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Suffer little Children
Hideo Nakata’s new film, DARK WATER, is a triumph of creepy, slow burning horror and an admirable addition to a slim body of great scary movies that put the child centre stage. \(‘Jordsi Paul Dale
Is a collective memory thing. The images come back now.
distilled and chilled in time. Look. we are by a lake with a
little girl throwing flowers into the water aided by a man- made monster. Now we move through snow as a boy runs ahead pursued by his axe wielding. psychotic daddy. Moments pass. and a dwarf in a red cape hunches in a Venetian passageway. Then a bowl—headed boy watches a girl crouch under his bed.
The child and the horror. It is. after all. in our formative years that we sketch out our own demons (please mummy. don’t turn off the landing light . . .). And yet after over 100 years of lilm. Freud and infanticide. the pleasurable pain any real horror buff derives from watching the children suffer is still something of a taboo subject. So. lest we forget. let’s celebrate those child actors who genuinely made us want to pee ourselves with fear.
In Dark llinvr. Hideo .\'akata (Ring. Ring 2) has recreated the type of film that was perfected by .\'ic Roeg in Don 'I [no/v Now (l‘)73l and then lay generically dormant until .\1 Night Shyamalan lucked out with The Sixth Sense in l‘)‘)‘). Dark Water tells the eerie story of a young woman who's been forced to deal with the break-up of her marriage while battling an estranged husband for the custody of their six-year—old daughter. The pair move into a decrepit apartment block in a rundown area of town and. as well as the water running brown and the little girl continually disappearing. there are other strange occurrences and a malignant air lingering around the empty walkways. l'nsurprisingly. the mother begins to crack up: is it just paranoia of losing her daughter or are there genuine manifestations from the past watching over them‘.’
It may not be the most original premise but it's scary beans nonetheless. In the young actress Rio Kanno. .\'akata has found a natural. In one scene she looks into the reception office’s lost property box. so perplexed that some toys have disappeared that she jtist stares. entranced. overloaded. unable to take in the spookiness of the situation. Missing toys and
20 THE LIST 7‘." Jar? LUCA
invisible friends seem far more important than her parent's neurosis. But above all. children in peril are set tip for our delight
because they‘re too cute. And this is the key. Kiddies in horror
movies need to have the look; there is no space for an ugly kid. unless we are dealing with foetuses that are generally the spawn of the devil (a la Rt).\('I)I(lI'_\".\' [iii/iv). The audience needs
to believe that beauty and innocence have the possibility of
being smeared across the four whitewashed walls of the cradle.
liveryonc knows that the most scary moment in movie histon involving children (well. adults pretending to be kids) is in the llirunl of 0:. when the Wicked Witch of the West sets loose the flying monkeys on Dorothy. But what we are more interested with here is the use of child jeopardy as a cheap suspense mechanism. So let us hail the good work done by Sissy Spacek in ('urrit' (jtist squee/ing in as a menstrual teen-child). Danny Lloyd in The Shining (who was sheltered
by Stanley Kubrick into believing that he wasn't really part of
the film). (’arrie chn being protected by Sigourncy Weaver in .-\/i¢'nx and Linda Blair spinning around in The lz'xon'isi.
Of course there's more. but first you need to remember that these were poster children like few others; what lay ahead was Usually a life of horror movie symposiums and rehab but fora few brief moments in their young li\Cs they centralised all our hopes and fears. So. to this list you can add Brad Hall in William liriedkin’s second foray into horror with The (hum/run. .-\lex Vincent in the iconic (Vii/(1's l’/u_v films and the entire cast of Hispanic ghost-mystery 'I'lu' Dari/Ts
Backbone. to mention but a platoon of this miniature army of
We salute them all. these little angels. In the words of
David Bowie: let the children boogie/'l‘here's a Starman waiting in the sky.‘ .»\s long as said alien intends to put children in the mouth of danger. that'sjust peachy.
Dark Water opens Fri 6 Jun. See review, page 23.
SOME CHILD ACTORS HAVE MADE US WANT TO PEE OURSELVES WITH
The kids are all fright in Dark Water, Don't Look Now, Aliens