ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, AUG. 17, 2000
As soon as I got home after seeing Bless the Child, I happened to check my mail and found a schedule for the Vancouver Film School’s part-time fall classes. The cover of the glossy pamphlet caught my eye because it read, in big green letters, If You Suck, You Can Always Become a Film Critic.
Now, I’m living proof that anyone can be a movie critic, but the timing of this particular piece of junk mail left me cold, ’cause I’d just spent two hours suffering through one of the most insipid Satanic horror flicks of all time. The last time I was so poorly entertained I was having a root canal, but not only that, now I have to spend another tiny chunk of my life thinking about that dreck while I bang out this slagging review. Oh sure, you can always become a film critic.
Look how much fun it is!
Kim Basinger, the best-looking bad actress in Hollywood, stars as strait-laced New York City nurse Maggie O’Connor, whose junkie kid sister shows up one night and saddles her with an autistic newborn named Cody. As we find out later, this child has special powers that the forces of evil have been waiting to control, but at first all she can do is bang her head against a wall and make toys spin around real fast.
Later on, the kid brings a dead bird back to life and makes a whole bunch of church candles light up. Whoopie-ding. How is that supposed to save the world when the forces of darkness—in one of the movie’s only worthwhile scenes—can make demonic rats mould themselves into Beelzebub himself?
Eventually Cody gets abducted by a group of child-killing Satanists, and that’s when TV’s Jimmy Smits gets on the case as good-guy FBI agent John Travis. (We know he’s good because, in one of many shameful scenes, the dead lilies on his desk suddenly turn fresh!) A slumming Christina Ricci—obviously strapped for cash after devoting herself to all those low-budget indie flicks—shows up as a tough chick whose head falls off in a subway. And the well-respected Ian Holm from The Sweet Hereafter has one scene as an advice-giving reverend so the producers can use his name in the media kit.
An excruciatingly silly script, clunky editing, and an overbearing orchestral score help make Bless the Child something to avoid at all costs. It’s based on a novel called The Devil in the Sixth Circle by Cathy Cash Spellman. Never heard of it? Judging by this awful adaptation, there’s damn good reason for that.