After getting an abortion, Traci Patterson begins to suspect that something sinister is following her and her friends.
In the classic tradition of the 1980’s slasher film, and with a heavy retro-vibe beginning with the opening synth-theme and following through until the end, Blessed Are the Children lines its victims up and kills them off with an updated approach for our current era. Written and directed by Chris Moore (and co-written by Chris Wesley), this film presents a real-world scenario that is already wrapped in stigma and fear, and then pushes it forward in a morbid, violent direction. In typical horror fashion, we are presented with a variety of possible killers, but as the story winds down, we’re also left with a handful of questions.
Traci (Kaley Ball) isn’t in the best place in her life. She just got out of an abusive relationship, now she’s dating a meathead who she can’t help but love, and her father recently passed away. Add in that her mother is rude and condescending, and that her ex-fiance keeps reappearing in her life, and things don’t seem like they could get much worse. Then she finds out she’s pregnant. She has to make some choices, and fast. So she goes to a clinic to explore her options. This, it turns out, is what gets the ball rolling, as outside of the clinic are a couple of protestors in red hoodies and child-like masks (think of the children in Cronenberg’s The Brood), and they don’t seem to appreciate a woman’s right to choose, to put it mildly.
Blessed Are the Children is kind of like what Black Christmas might have been if Bob Clark had focused on Jess Bradford’s (Olivia Hussey) decision to get an abortion, and then followed that storyline into a slasher film. Traci surrounds herself with her supportive friends, Erin (Arian Thigpen) and Mandy (Keni Bounds), which of course means we have more potential victims. And a lot of the film focuses on these three girls, each of them with distinct personalities and their own issues they’re dealing with. The characters are drawn up pretty well, especially for a low budget slasher film, and just enough where the movie doesn’t turn into a friendship dramedy rather than a horror film.
There’s a decent amount of tension built up in this film, and a decent amount of bloodletting to go right along with it. A house full of girls, a masked killer wielding a knife, an assortment of fringe characters who fall into the categories of either “collateral damage” or “potential killer” (or sometimes both) – we’ve got all the ingredients of any Friday the 13th or Halloween sequel right here.
But what sets this apart from being just another clichéd, formulaic rip-off is the premise of the antagonist(s). Putting a mask on a bad guy adds to the level of fear they produce, because who are they? Is it someone we know? Is it someone who has a reason for their actions? Is it someone who seemingly has no reason for their actions (a la Michael Myers)? Add in that we first see these masked protestors, or at least people dressed like them, outside of an abortion clinic with signs saying things like “He will burn you” and “God hates you,” and a whole new range of emotions are brought into the mix. At the same time, the realism of the situation, seeing as how we hear about abortion clinic bombings and the Westboro Baptist Church picketing funerals in real life, makes this film seem like not much of a stretch. And that is effectively scary.
There are a handful of questions that remain at the end of Blessed Are the Children, questions that I can’t go too much into without spoiling some twists. About halfway through the film, the perceived POV switches, which isn’t in itself a bad thing – it can be kind of unsettling in a good way sometimes – but it throws off the audience for a moment or two. Furthermore, did Traci end up going through with the abortion?
Unless I missed something, it isn’t clearly spelled out that she did. Again, that’s not something that kills the story, more of a lingering question. And there’s a big one at the end, but you’ll come to that on your own. Overall, this is a pretty good slasher film. It doesn’t break any new ground in the subgenre, but it is unique enough and has a distinct voice of its own to help it stand out. I look forward to whatever this filmmaker decide to make next.