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Wednesday, September 6, 2017


Back in 1983, English drama teacher Meg Shanks' class, which ranged in ages from about 9-30, decided they wanted to make a movie in the worst way.  Which, to the delight of bad film lovers everywhere, is pretty much what they did.

The "video nasties" controversy was just reaching full bloom, yet the movie they made with the help of entertainment promoter Alan Briggs (who directed among several other chores) was a shockingly no-holds-barred gore flick called SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN.

The story concerns an orphanage thrown into chaos when head caretakers Morris and Jennifer--one nerdy, the other kind of hot--take on an abandoned mute girl named Elizabeth (Shanks' daughter, Ginny Rose) who just happens to be the conduit for all sorts of sinister forces.  Strange misfortune besets the home and its children as Elizabeth causes harm to anyone who displeases her while using her evil hypnotic influence to turn others into her mindless servants.

A visit from former-resident-turned-pop-star Mick Phillips for a benefit concert gives the kids something else to get excited about, especially when the golden-curled crooner gives Elizabeth his crucifix after she seems to admire it.  Mick's sudden infatuation with Jennifer (which is mutual, to Morris' apparent dismay) involves him more deeply with the growing unrest at the home as weird accidents and other suspicious events continue to occur.

And so it goes, with the no-budget ambience and total inexperience of all involved--as well as a story that hardly seems on its way to anywhere interesting--turning the film thus far into a mildly diverting, intermittently amusing exercise in bad filmmaking for connoisseurs of primitive cinema.

As Jennifer gathers her robotic followers into an upstairs room for a final summoning ritual of evil, we don't really predict anything all that exciting save for some attempts to recreate scenes from CARRIE or THE EXORCIST.

But then, it happens--SUFFER THE CHILDREN suddenly, shockingly bursts forth into full bloom as one of the most hilarious, violent, and utterly mindblowing of the video nasties.  Keep in mind, it's still primitive in every department, but these kids and their adult co-conspirators have really decided to go for broke.

The hilarity begins with a potted plant floating on a wire, followed by flying furniture and other assorted items as Morris and Jennifer are terrorized by supernatural forces POLTERGEIST-style.  The gore itself gets under way when Jennifer's minions scarf up all the sharp stuff in the kitchen and start attacking the adults, including hapless pop star Mick, as though they'd just seen a video nasty themselves and felt compelled to emulate it. 

Blood is plentiful--like, on an H.G. Lewis level--with multiple stabbings, a self-ventilation by a teacher under Elizabeth's control, and even an attempt at a knife-exiting-the-mouth effect which comes off pretty well.  All in all, it's fun stuff and lively as can be.

But that's not all, because there's still the ending, and for that, director Briggs and scripter Shanks have come up with such a doozy of a climax that I'm not even going to hint at it.  Nope, sorry, no clues.  Don't even read anything that might give it away.  Take my word for it, this is one ending you don't want spoiled.

Till then, enjoy the entry-level technical aspects of SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN, the sub-sub-par acting and dialogue, the editing which seems to have been done on a VCR (Briggs reveals that the film was never really finished and is basically a workprint), groove to the zombie-picnic dream sequence and the fact that there's actually a poppy title song, and just sit back and wait for the whole movie to hit the fan. 

"School of Shock"--An Interview with Director Alan Briggs
"Seducing the Gullible"--An Interview with Legend of UK "Nasty" Era Fanzine Critique John Martin
English Captions

Buy it from Severin Films/Intervision


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