"This picture is a reconstruction of events which took place at 45 Kingston Road, New Malden, in August 1984. These events were never reported in the press. The house is now derelict and scheduled for demolition".
The sombre male narration above is a perfect introduction into this disquieting relic from the shot-on-video days of the early 1980s.
We open to hustle and bustle of Sullivan's Children's home at the aforementioned Surrey address, on what begins like a typical Sunday. But, mid-morning, carer Jen (Ginny Rose) answers a knock at the front door to discover pre-teen Elizabeth (Nicola Diana) stood all alone in the doorway. She clutches a piece of paper in her hands, on which is written "Please take care of Elizabeth. She can't speak. This is the right place for her".
Jen takes the sullen young girl in, introducing her to fellow care worker Morris (Colin Chamberlain). As Jen takes time to get to know Elizabeth, Morris retires to an office where he rings around in a bid to find the girl's parents. Having had no luck on this front, he resigns himself to the fact that she will have to stay at the home for a few days.
On the way to showing Elizabeth to her room, Jen introduces her to a couple of the resident kids. One, mouthy Sarah (Julie Piper), has a smart comment to make about Elizabeth's muteness. While Jen's back is turned, Elizabeth glares intently at Sarah. This coincides with a door slamming itself shut into Sarah, knocking the young lass off her feet.
This is just the beginning in a sequence of strange occurrences which will eventually lead Jen and especially Morris to believe that Elizabeth has some dark hold over events in the home. Disabled kid Basil (Nick Coquet) ends up in intensive care after taking an unexplained tumble down a flight of stairs; two usually sweet girls, Jules (Sharnilla Babjee) and Carol (Joanna Bryant, become conniving little disciples to Elizabeth after sharing a communal dream she induces in them involving zombies; a misadventure at the local swimming pool sees several children almost drown; the kids inexplicably turn violent against each other one afternoon in the mess room ...
Could it be that the home's enigmatic new guest is behind all of these odd situations?
You'll have to keep watching to know for sure. One word of warning though: in order to get to the gory, revelatory climax, you are going to have to endure Jen's quite painful romance with former orphan-turned-rock star Mick (Jon Hollanz).
Still, that's practically the only bum note in this otherwise surprisingly well-made, effective no-budget SOV effort from 1983. Directed by Alan Briggs, the film - which got caught up in the video nasties furore of the mid-80s in the UK, despite never actually being banned - is unexpectedly well-acted for a start, the young cast breathing life convincingly into Meg Shanks' above-average, intelligent script.
Pacing and editing are adroit throughout, and Barry Gisbourne-Moor's original score is striking in its modernity. It's at equal turns tribal, rocking, ambient and genuinely creepy.
The film's FX work is undeniably primitive but there is a fair bit of crude gore to be enjoyed, and the cheap quality of such undeniably lends SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN further charm. Briggs's direction is also surprisingly artsy at times, with the surreal zombie nightmare sequence and the climactic Satanic ritual being two obvious standout moments in this regard.
Short, fast-paced and entertainingly mean-spirited, SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN is a fantastic early entry in the pantheon of SOV horror films - and, to this day, remains one of the best examples of this oft-maligned sub-genre.
Severin's revitalised Intervision brand are releasing SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN onto region-free DVD. At 75 minutes and 12 seconds in length, this is the fully uncut version of the film. The original 1.33:1 ratio is retained, presented here in a naturally windowboxed format.
Colours are strong and vivid, blacks are stable for the duration of playback. Images are inherently soft and there is occasional damage to the original video elements (vertical lines some onscreen snow, etc), but this is still the best the film has ever looked on home video.
The English mono audio track is reliably consistent. The occasional drop-out literally lasts a millisecond at a time. Optional English subtitles are well-written and, given that they're presented in yellow with a thin black border, are easy to read at all times.
The disc opens to a static main menu page. Although there is no scene selection option, the film does possess 8 chapters.
Bonus features are an unexpected treat.
First out of the gate is a new 10-minute interview with Briggs entitled "School of Shock". He tells of how he was once one of the top 5 rock concert promoters in the UK, before he decided to branch out into filmmaking with this venture. The cast, he reveals, were made up of students from his then-wife Meg's drama class (Ginny Rose was her daughter). Briggs makes for an engaging subject as he talks us through shooting on locations, working with such young performers, filming on video and much more.
Next up is "Seducing the Gullible", a 9-minute interview with esteemed critic John Martin. Lovers of old pre-certificate videotapes will love the footage of Martin's impressive collection, which are intercut throughout his fascinating chat through the controversy caused by horror videos in the 1980s.
Intervision's re-release trailer is an enjoyably salacious affair, which runs for 97 seconds.
SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN has aged better than I'll bet anyone expected. It's an effective little "evil kid" shocker, and Intervision's DVD is now by far the best way to see this film.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Intervision Picture Corp|