J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Brooklyn Horror ’16: Child Eater

When notorious serial killer Robert Bowery hatched the macabre idea to ingest the eyes of children to reverse his chronic ocular deterioration, it spurred a series of ritualistic murders that deeply scarred the upper Midwestern community. Not to be encouraging or condoning, but it apparently worked, considering he is not effectively immortal and darned near omniscient. People now like to think Bowery is just an urban legend (albeit of a distinctly rural variety), but a baby-sitter and her charge are about to learn otherwise in Erlingur Thoroddsen’s Child Eater (trailer here), the feature fix-up of his 2012 short film, which screens during the inaugural Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

Matthew Parker just bought the old Bowery house, obviously because the price was right. Naturally, he didn’t tell his son Lucas anything, but of course the boy can run a google search, so he probably knows more than his dad. Frankly, Helen Connolly was not in the mood to babysit the creepy Parker kid, but her father the sheriff volunteered her anyway. Unfortunately, she dismisses his concerns about scary noises until Bowery has already abducted him right under her nose. Motivated by a sense of guilt and genuine concern, Connolly heads into the woods after them, dragging her disposable boyfriend with her.

Eater has the distinction of being an Icelandic and American co-production, but there is nothing that particularly distinguishes the film from a legion of similar horror movies built around Candyman-style bogeymen. In this case, Bowery’s backstory somewhat creepier than usual. Thoroddsen also displays a nice touch with the interpersonal relationships, particularly Connolly’s friendship with Casey, her gay best friend, who just started working as her father’s newest deputy. As the rookie law officer, Brandon Smalls is indeed the standout of the competent but not especially memorable cast.

Thoroddsen adroitly maintains a sense of mounting dread and cinematographer John Wakayama Carey gives it an exquisitely eerie look, but it is hard to keep invested in a film when you know the evilness will always get the final word. It earns some style points, but we have gone this wooded path many, many times before (it is safe to say Thoroddsen does not opt for the road less traveled by). Okay, but not great, Child Eater screens tonight (10/16) as part of the 2016 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

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