BLESSED ARE THE CHILDREN **** USA 2016 Dir: Chris Moore. 98 mins

The feature horror debut for co-writer / director Chris Moore, this is an unusually smart and engaging American indie slasher film with an unusual focus on smart, neurotic twentysomething women still adjusting to “grown-up” life. Instead of the usual interchangeable catalogue models adorning mainstream Hollywood slashers, we get convincing, funny people facing mundane issues, including the relentless societal / family pressure to conform and embrace motherhood.
Grieving heroine Kaley Ball, peeved at patronising former school friends bragging about the horrible brats they are raising, has an abortion following consultation with her loyal besties (the feisty Keni Bounds and witty Arian Thigpen) but is then cruelly taunted by schizoid, profane phone calls and crying dolls on the doorstep. A masked assailant brutally stalks and kills people she knows, including her abusive ex. With the male characters reduced to ineffectual buffoons or psychopaths, the film offers refreshing interactions between the three leads and clever twists on familiar clichés, including an idiosyncratic “Final Girl” and a marvellous spin on the usual loss-of-virginity scene (“What are we gonna do? Cuddle?!”) The movie borrows astutely from some of the best (BLACK CHRISTMAS and DRESSED TO KILL) but stages brutal, suspenseful murder set pieces of its own, notably a jarring shower murder. The filmmaker makes no secret of his nostalgia for VHS-era horror, and as a result this is the only film to feature a fake scare involving a tape copy of FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC.

Review by Steven West

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