BLESS THE CHILD * USA / Germany 2000 Dir: Chuck Russell. 103 mins
Despite a great cast and the director of the third ELM STREET movie and BLOB remake at the helm, this pedestrian entry in the late 90’s Hollywood occult cycle (see also END OF DAYS, LOST SOULS, STIGMATA) is as bland as the lamest made for TV “Devil” movie you can think of. Divorced, childless nurse Kim Basinger brings up her addict sister’s little girl (Holliston Coleman) and learns the hard way that she’s the physical manifestation of the Second Coming. While portentous signs prevail (visions of swarming rats, a series of child murders), it becomes apparent that Satanic cult leader Rufus Sewell needs her for his own nefarious purposes. Amusingly masquerading as a self-help group, the cult, having already lured in Basinger’s sister (Angela Bettis), is keen to delete anyone blocking their path to Coleman. Sewell, all bug eyes and flared nostrils, is a feeble antagonist in this inversion of THE OMEN overseen by the same producer, Mace Neufeld (which looks good on the posters). It sentimentalises its juvenile protagonist-whose safety never seems in doubt-and fails to generate any of its illustrious predecessor’s high quota of dread, chills and thrills. In the absence of real shocks or creative deaths are some CGI rodents and winged beasties, a couple of mild murders and a wasted Christina Ricci (as a cult escapee) losing her head. A game Basinger, in the midst of a mini post-L.A. CONFIDENTIAL renaissance, does what she can with an underwritten, dismayingly spineless role and the by-the-numbers script also fails to make good use of Jimmy Smits (as a God-fearing cop) and Ian Holm (a Jesuit priest). The pat, very Hollywood resolution will make you want to join a self-help group yourself, if only for the pleasure of setting the meeting room on fire while calmly sitting back and drinking the Kool Aid.
Review by Steven West