Suffer Little Children Film Details
Overview: A mute child arrives at a children’s home and starts terrorizing the other children with her demonic powers.
Review: Suffer Little Children is an infamous Low-Fi horror film that emerged from New Malden, Surrey in 1984. A ‘Kid’s film’ it was produced by The Meg Shanks Drama School seemingly as a promotional tool for the talents of her early and pre-teen pupils. While at any other time such a project would probably never been seen outside of casting agents or proud parents in the early Eighties the film managed to reach a paying public thanks to a relatively wide scale tape release through fly-by-night label Films Galore. Suffer Little Children opens with some location defining computer generated titles; “Sullivan’s Children’s’ Home”, “Sunday”. At the home, troubled kids idly play in the cramped front room and chase each other around the corridors. The chaotic scene is vaguely supervised by the home’s two staff members Maurice and Jenny. Polar opposites, she’s an easy going leg warmers sporting 80s blonde and has a good rapport with the kids, Maurice on the other hand is an old fashioned man of Gray jumpers and NHS glasses, resembling Norman Eshley in George and Mildred. An average Sunday at the home is interrupted by the arrival of a mute child on the doorstep bearing a letter which reads “Please take care of Elizabeth, she can’t speak.”. Elizabeth is taken to meet the other children, one of them, Sarah asks what’s Elizabeth’s ‘problem’ i.e. why can’t she speak. Jenny gently tells the girl off for being so rude, rather less forgiving Elizabeth uses her psychic powers (indicated by a crash zoom on her eyes and a blast of heavy metal music on the soundtrack) and a door slams into Sarah’s face knocking her to the floor. Liz means business. “That Evening” Two of the other girls have a joint nightmare- brought on by either Elizabeth or a late night viewing of Plague of the Zombies- that has zombies clawing their way out of the ground and pursuing the girls. In the midst of their terror the two girls encounter Elizabeth who beckons them to a picnic. The zombies stumble upon the girls and join in the picnic as well. After the nightmare the two girls become Elizabeth’s minions. Elizabeth gets up to all sorts, using her demonic powers to knock fellow children down stairs, even causing a fight in a trendy New Wave club. By the time the adults cotton on Evil Liz has put her plan into action, growling the films title in a Linda Blair voice and turning her powers on Jenny and Maurice who get locked in the staff room and are hit by a levitating potted plant. The rest of the children end up worshipping Elizabeth in the attic and chanting “Come, Devil, Come”. Just when it appears all is lost, who should magically appear but a peeved Jesus Christ who then rather un-Christianly starts zapping all of the devil worshipping little baskets into oblivion and does battle with Liz, truly insane. As you might expect from a film whose end credits admit to being made by people with “no experience and no money” a certain amount of patience is required for Suffer Little Children, since unlike say Invitation to Hell or Cliff Twemlow’s North West actioners the film never manages to transcend its home movie origins. Had it been a ‘real’ film made by professionals Suffer Little Children would have made for a superb little horror film, and in its camcorder shot amateur hour incarnation there are still several noteworthy moments that shine through, thinking especially of the zombie dream sequence and the closing scenes with the evil kids collecting knives and hammers and going on an adult killing rampage. The climax is a true shocker in light of the leisurely paced nature of the rest of the film with the taboo use of child actors in an wildly gory spectacle. Special mention is also due to Nicola Diana, the child actress playing Elizabeth who cuts a genuinely disquieting figure. By the film’s end she’s presiding over satanic rituals and clad in a white bed sheet like a mini-version of Linda Hayden in Blood on Satan’s Claw. What Director Alan Briggs and Shanks lacked in film-making know-how they made up for in self-promotion holding many heavily reported on publicity stunts during Suffer Little Children’s making and video release. Including holding a casting call for zombies and having Meg Shanks pupils hold a protest outside of Richard Attenborough’s office attempting to get Dickie to endorse the film. Pushing audience gullibility a bit, in a pre-Blair Witch touch the filmmakers claimed the film was a reconstruction of actual events that took place at a house in New Malden in August, 1984. In case anyone doubted this claim they even printed the address on the back of the video (45 Kingston Road, New Malden, Surrey, if you’re interested). Not all publicity is good publicity though, released at the height of Video Nasty hysteria the film and its makers ultimately fell foul of the tabloid press who in their typical ‘never let the truth get in the way of a good story’ manner managed to make the film sound as disreputable an undertaking as possible. The ensuing controversy kept the film name checked in the tabloids and film trade magazines throughout 1985. By all accounts the video distributor and Shanks suffered much unnecessary police harassment as a result, the human cost of a tabloid ‘good story’ of which the consequences to people’s lives and reputations last long after said newspapers become yesterday’s fish and chip paper. While Director Briggs has at least one other credit to his name Ghetto Wars -described as a ‘post-apocalyptic sci-fi film’- the bad press meant Meg Shanks and her little drama school were never heard from again. Evil kids are one thing, but the storm in a teacup case of Suffer Little Children suggests the scariest thing about 1980s Britain was the tabloid press.
Country: United Kingdom
Duration: 74 min
Also known as: Suffer Little Children