Micro budget horror film Child Eater is scary, smart and exceedingly well produced
In the realms of micro budget cinema, the goal is to make a dime look like a dollar. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. In fact it’s usually the opposite. But writer/director Erlingur Thoroddsen’s financially limited horror film Child Eater is an exception. The feature – an expansion from Thoroddsen’s own short film – is literally shot in a backyard, a supposedly dense wood that feels like a ravine behind someones home. But in an odd way, that practical, controlled setting works. Because Thoroddsen knows how to economically shoot that environment and he populates it with amateur actors that can actually act, speaking dialogue that actually feels real and serves to deepen characters as opposed to wank-off on endless exposition, like so many indie fringe films do.
The film stars Cait Bliss (who was also in the 2012 short) as Helen, a troubled young woman who Thoroddsen gives us plenty of time to get to know, introducing us to her lawman father, hinting at her anxieties and desire for a better life. Her quiet desperation is cross-cut with that of little Lucas, who lives in a house in the woods with his widowed father. At night, Lucas is convinced that someone, something is living in his closet. Like every cinematic brat who believes in the boogeyman, we know he’s right and of course, everyone else thinks his panic is just the product of an overactive imagination. When Helen is called to babysit little Lucas one night they soon meet that very same boogeyman and he’s far nastier than either could have dreamed.
According to local lore, decades prior a crazed killer went blind and hid out in the woods. Convinced his Macular Degeneration could be cured by cannibalizing human eyeballs, the maniac did just that but honed his focus in on the eyes of children who he believed had the greatest power. When Lucas runs off into the forest, Helen and her visiting boyfriend go looking for him. And there they indeed find the “child eater” who has somehow morphed into a supernatural monster.
Like Jeepers Creepers without the icky Victor Salva steering the ship and made on a tenth of that film’s budget, Child Eater is a monster movie that never shies away from showing us the monster. Fiona Tyson’s make up designs make the blind eyeball gulper look like a steampunk Freddy Krueger and only his rubber fingers, which we see far too much of, let down his imposing and frightening presence. There’s disgusting gore galore here too, with eyeballs endlessly torn out of screaming heads and scarfed down. Yum.
But Child Eater always drags itself away from the splatter to make the movie about Helen and her plight and that’s why it works. Bliss is excellent. Also excellent are the technical aspects of the film. Usually bad sound recording is the most distracting factor in these sorts of pictures, but the audio here is immaculate. Trust me, that is appreciated. And the score by Einar Tryggvason is rich and evocative.
Child Eater is a nice surprise. A mature and effective horror film that is calm and intelligent, only occasionally resorting to cliche. It marks Thoroddsen as a filmmaker to watch.