Monday, October 6, 2008


WICKED LITTLE THINGS was among the initial batch of After Dark's Horrorfest productions, and generally considered the worst of the lot. Having not seen all of the entries I'll reserve judgment, but I will say this 2006 film is the cinematic equivalent of an '80s horror paperback--all that's missing is the Zebra logo on the DVD sleeve. Derivative and trite, it hits all the prerequisite horror bases, director J.S. Cardone doling out the cliches with clockwork timing.

Sort of a combination ghost/zombie tale (a variation I've been noticing a lot lately), WICKED LITTLE THINGS concerns a single mother and her two daughters moving into a ramshackle house in the Pennsylvania mountains following her husband's death. The house, they'll come to discover, is located near an abandoned mine, where several child-workers were buried alive in a long-ago accident. And with the developments of a local real estate baron--a sinister, greedy real estate baron, as if there were no other kind--tearing up the nearby earth it isn't long before the spirits/undead bodies of (the film never makes it clear which) are out and about, feeding messily on secondary characters.

The film is steeped in rustic atmosphere, making a good setting for a ghost yarn, but the screenplay is too riddled with well-worn tropes; it's the kind of movie where the local handyman is a convenient source of exposition, as if the ability to identify people in old photographs and relate dormant legends are part of a plumber's job description. It also asks us to be divinely patient with the older daughter--as always an unrelenting bitch--as if we're suddenly going to care and be so happy once she finally settles down after her encounter with the supernatural. (Um, how about she gets eaten by zombie moppets in the first reel and save us all some misery?) Of course, the younger daughter is friendly with the ghost-zombie kids, and helps them back to the other side--you know how this is going to end before it even begins.

A few familiar faces pop up in the cast, including HALLOWEEN's Scout Taylor-Compton and veteran character actor Geoffrey Lewis . . . but who did Ben Cross piss off to get stuck in this mess? He should bring a little class to the picture, hut his overwrought performance drags him down with the others.

If Dickensian-looking zombie kids give you nightmares, by all means watch this one with the lights out. If you're a little more hardened to the conventions of the genre, you've already seen this movie before, why repeat yourself?

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