Bless the Child
is one of several identikit supernatural thrillers released in the wake of The Sixth Sense
. It's another attempt to update 70s satanic-child flicks such as The Omen
, although the twist here is that the child is a force for ultimate good. One winter night, nurse Maggie O'Connor (Kim Basinger) arrives home to find her junkie sister Jenna on her doorstep, destitute and in dire straits, holding a newly born baby wrapped in swaddling. She takes them in, but shortly after Jenna absconds leaving the child, Cody, in Maggie's care. Six years later, Jenna returns with her creepy new husband, Eric (Rufus Sewell), in tow to reclaim Cody, who has grown into a quiet but precocious child with a talent for telekinesis. They promptly disappear leaving Maggie distraught and desperate to recover her adopted child.
The chief problem with Bless the Child lies in its premise. As the film reaches its denouement and a glowing angelic host attempts to save Cody by snuffing out Sewell's satanic presence, one begins to suspect that this is the Hollywood equivalent of a Christian Rock album, attempting religious conversion by stealth and subversion. That said, the movie rolls along at a cracking pace and features several nice touches: Sewell is suitably creepy as the squint-eyed cult leader; Christina Ricci literally loses her head to the forces of darkness in a blink and you'll miss it cameo; and Cody's horrific waking nightmares put a new twist on what really lies at the end of the bed when the lights go out.
On the DVD: An awkward audio commentary pairs director Chuck Russell with visual effects supervisor Joel Hynek. Russell is keen on spelling out the rather obvious motivations of his characters while Hynek relays the difficulties encountered in realising the film's numerous special effects sequences, but it's hardly the kind of stuff that enhances your viewing of the film. A 10-minute featurette contains the standard enthusiastic cast and crew interviews. The inclusion of a theatrical trailer and seven virtually identical TV spots is simply overkill. The clear picture quality of the main feature shows off Peter Menzies' suitably Gothic cinematography, presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic format with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. --Chris Campion
When Maggie (Kim Basinger of L.A. Confidential and Batman) comes home to her apartment building one night, she discovers her estranged, drug-addict sister Jenna huddling in the doorway. Jenna promptly abandons her newborn baby with Maggie, who proceeds to raise the child as her own, despite evidence of autism. But as the little girl, Cody, gets older, what seemed to be autism starts to manifest itself in more startling ways. At the same time, a series of child murders are sweeping the city--murders conducted by a mysterious cult with supernatural matters on their mind. Bless the Child starts promisingly, with subdued, creepy scenes contrasted with more outrageous moments like swarms of computer-generated rats. Fans of religious horror movies will enjoy its twist on The Omen, with an angelic child instead of a demonic one--only the child is still pretty eerie. The special effects go a little overboard towards the end. Jimmy Smits (Price of Glory) costars as an FBI cult chaser, and Rufus Sewell (Dark City, Cold Comfort Farm) gives a pleasantly restrained performance as the charismatic cult leader. Also featuring Christina Ricci as a cult escapee and Ian Holm as a Jesuit priest. --Bret Fetzer