"Bless The Child" Movie Review

Starring Kim Basinger, Jimmy Smits, Holliston Coleman, Rufus Sewell, and Christina Ricci

Say what you will about Bless the Child. I myself liked it. Quite a lot, in fact.

Many people get squeamish about movies that take God and Satan seriously. (Particularly us critics, who like to elevate "ironic detachment" to an art form.) I myself am genetically predisposed towards Catholic horror movies, and rarely pass up a chance to see one. I LIKE Catholic horror movies, dammit; the more lurid, the better.

Bless the Child is nothing if not lurid, but it has several other charms, as well. For example, it has Rufus Sewell as the cockeyed, charismatic leader of the New Dawn cult, which steals children for bloody basement sacrifices. It has Easter as its dramatic deadline, which is perfectly appropriate, and yet (so far as I know) unique. It also has Kim Basinger as the fiercely protective adoptive mother of a mildly autistic little girl named Cody. (Cody is played by a young actress with the improbable name of Holliston Coleman.)

Cody was born to Kim Basinger's sister, who dumped Cody in Basinger's lap when Cody was only a few days old. Strung out on all manner of unspecified drugs, Basinger's sister flees the scene, only to return six years later (accompanied by Rufus Sewell) to retrieve her daughter.

Basinger's reaction to this demand is absolutely perfect: she's restrained, but furious. I've never felt much one way or the other towards Kim Basinger, but I really thought she did a bang-up job in Bless the Child. She hits all the right notes, and the script leads her in all the right directions.

In any other movie, scenes like this would quickly devolve into an Oprah Moment, with the rightful mother weeping and wailing, while the child clings tearfully to mother's skirts. Instead, Basinger quietly but firmly sends Cody to her room, then proceeds to read her sister the riot act. Fantastic!

There are several wonderful touches like this to be found in Bless the Child. They're quiet moments, easily overlooked, but they're there if you watch for them.

Now, I've seen an awful lot of horror movies about Satan, and most of them have very little God in the works. Regardless of your personal beliefs, within the construct of a movie which believes in Satan made flesh, it always strikes me as negligent, one-sided screenwriting to have Satan tramping all over hell and gone, without a single mention of God. One would think that a movie which is open about its belief about Satan wouldn't be so close-minded about God; after all, isn't that the point of Satan in the first place?

Although Satan definitely steals the show here, God does get a certain amount of screen time. If you're not particularly keen on that sort of thing, then Bless the Child probably isn't the movie for you. I thought it was done rather well, though; although angels do pop up for the occasional deus ex machina saving throw, Basinger does most of the work on her own. (And unlike Robin Tunney in End of Days, she doesn't need Arnold Schwarzenegger's help.)

I particularly liked a scene near the end of the movie, when Basinger (armed with a revolver) shows up at Rufus Sewell's lair to retrieve Cody by force. Sewell, taking a great deal of relish in his snake-like role, asks "Are you really going to shoot me, Maggie? Right here, in front of Cody?" Without missing a beat, Basinger glances at Cody and says "Close your eyes, sweetheart."

How can you NOT love that?

Summary: Lurid, gothic, and easily digestible

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