Blessed Are the Children (2016)

When I was in art school a million years ago all I wanted to do was paint drippy abstract monstrosities while my teachers seemed bent on forcing me to draw stiff bowls of stale fruit. I had a class in which the entire semester consisted of sketching exactly ONE drawing of a boring statue. I swear if I didn’t have my trusty Walkman (and my well worn JAMCDARKLANDS” cassette) I probably would have murdered someone. Anyway, one of my teachers justified this torture by saying, “You have to learn the rules before you can break them” and that has always stuck with me. Strangely enough that sentiment popped into my head recently while watching BLESSED ARE THE CHILDREN, a movie that lovingly salutes many a horror trope and then when you least expect it, slyly stomps on a few too. One thing is for sure, writer/director CHRIS MOORE has been doing much more than blindly collecting and stacking his shelves with horror titles throughout his life, he’s obviously been closely studying what makes his favorite flicks tick as well.

Hey, we know Chris around here! He’s shared more than a couple posts with us over the years. To tell you the truth, I never feel comfortable writing a review for a film from somebody I know. It’s not because I’m worried that I can’t be objective, it’s because I’m worried I’d be the first person to cynically roll their eyes if I saw similar logrolling taking place on another website. But you know what? I should just lighten up. From what I’ve seen, journalistic integrity isn’t exactly a gigantic concern within the horror community these days (and that’s putting it lightly). Besides, at the end of the day, when it comes to a movie that’s built to scare, it either works or it doesn’t and for me, BLESSED ARE THE CHILDREN works. It could probably use some trimming down and some of the set pieces are sharper than others BUT (without ruining anything) let me just say that one scene in particular genuinely SHOCKED me and that’s not the easiest thing to do. Trust me, it’s safe to say the threat(s) rampaging in this film are undeniably off-putting and alarming as hell.

BLESSED focuses on three equally charming gal pals (KALEY BALL, KENI BOUNDS and ARIAN THIGPEN) and it’s sorta like SEX IN THE CITY if you replaced THE CITY with the suburbs and the SEX with being mercilessly stabbed to death by a horrific figure wearing a wailing and somewhat accusatory baby mask. Much of it may read low budget and homegrown but that’s part of its charm and it shouldn’t throw off true slasher fans raised on backyard delights (and KT favorites!) like THE MUTILATOR and OFFERINGS. You’ll note right from the opening credits though, which are a lovely homage to HALLOWEEN, that director MOORE has loftier goals in mind and he does a fine job manipulating the viewer’s focal points particularly in the well-edited Di PALMA-esque kill scenes. Garnish all that with blood red clad ambiguous marauders slicing through the flick like personified trigger warnings for anyone traumatized by THE BROOD and/or DON’T LOOK NOW and you’ve got a rather impressive roll call of worthy horror inspirations.

I’ll pull back the reins before I oversell. That’s never a fair thing to do. I can think of a few films I’d have a much healthier relationship with if only they weren’t rammed down my throat. I just know if I had blindly rented BLESSED from the Redbox I would have started off smugly thinking I knew where it was going and I’d have been proven completely wrong. These days independent filmmaking is a lot cheaper and easier than it used to be and that can lead to a bunch of movies by people who are let’s say, talent-challenged. That’s not a problem here at all. You can tell the guy behind the camera is genuinely interested in the characters and his empathy for them is contagious. Better still for gore hounds, MOORE is not afraid to take the gloves off and get nasty at the precise moment it’s required and he knows enough about horror movies (and slashers in particular) to understand which batons are worthy of passing on and which ones are ready to drop. Plus, I gotta add a busload of extra kudos for the smooth, neutral handling of the potentially incendiary subject matter. This soufflé could have easily flattened into a preachy pancake with a more heavy-handed chef and that fate is admirably avoided. So without any bias, I say, check out this movie; it’s wonderfully unnerving, notably shocking and an irrefutable reminder that the spirit of independent horror is alive and slashing. And with some bias I’ll add, YAY CHRIS! Good job, buddy! Don’t forget us little guys!

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