DECEMBER 28, 2012
Ever since I started HMAD, I've done my best to see all theatrically released horror films in theaters, though a few always pass me by (usually in October, when there's just too much going on to hit everything). But it's rare to stumble across something like The Afflicted, which not only played but made a decent amount of money (over 200k on 13 screens - to compare, the far more recognizable V/H/S played on 19 and only made half that) - yet I never even heard of it until it popped up on Netflix Instant. And I'm the guy actively LOOKING for stuff like this - clearly there's something broken in the system.
Anyway, it's a decent flick, though I'm not sure what the point is. It's based on the real life story of Theresa Knorr, a woman with a few children who went batshit crazy and began abusing her two oldest daughters, including forcing one into prostitution in order to make money to pay bills. A terrible, depressing story to be sure, but I'm not sure if it was crying out to be dramatized and turned into a horror film in the vein of The Girl Next Door (another true life case of horrid abuse), because there isn't much there in terms of plot or even characters - beyond the six person family unit (including Kane Hodder as the father, who exits the movie quicker than Jason did in Jason Goes To Hell), there are only two other people in the movie: a scumbag who pays to deflower (rape) one of the daughters, and a TV preacher that the mom fancies.
That's the angle that the movie should have exploited, but he gets sidelined for long stretches where we just see the mom (Leslie Easterbrook) smacking around one of the daughters for one reason or another, or drinking and muttering to herself. The description made it sound like something along the lines of Frailty, with her convinced that demons were around and that she was doing this stuff under the guise of "protecting" her children, but without that heavy religious influence (and the fact that the preacher sort of turns hero toward the end), she just comes across as a standard psychotic. For a while I just assumed they were sticking closely to the story out of respect or something, but the ending is completely different from reality - in real life Knorr is still in prison, thanks to testimony from the daughter, but in the movie (spoiler) the daughter kills her and then commits suicide.
Luckily the performances make up for the thin story. Easterbrook can be a bit over the top, but anyone who just knows her as Callahan from the Police Academy movies will be in shock to see her Piper Laurie-ing it up here, and the girls playing her daughters - despite not looking anything like her or each other - are also quite good. Kane's role is too brief to say much about, though it's always nice to see him out of the makeup, and kind of amusing to see him as a victim. It's also well made across the board - I wouldn't have been bewildered to have been watching this in a theater like some of the junk I've seen recently (Saint Dracula!), though their credit guy deserves a good smack to the balls for spelling the Prophet guy's name as "Cowboy Profit" in the end titles.
Not much else to say, really. I wasn't bored or annoyed watching it, but again I'm not sure what the point was - everything the movie offered could be described in its brief plot synopsis. Girl Next Door introduced some thriller elements, plus a strong dose of Stand By Me-ish nostalgia/coming of age drama mixed with terror - this doesn't really have either; it just matter of factly tells its story. The daughters never make much of an effort to escape (the son is almost a complete non-entity), and there's no way to feel much sympathy toward Easterbrook's character (they also don't explore the idea that she's able to act normal when confronted by school officials or whoever). Similarly, the performances are good, but they're not the sort of "Holy shit this is award-worthy" tour de force work that are enough to overlook the story issues. It's basically the most "OK" movie ever made. Grats?
What say you?
P.S. Since it's available on Netflix Instant, does anyone want to play music detective? The music that underscores the birthday party in the opening scene (around 1:40 in the movie) is definitely something I've heard before, but it's not any of the songs listed in the credits. Can anyone identify it and let me know what it is? I'll give you a dollar.