regular people. They look like the kindly old man halfway down the block, the big bearish uncle who used to placate you with sweets and hug you a little too tightly. To portray an offender as a John Waters-esque creep is to do a disservice to reality. And Durand’s overly zesty performance doesn’t help.

Let me tell you about the ending. Obviously, **spoilers. Read at your own risk. Cass, who looks thirteen like Dame Maggie Smith looks twenty-five, is freed, and the baddie is smote. She returns to her regular life almost immediately, and the film closes on her ice-skating with a happy grin on her face. After years of Tina (Enos) psychologically abusing Matthew (Reynolds) and blaming him for their daughter’s’ disappearance, it seems like the duo will automatically get back together.

Aw, how Kodak. Bring out the camera, folks! Smile! Except all I can say is, really?!! Not only does the film completely fail to mention that Cass will be scarred for life and saying she will have trouble adjusting is a massive understatement, the revelation of Matthew and Tina hooking up at the end seems completely false. Their daughter is back, suddenly everything is swell! Never mind that the whole family has been completely through the ringer and will probably be deeply damaged for the rest of their lives. **end of spoilers

It would have been interesting to see Reynolds play the bad guy like he (sorta) did in “The Voices” (the “Voices” anti-hero wasn’t a pedo though, just a nice old fashioned serial killer.) To see Ryan Reynolds play a perv would be so totally different that I would kind of have to applaud it. As least “The Voices” felt like a unique experience. “The Captive” feels like a nighttime crime show that you half-watch while occupying yourself elsewhere. A really bad crime show. Ryan Reynolds, I don’t think this movie is the best way to further your career.  Although, I must admit, playing alongside Durand did make you look damn good.

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Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)

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Seeing this movie for the first time is like watching a slow-motion train wreck. I mean, Geez, guys. What other horrific tragedies can befall these people? However, effectively ambiguous character development and outstanding acting serve to make this Korean revenge thriller more than just a series of senselessly violent nihilistic events.

Let me just tell you before I proceed with this review that I actually have not seen director Chan-Woo Park’s most famous film, “Oldboy.” I saw “Thirst” (an innovative take on the vampire film) and his English-language debut “Stoker,” as well as the not entirely comprehensible loony-bin comedy “I’m A Cyborg But That’s OK,” but not “Oldboy.” Therefore, I can not say which film is more effective as a revenge thriller or otherwise compare the two. But I digress.

Boyish green-haired deaf-mute Ryu (played magnificently by Ha-Kyun Shin) faces bitter labor in his dead-end factory job as well as ableism from the people in his personal life, who sound out consonants and vowels as if speaking to an unmitigated idiot. Ryu’s sister (Ji-Eun Lim) needs a kidney transplant, and when an honest operation doesn’t line up fast enough Ryu books a visit to a black-market ring of organ dealers, but is exploited and ultimately ripped off.

,  Desperate and shystered out of any money he may have originally had, Ryu is reluctantly convinced by his left-wing extremist girlfriend Yeoung-Mi (Doona Bae) to kidnap the young daughter (Bo-bae Han) of Ryu’s former employer (Kang-ho Song,) with disastrous results.

“Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” is a film you should pay close attention to, because big plot developments are only mentioned once, with minimal dialogue, and thus slip through the inattentive viewer’s recollection like grains of sand. It is a strange movie, with many darkly offbeat happenings. That said, it’s not really an abstract film either, and what you see is basically what you get (if you’re paying attention.)

Do not watch this movie if you are expecting an inspirational picture with a big-hearted disabled hero. The reason “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” works is although you feel for Ryu at times and are confronted by his desperation and his love for his sister, the filmmaker does not entirely let him off the hook either. Similarly, when the girl’s father goes on a journey of retribution, he does many unconscionable things that you nevertheless can comprehend, even empathize with.

This makes “Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance” a startling moral fable rather than a lurid revenge picture. You see how these two men got into these situations, and they’re nothing if not human. However, I was not as transfixed with the goings-on as I would’ve liked to have been and lost interest somewhat in the final 1/3rd, which is why I’m giving it 3.5/5 stars and thus abstaining from a higher rating.

I liked the fact that some of the otherwise silent Ryu’s thoughts are articulated through captions on the screen. Whether we admit it or not, someone being able to communicate their thoughts In some way makes them easier to relate to and the captions gave me a better look into his inner life. There is lots and lots of violence in the second half of the film, but as other critics have noted, nothing that does not directly fit the plot and the mood of the movie itself.

“Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” is essentially a tragedy, more than it is a typical pulse-pounding action movie. It has real consequences for the crises it presents, which in my opinion is a must in good revenge film. It is a worthwhile watch for fans of Asian cinema and casual filmgoers alike. Just prepare for a Hell of a depressing story.

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Room by Emma Donoghue

Room

Resourceful youngster Jack is the dynamic protagonist of “Room,” a compelling offering from Irish writer Emma Donoghue. The initial premise of “Room” is at once heartbreaking and luridly fascinating- 5-year-old Jack and his mother, known merely as “Ma” for the duration of the novel, are prisoners at the hands of “Old Nick,” the psycho pervert who abducted Ma when she was a freshman in college. Jack has never left the small shed where he lives with his mother and is visited nightly by old Nick. who continually violates Ma while Jack hides in the wardrobe.

Despite his potentially traumatic upbringing (he has never come into contact with another person and believes that the outside world he sees on the television is imaginary,) Jack is sustained by his Mom’s love and manages to be innocent to most of the more horrific implications of his life. He has had a troubled childhood, but possesses a soul both intrinsically healthy and capable of giving and receiving love.

The dynamics shift when Ma starts having a reason to believe that her and Jack’s lives are in danger, and in her desperation,  she calls upon Jack to help carry out a daring escape plan. “Room” is narrated by Jack, who believes in the sentience of inanimate objects. Because of this and Jack’s youth, the book is written in fragmented, often confusing phrases. If you can handle the broken English, however, “Room” is a arresting and heart-pounding piece of fiction.

Emma Donoghue has a way of making potentially horrifying subject matter beautiful rather than sleazy. “Room” reminds me of “The Lovely Bones” in that way, treating the subject with lyricism and compassion rather than ickiness and shock value. I found Jack’s voice to be mostly plausible, with very few exceptions. There were only a couple of moments where I felt he was too precocious for a young child of his situation and the prose tipped me off that it was merely an adult telling the story.

Ma’s the truly remarkable character in this novel though. Building a life for her son under horrendous circumstances could not have been an easy feat, and Ma loves the child of her abductor with an intensity and devotion that is inspirational, to say the lest (although I never expect to find myself in that kind of situation.) Only in the scene where Ma is being interviewed on the talk show does the book get a bit preachy.

Mostly, though, it is Jack’s strong and idiosyncratic voice that propels “Room” beyond general ‘ripped-from-the-headlines’ fodder. Grappling with issues of motherhood and media sensationalism,  “Room” is a profound and heart-grabbing read.

Labyrinth (1986)

Labyrinth DVD

Beware, 80’s kids- I am here to pick apart your childhood classic. There is so much wrong with this movie, I don’t even know where to begin. Mind, there are moments of creative genius at play too, and the puppetry aspect of the film is, well… quite cool, even for a cynic like me. But it’s pretty sad when puppets outshine Jennifer Connelly’s Godawful acting and David Bowie’s mannered affectations as Jareth, the codpiece-donning goblin king (what the Hell people? This is a kid’s movie, is there really room for a villain with his pants stuffed so as to  make his dick look big?)

Sarah (Connelly,) a bratty adolescent deep in the throes of puberty-induced teen angst, calls on the goblin horde from her favorite book to take her perpetually crying baby brother Toby (Toby Froud) away when she is forced to babysit him one stormy night. Much to her chagrin, the goblins, who are- unbeknownst to her- very real- take Toby away to the Goblin King (David Bowie)’s castle. Spurred on by regret and concern for her brother’s well-being (and for the allowance cut she will most certainly receive if her father (Christopher Malcolm) and step-mother (Shelley Thompson,) like, totally come home to find their son gone,) Sarah is taken to a magical land where she much brave the labyrinth- and Jareth’s cunning charms- in order to save her brother.

This seems like mostly a vehicle for musician David Bowie (Bowie sports lip gloss and awful hair, and, for no particular reason at all, bursts into song in several instances,) and I’ve heard rumors that Bowie regrets the project to some extent. I can see why. Allegedly the movie is a fantastical portrayal of the labyrinthine trials of puberty, and the connections are all too obvious. Connelly (who was better off going ass to ass in “Requiem for a Dream,”) can’t act to save her life poor dear.

She hems, haws, and blinks vacuously, but to be fair, the damage isn’t entirely her fault- the scriptwriter gives ‘Sarah’ the most inane lines imaginable. Moreover, unlike fantasy stories like “Harry Potter,” the ‘great evil’ (I.e. Jareth) that Sarah fights doesn’t seem that sinister at all. Weird and gay, yes. Sinister, no. Sure, Jareth wants to turn Sarah’s baby brother into a goblin and the sexual tension between him and Sarah seems Borderline pedo, but he fails as a truly malevolent or interesting presence. When Sarah meets up with him for the big confrontation, he spends half of the time singing (!) and the other half being humbled in the presence of her womanly power.

It’s bad when the most threatening presence in a film that strives to be epic fantasy is a stench-emitting, farting bog. That said, the puppets are wonderful. My personal favorite, Didymous the mace-wielding Chihuahua, was a steady mix of cute and cool. It was just so easy. Pit Sarah against any legit fantasy villain- Voldemort, Sauron, the baddies from Gaiman’s “Neverwhere”- and she would crumble like the inconsequential schoolgirl she is. Jareth’s main powers consist of looking fabulous and talking you to death, with an extra helping of ‘blah.’

“Labyrinth” leaves me conflicted in that I want the movie studios to bring puppetry back and use it on a better movie, My review is unfair in that the film didn’t have a part in my childhood, and fair for the exact same reason. Sentimentality can muddle your perception of the way things are. And “Labyrinth,” my friends, is no classic. You are free to leave comments championing your nondescript piece of whimsy. if you wish. It’s all the same to me. The puppets, the sets, some of the creative elements were awesome, sod all the rest.

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This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash

THis Dark Road to Mercy

Twelve-year-old foster child Easter Quillby is the hard-knock heroine of Wiley Cash’s second novel, “This Dark Road to Mercy.” Easter and her six-year-old sister Ruby are cast adrift when their irresponsible mother OD’s, and their woes are further exacerbated when their dad Wade impulsively kidnaps them from their North Carolina children’s home. As it turns out, Wade has stolen bookoo bucks from a lowlife, who has sent Bobby Pruitt, a one-eyed bouncer with a vendetta, to kill him. Growing up’s hard when your dad’s on the lam and is dragging you along across the states, but Ruby and Easter survive, if not exactly thrive, under the care of their troubled father.

While fast-paced and compulsively readable, I did not find this book as compelling as the author’s first, “A Land More Kind Than Home.” As a character, Easter stands head and shoulders above the rest, although Ruby and Wade are pleasing leads as well. The book is narrated by three POV characters- Easter, Pruitt, the eager aspiring assassin, and Brady Weller, the girls’ court appointed guardian, who makes it his personal goal to find Wade and the kids before Pruitt does.

This slim volume has brief chapters and an exciting pace, but isn’t quite as well-written as the author’s previous work. Maybe ‘less well-written’ is the wrong phrase to use; there are no cracks in the narrative, but it makes less of an attempt to be literary as “A Land More Kind Than Home” was. Other than Easter, who was delightful, I didn’t think the characters were as compelling as those in the last book. Wade was pleasingly morally ambiguous, and I found myself trusting his intentions more as the novel progressed.

I think the biggest weakness was the portrayal and voice of Pruitt, the villain. Pruitt’s POV was decidedly meat-and-potatoes and matter-of-fact, where some creepiness and intensity may have been in order. It felt like the author, Wiley Cash, was a little scared to get deep into Pruitt’s psyche, so settles for making him a somewhat bland guy who occasionally beats old ladies with baseball bats.

“This Dark Road to Mercy” is compulsively readable, which means that even a painfully slow reader such as myself finished it in only a few days. It’s actually a really good read, my expectations were just so high after reading “A Land More Kind Than Home” that I was bound to feel a little let down by any book by this author that achieved less than greatness.

I was actually expecting things to go down a lot worse than they did it it’s conclusion. The way they wrapped it up was not bad at all, even satisfying, but I expected an adrenaline-soaked bloodbath, or at least a depressing death, at the climax. I wouldn’t say I was ‘let-down’ by the ending, just surprised that things didn’t end in literary Armageddon. If you come out with one thing from reading this book, it will be the portrayals of buoyant, happy-go-lucky Ruby and resourceful, serious Easter and the journey they take with a father who is just trying hard to be a dad.

Note- I could easily give this book 4.5/5 stars, but it would be unfair to the 4 star books I liked just as much. Therefore, four.

The Tall Man AKA The Secret (2012)

The  theme of the ‘wronged mama bear,’ where every mother’s worst fear is realized, stands as a common trope in horror and thriller films, and “The Tall Man” is no exception. This is better than “Flightplan,” thank God, and puts a new spin on the worn theme of the child being snatched from the arms of the protective parent. Above all, it sports a pretty wicked twist, one that is unpredictable without being totally out there or ludicrous.

I never would have picked up this movie if it weren’t for director Pascal Laugier’s previous film “Martyrs.” The trailer to “The Tall Man” looked to be in kind of lame standard thriller-ish territory, so I decided to avoid it. When I finally got to watching it, I was pleasantly surprised. This is a well written, directed, and acted movie.

Content-wise this isn’t even in the same ballpark as “Martyrs,” although I did see it got a nice ‘R’ rating from the MPAA. “The Tall Man” stars Jessica Biel as Julia, a nurse who seems to serve as a friend, neighbor, and basically a helping hand to everyone in the small town of Cold Rock, Washington. The children of Cold Rock are being abducted by a mysterious force known as the “The Tall Man,” disappearing without a trace and baffling the local police force.

Julia has a son, David (Jakob Davies,) and periodically visits local woman Tracy (Samantha Ferris) and her teenage daughters, Carol (Katherine Ramdeen) and silent Jenny (Jodelle Ferland.) Tracy’s boyfriend Steven (Teach Grant) impregnated Carol and menaces Julia when she comes to the house to check on the infant. He oozes class.

When David is taken from Julia, Julia will do anything to get the boy back. The cool thing about this movie is that it takes you one one way and then- *BAM*-it steers you in a completely different direction. I won’t tell you if the crimes of ‘The Tall Man’ are supernatural or not, because what would be the fun of that?

Suffice to say it’s fresh and exciting, Biel makes a adequate scream queen, and Jodelle Ferland is great as always. Jakob Davies (as the son) can’t really act and settles on being mildly perturbed, but give him time. The supporting cast is good too. Samantha Ferris and Colleen Wheeler, as the mother of one of the disappeared kids are the standouts.

One of the problems with the script is that Julia seems at parts to be too much of a ‘supermom.’ Between battling an attack dog and clinging to (and being dragged by) a abductor’s van, it’s a wonder this woman has the energy to get up in the morning. Altogether, though, this is a sadly underrated and overlooked horror/thriller.

Michael (2011)

A tricky film about a tricky subject, Michael is handled somewhat more tactfully than you might expect, but remains a tough watch. Left deliberately ambiguous by the oblique festival trailer and poster, which shows a man and a boy framed by puzzle pieces, it is a sometimes unbearably tense portrayal of human perversion.

Michael (Michael Fuith), a weasily little man who you might expect for this kind of role, lives an inconspicuous existence in Suburban Austria. In reality, he is anything but ordinary — he is the abductor and captor of ten-year-old Wolfgang (Markus Schleinzer), who is becoming increasingly defiant about his living situation.

Wolfgang lives in Michael’s padlocked basement, where he is periodically raped (obliquely implied by a non-graphic scene where Michael washes his scrotum after an encounter with the boy), bullied into submission, and given what Michael hopes is enough warm and fuzzy time and traces of a normal childhood to keep Wolfgang compliant.

It is implied that Michael plans to kill Wolfgang once he reaches puberty. Living a nightmare, Wolfgang becomes more and more rebellious, culminating in an eventual escape attempt.

The film is minimalism at its most intense, focusing on the practices that make Michael seem at times like a normal human being. He and Wolfgang occasionally seem to have an almost father-son-like relationship, washing dishes, purchasing a Christmas tree, and passing discreetly into the fray of a petting zoo. Sometimes you nearly forget anything’s wrong at all, until some pedophilic dirty talk or foreplay brings you back to reality and forces you to face facts.

Something is terribly wrong. Wolfgang has parents somewhere who love and miss him, and psychologically, he is splintering, turning into the polar opposite of the unknowing boy Michael goes after later in the film.

To ask for more excitement in a movie like this is to ask for a nasty brand of moviemaking. Despite its relentless ugliness and bleakness, Michael never sinks to the sewers of  child exploitation. As a critic, though, I would have asked for a more conclusive ending. Placing an ending like this in any movie, let alone a film of this intensity, seems, frankly, a little like cheating.

Note – Praised by critics for its subtle take on its subject. Free of heavy-handedness and melodrama, the film’s director, Marcus Schleinzer, got several calls from grateful pedophiles, thanking him for his “non-judgmental” portrayal of their kind. It’s sad to think there are people like that out there, who will probably never benefit from any kind of therapy an are best kept away from children for the rest of their natural lives.

Mum & Dad (2008)

The movie world is made up of four different kinds of families: the normal families (much less common than the latter varieties, and debatable, as no family is totally normal), offbeat families, and crazy families, for starters. Then there’s the titular Mum & Dadclan, which brings us to the scariest and most dangerous variety, umpteen steps past crazy, and reveling in their own perversion.

It’s hard to even call them family, as such. Only one child, the severely brain-damaged Angela (Miciah Dring), is their own. The others are kidnapped additions brainwashed into adhering to the family’s rules. These are vindictive Birdie (Ainsley Howard) and her silent “brother,” Elby (Toby Alexander). It kind of reminds me of the 1970 horror film Girly, in which “new friends” are brought forcibly into a family of depraved Brits, If Girly were applied with the visceral brutality of a blunt hammer.

The newest addition is quiet Polish immigrant Lena (Olga Fedori), who meets the loquacious Birdie at the airport where they both clean. Lena isn’t stupid; she’s just awfully polite — too polite to follow her instincts. When Birdie and Elby “accidentally”  make Lena miss her bus, she goes home with them, against her own better judgment.

Enter “Mum and Dad” (Dido Miles and Perry Benson). Mum is a manipulative, slick sexual deviant. Dad is also a deviant, who hits Lena over the head and rapes raw meat in front of his family (the camera then closes in on the cum in the meat *gags*). It’s the kind of family relatively normal people stay away from, and Lena is not only determined to survive, but to escape.

To remain free of all pretenses, I will just call a spade a spade — this is a torture flick, competently executed, but mostly devoid of any higher purpose, deeper meaning, or pathos. It does sport, however, an intense and cleverly executed ending and decent acting (best from Dido Miles, who plays a soft-spoken psychopath so well). As a note to people who, like myself, can stomach graphic violence but have trouble with sexual assault, there are no rape scenes in this film, although sexual perversion is prevalent.

Lena is a likable heroine, and although she certainly doesn’t bring about fascination, the viewer will want to see her through. The film is primarily set in the home of the killers, with shots of airplanes soaring overhead, conveying a feeling of distance and one’s desperate need of rescue going unnoticed. Now that I have called a spade a spade, I recommend Mum & Dad to extreme horror buffs and those with (very) strong stomachs.