Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wicked Little Things (2006)

Five years ago, After Dark Films premiered their pseudo-annual Horrorfest featuring 8 independent horror films ("to die for") shown in theaters nationwide for only one (or two) weekends. Horrorfest lasted for four years before evolving into something different, and I had the luck of discovering it in its first year (as well, that was a time in my life when I was really starting to become engrossed in my horror fandom). But of those first eight films to die for, I did not get a chance to see one of them - the one titled Wicked Little Things, which I have just, tonight, had a chance to see.

The titular monsters of Wicked Little Things are a cabal of child zombies, who, in their former life, were child laborers in a mine in Pennsylvania. They were buried alive in a mine collapse, and are now, in their undead state, intent on getting revenge on the descendant of the mine owner who put them in danger. Though in the meantime, they like to roam the mountain woods every night to feed on warm, living flesh. And a young widow with her two daughters (one teenage, one younger) has just moved into a house near the mine that was owned by her late husband, who tended to keep quiet about his family history.

Wicked Little Things falls into that category of horror films that has certain things going for it, but ultimately falls short of greatness, not least of which due to an over-reliance on genre cliches. It occurs to me that these sorts of cliches may work on an audience uninitiated into the realm of horror cinema - as those audiences must have been who went out to see the defining films in horror's early days. But today, there is such a body of expectations in how horror movies go, and how people in them act, that it's more formula than inspiration. And as evidence of how bad it's gotten: to an extent, even many inversions of time-worn cliches have by now become cliched.

What Wicked Little Things has going for it is a great atmosphere - very dark and creepy; the foggy woods and dilapidated house provides a great environment for a scary story to develop. The zombie children make fairly interesting monsters - if not super scary. As zombies, they look rather pristine, instead of decayed, more like dolls than walking corpses, but maybe that's what zombies look like as children ;). But the weapons they carry (nothing like a murderous kid shouldering a huge pickaxe), and their flesh-hunger (watch them dive eagerly into their bloodfeasts), certainly mark them as a threat to the living. I happened to like the gushing blood effects, and even the decision - however bizarre - to shower the characters in it during the climax.

But the most shocking thing of all about this movie was putting it on and seeing Chloe Moretz' name in the title credits. I had no idea! Not that it's any surprise that she'd do a movie like this - she was, after all, the vampire in Let Me In - but to think that she'd starred in one of the Horrorfest films? Crazy. She doesn't own the role as much as she owned Hit-Girl, but it's always a delight to see her pretty face up on the screen. Scout Taylor-Compton - who played the elder, teenage daughter - on the other hand... She's a genre favorite, but after all the incessant screaming she did in the sequel to Rob Zombie's remake of Halloween, and her successful job of capturing Lita Ford's bitchiness in The Runaways biopic, I don't think I like her all that much. But that's just personal taste.

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