“Blessed are the Children” (2016): Unabashedly Flaunts Slasher Film Cliches and Tropes

Yoga pants.

Anybody can buy a pair and slip ‘em on, but that doesn’t mean they should.

The same holds true for movies. Putting together a film in this day and age is relatively simple. The price of decent equipment is affordable to almost everybody, editing software can be had for free or next to nothing and we’ve all got a couple of friends, or know a couple of people, who can act on an at least community theater level. So, yeah, just about anybody can make a movie these days, but that doesn’t mean they should.

All of which brings me to Chris Moore (Perversion, A Star is Stillborn). With a rock bottom budget, Moore almost literally defines the above “anybody can make a movie” statement. The good news, though, is that Blessed are the Children shows that he belongs in the movie industry. Whether or not he looks good in yoga pants, however, is a question to be answered another day.

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Our film starts with a nurse encountering a couple of silent, yet damned creepy looking protesters wearing baby masks as she leaves the abortion clinic she works in. Carrying signs that say “He Will Burn You” and “God Hates You”, it’s clear that these dudes don’t appreciate what goes on in her place of employment. This seems to be an odd, throwaway scene, though, as we leave this scene and cut to a shot of our main character, mid 20’s college student Traci (Kaley Ball) getting it on with John (David Moncrief). We quickly learn that John is a bit of an ass as he tells Traci, post-sex, that one of the other two girls he’s seeing might be “the one”. The next day, Traci and her friend Erin (Arian Thigpen) are leaving school when they encounter Ben (Jordan Boyd), Traci’s ex-fiance. Turns out Ben got abusive with Traci which caused her to break things off. After taunting her with that fact that her recently deceased father isn’t around to protect her anymore, Ben gets a nice slap across the mouth (deservedly so), which sets him off screaming and threatening Traci. Later, after a trip for some ice cream with Erin and another friend, Mandy (Keni Bounds), we find Traci dealing with the results of a home pregnancy test which was positive. The baby-masked protesters are soon back in the picture as it becomes apparent what that opening scene was there for. Now, with the table set and everyone in place, things start to get interesting.

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From the opening credits which are clearly inspired by John Carpenter’s Halloween, right down to a fairly similar font, it’s clear we’re in for an interesting ride. Writing a slasher movie isn’t very difficult – with the plethora of films in the genre there’s pretty much a clearly marked blueprint to follow. The hard part, the part that can make or break the story, is what the writer and director add to said blueprint to make it stand out. Moore, in both roles, takes a perennial hot button topic – abortion – and uses it perfectly as a raison d’être for events here. By no stretch is Moore the first person to use controversial religious/moral/ethical issues in a horror movie, however he manages to make it believable and creepy enough that it pulls us into the story emotionally. In addition to the opening credits, there are other nods to classic slasher films within, including one at the halfway point that simultaneously pays homage to two different films and turns things in a different direction. To say anything more about it, or the others, would venture too far into spoiler territory, however, and would ruin the experience Moore is providing.

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While there is plenty that Moore gets right, there are some aspects of the film that he stumbles with, most glaringly is the sound. Some scenes are far too quiet, almost as if the microphone was in someone’s pocket while others are akin to those commercials that everyone hates with their volume turned up to eleven. There’s also a laughable sound effect used during a stabbing sound at one point towards the end that sounds more like someone is attacking a box spring from a bed instead of a person. The lighting seems a little too dark in some scenes, but we can chalk that up to the monitor on which the film was viewed. Your mileage may vary. Also at issue is some of the blocking of certain scenes. Properly done, the old “killer appears behind the protagonist” is an effective and scary tool. Here, however, we’re left with not a feeling of dread, but of bewilderment. How is possible that someone’s peripheral vision is so bad that they can’t see someone literally standing to their side? Having the characters turned a little to the left or right would have served much better. And while Moore impressively gets good performances out of his cast, the fact that this is their first screen role is obvious in some instances. The flip side of that coin, though, is that some of the rough delivery makes the characters seem more like real people. A couple of flubbed lines come across not as mistakes, but of someone just not finding the right word, something we all do, probably on a daily basis. In fact, Moore’s dialog scripting never seems hammy or over the top which makes it easier to believe that we’re just watching a trio of friends go about their business.

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Slight technical issues aside, what we have here is an engaging film that works on a few different levels. That it was shot on a shoestring budget, with some very well done practical effects, is never obvious and while it unabashedly flaunts cliches and tropes of the slasher movie sub-genre, it takes a couple of them and turns them on their ear, giving things enough moxie and cleverness to move past being just another run-of-the-mill indie horror movie. In short, Blessed are the Children is a solid, albeit slightly rough, outing for Moore who shows that with a thousand bucks and some talented unknown actors, anyone can make a movie. However, his clever script and his ability to do more with less shows that he can do more than just make a movie – he can make a GOOD movie.

The verdict, however, is still out on the yoga pants.

Blessed are the Children (3 / 5)

Mike Imboden
Mike Imboden has been watching horror and sci-fi films since the mid 70s when he first saw The Wolfman on Sir Graves Ghastly out of Detroit. Since then he’s developed an affinity for 80s slasher movies, zombie films and Godzilla. Mike is also into comics and has written for a number of small press comics, most notably Fist of Justice (which he co-created) as well as being a contributor to the New York Times best-selling FUBAR anthologies. In addition to what you read here, he is also a contributing writer for That’s Not Current.