Saturday, 20 February 2016


Long term readers here at Hickey's House of Horrors will know that I'm a big fan of both horror shorts and the writing of Stephen King.
So you know what I'd really love?
A top quality horror short based on one of King's underappreciated stories!
After I reviewed Bonfire Films' top-notch haunted house horror flick, The Hanover House, plus director Corey Norman's riotous short, Tickle, the generous folks there were kind enough to offer me access to a screener of their new short, Suffer The Little Children, which was published in King's 1993 anthology Nightmares & Dreamscapes.
So is this return to our schooldays a dream come true?
Or would I want to put it in detention?
Read on...


Dir: Corey Norman
Starring: Anne Bobby, Andrew Lyndaker, Beth Somerville, Dan Domingues, Matthew Delamater, James Noel Hoben, Alexa Reddy, Rebecca I. Allen, Bella Moore

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here as this is a short, but continue at your own risk.

Ms Sidley (Nightbreed's Bobby) is an ageing third-grade teacher who runs her classroom with strict discipline, yet seems to be losing her grip a little as she nears retirement age. This is regularly commented upon by both students and fellow teachers who openly wonder when she's going to call it a day. However, one day she notices something strange about a boy in her class, young Robert (Lyndaker).
Upon confronting Robert over what she fears she may have seen, the boy reveals that he may be something other than human, terrifying the teacher and causing her to run screaming from the school and out into the road where she is struck by a vehicle.
After recovering from her injuries, Ms Sidley returns to school and once again speaks to Robert — who reveals he might not be the only inhuman entity among the student body.
Fearing that only she can stop this insidious invasion, an unstable Sidley hatches a truly shocking plan to take matters into her own hands..

WHY IT WORKS: A polished and accomplished horror short, Suffer The Little Children is a big hit due to two key factors. The first of these is the incomparable Anne Bobby, who absolutely makes this role her own. Much like her work in Norman's Hanover House, Bobby is absolutely scintillating to watch, delivering a complex and fearless performance. This character may be our lead, but she certainly isn't our heroine, and Bobby is fully prepared to embrace the elements that make Ms Sidley morally shady.
Bobby is onscreen for pretty much the entirety of the short's 22-minute runtime and it's a testimony to this superb actress' ability that she commands the viewers full attention throughout.
Simply excellent.
Bobby isn't the only cast member to deliver the goods. The other half of what is essentially a two-piece ensemble, young Lyndaker also impresses. The star of Norman's previous creepy short, Tickle, in that film I thought he was pretty good. However, I'm pleased to say that since then young Lyndaker has come on in leaps and bounds and is fantastic here. When playing 'creepy', it can be all too easy for an actor to overegg the pudding, veering into hamminess and robbing the character of a lot of their menace. At his tender years Lyndaker avoids this trap, instead bestowing the simple phrase: 'Tomorrow something bad will happen' with plenty of foreboding. Subtly switching up his performance at key moments, Lyndaker really hits his mark.
Credit should probably go to director Norman for coaxing such fine performances from his cast, but that isn't the only area in which he deserves praise. Earlier I said that this short is a success on two fronts, and the second of these is Norman's assured direction. Much like The Hanover House and Tickle, the film has fantastically atmospheric visuals. The main challenge when adapting any of Stephen King's works is to put across the mood and characterisation that runs throughout his writing. King is a wonderful storyteller and to adapt his words to a different medium requires an equally strong command of the process of telling a tale. When that medium is film, one has to be able to fully utilise the visual component, and the story (adapted by Haley Norman) grants the director plenty of opportunity to do just that. The cinematography is stunning and cleverly subverts the usual tropes of dark and dingy settings for horror, instead transposing these terrifying events to a brightly lit classroom. There is real potential for scares in subverting expectations and the innocence of youth and Norman preys upon this potential flawlessly.
The creative team of Norman and Norman hail from King's stomping ground of Maine and it seems that has afforded them with perfect insight into how best to bring the modern master of horror's tales to life. The plot looks at some seriously weighty issues — violence in schools, mental illness and gun control among them, but never clubs us over the head with its message, instead remembering that most important of objectives: to remain entertaining at all times.
Alternating between cutesy but unnerving and some pretty nightmarish visual effects, the film is a real tour de force and captures that decidedly Eighties aethetic of King's best work. Considering the fact that Tickle totally felt like a classic Eighties creature feature, it should come as no surprise to see that Norman's filmmaking style was a perfect fit for this story. 
And, while we're talking about the story, full credit must go to the Normans for keeping the darkness of King's original tale intact. A lot of filmmakers might have chickened out of going to the place that Suffer The Little Children does, but this film is unflinching and maintains the bite of the short story.
The climactic sequence of this film is legitimately shocking — in fact it may even offend some — and I was left in awe of the ballsiness displayed by the Normans here. It's presented in such a way to have its full impact and, just like the rest of the film, its stunning production values make it even more impressive.

SO WHERE'S IT AT? The short is currently doing the rounds of the festival circuit where its picking up plenty of well-deserved awards. Check out the official Bonfire Films Facebook page here for more information on where you can catch Suffer The Little Children.

10 WORD WRAP-UP: Bonfire Films bring Stephen King's psychological horror to life stunningly

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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