Parenting Horror! Fright Flicks HIDDEN and JUNE Reviewed

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EvilJune

SHOCK takes a look at two new releases that deal with the horrors of parenting.

This one’s for mom and dad…

It may seem a cliché to say (that’s because clichés tend to be steeped in truth) but once you have children, and if you truly take to being a parent, you quickly learn the true meaning of terror. It’s hardwired into our primordial ooze: once we make our own people, once we are tasked with overseeing the care and well being of something/someone who cannot function without our aid and loves us simply because of that relationship, real deal dread locks its claws into your guts and doesn’t leave until you’re dead. Because we know what the world is. We know that beneath its pretty sunsets and shimmering lawns and smiling faces and illusions of immortality lurks a dangerous ball of pain and violence, with predators skulking around, yellow-eyed and drooling in the dark.

As Lillian Gish says in Charles Laughton’s 1955 morality tale masterpiece NIGHT OF THE HUNTER:

“It’s a hard world for little things…”

Indeed it is.

And since cinema exploits and meditates on all of our varying conditions, it goes to follow that its direct portal to primal dread, the horror film, would draw out the poisons of parenting with bloody, sadistic glee. From the kid killer of Fritz Lang’s M, to the aforementioned NIGHT OF THE HUNTER to Nicolas Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW to Lars Von Trier’s ANTICHRIST; the horror of procreating and the dangers and misery it can make are alive and well on screens big and small, past, present and, no doubt, future.

Here, SHOCK looks at two new releases that deal with the terrors of being a parent in various imaginary worlds that mirror our own…

 

HIDDEN (Warner)

Written and directed by sibling duo The Duffer Brothers (whose previous work includes penning episodes of the M. Night Shyamalan approved, Lynchian TV series WAYWARD PINES), HIDDEN is a hidden gem indeed. TRUE BLOOD and MELANCHOLIA star Alexander Skarsgard plays a father who, along his his daughter (Emily Alyn Lind) and wife (Andrea Riseborough), is barricaded in an underground chamber and has been there for almost a year. Their sun-free hiding hole is dark, dank and miserable; rats sneak in and steal what’s left of their rations and they all live in terror of a roaming species of post-apocalyptic monsters that live above ground, beasts they have dubbed the “breathers”. And yet, like Viggo Mortensen’s character in the filmed adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD, it’s up to dad to keep up morale and protect his child from succumbing to despair.

Yet, with their food sources almost depleted, the father must make the difficult decision to leave their dismal, but at least protected, sanctuary and face the dreaded “breathers”. What they discover instead provides the twist in the tale, which we will not reveal here, of course, but the journey to get there pushes the parents to their limits and beyond as they resort to unthinkable measures to protect their baby in this brutal new world.

HIDDEN is an absolutely first rate horror film. Moody, dark, exceptionally well-acted by the three leads and genuinely terrifying. And, oh man, is that twist a doozy. Maybe not quite PLANET OF THE APES “wow”, but still palpably shocking. Perhaps a tad slow for some horror fans (not this one), this is a thoughtful film that betrays typical zombie flick conventions and comes armed with genuine soul.

JUNE (RLJ Entertainment)

Co-writer/director L. Gustavo Cooper’s JUNE is a very different film that attacks a different angle of parenting terror, that of the parent that is blinded by their child’s true nature. Essentially a spin on classic “bad seed” movies like, er, THE BAD SEED and THE OMEN, JUNE tells the tale of the titular moppet (played skillfully by THE WALKING DEAD’s Kennedy Brice), a pretty kiddy who, after being born to a woman that barely escaped a Satanic cult, is tossed from foster home to foster home; each and every time, June blows it by having her eyeballs fill with black blood and adopting an adult’s screeching voice while growling out threats and fucking things up with her psychic tantrums.

Eventually she ends up with a kindly couple (STARSHIP TROOPERS’ Casper Van Dien and actress Victoria Pratt) who do their damndest to de-damn the kid. But as things begin to unravel rapidly, Dad does some research on her past and tries to convince mom that their dear, deadly daughter must depart. Little does he know that when it comes to that bond between mother and daughter, Hell hath no fury like.

Cooper is a very, very talented director. A true stylist who isn’t afraid of painting his canvas with broad strokes and whose style is very akin to a grandiose Italian or Japanese approach to horror. This aesthetic both works for and occasionally against JUNE, especially since the human drama is so finely etched. When we see Van Dien (who is excellent, by the way) begin his descent into mania, it’s effect is betrayed by the ho-hum CGI and dastardly vocal effects that mark June’s outbursts. The film is still a quality piece of work and exceedingly well produced on what was no doubt a lower budget. But a little more subtlety would have pushed JUNE from good to great…

Extras on HIDDEN are non-existent while JUNE has a lengthy, if superfluous, making of feature that is essentially a flurry of talking heads praising each other. Both pictures offer a glimpse into how treacherous a territory parenting can be and, while differing in their approach,  both treat their stories seriously; they make a fine Friday night double feature.

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Weekend: Sep. 19, 2019, Sep. 22, 2019

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