A childless couple adopt a young girl who has some baggage of the supernatural sort to deal with.
Horror films with demonic children in the spotlight are some of the most popular in the genre. I can go back as far as 1956 (although I’m sure there are earlier ones), and find evil children films like The Bad Seed. Other notable films in this sub genre are Children Of The Corn (1984), The Omen (1976), Who Can Kill A Child? (also 1976), Devil Times Five (1974), Bloody Birthday (1981) and two films different called The Children (1980/2008). There are dozens more I could list (Children Of The Corn alone has SEVEN sequels & a remake), but I’m here to tell you about the latest film featuring a evil child, simply called June.
As the film opens, a baby girl is placed on a sort of sacrificial altar by a group of shroud wearing adults. Their leader cuts her hand open and drips blood on the child’s forehead, preparing to summon something. But at the last minute, the child is rescued from its predicament by one of the attendees, who then runs off with the baby. Cut to some years later, and we find June (approximately 9 years old), living with a white trash family that fulfills all of the stereotypes that go along with that archetype: A fat, slovenly father who’s never seen without a beer in his hand, a mom who wears clothes that are far too tight, and might be working as a prostitute, and siblings who make it their job to torture little June every chance they get. They even live in a dilapidated trailer in the midst of a even more dilapidated trailer park. How June ended up there isn’t explained, but her case worker, Mr. Emmanuel (Eddie Jemison), promises June that he’s going to put her in a better place soon because he knows what can happen when she gets “upset”.
Not long after, June’s foster family is throwing a BBQ party filled with more stereotypical white trash attendees. June is silently playing with her favorite doll when two boys decide to taunt her by throwing firecrackers at her. When she doesn’t respond to the firecrackers as hoped, one of them gets up and tries to snatch up her doll as he berates her. June finally responds by summoning up a strong wind, as her eyes turn black and she emits a loud, banshee like scream that knocks out everyone at the BBQ. Soon afterwards, Mr. Emmanuel gets June into a new foster home with a couple who can’t have children, Dave (Casper Van Dien) & Lily (Victoria Pratt) Anderson. The Andersen’s are a loving couple, with a nice home and plenty of love to give to June, and it seems that June is going to do very well in her new surroundings. But June doesn’t say too much (the only sound she’s uttered up to this point was the scream at the trailer park), and she spends a lot of time drawing nightmarish images of her new family, with the dad crossed out. She also draws pictures of something she calls Aery (referred to as “Aer” by everyone else), her imaginary friend. But the Andersen’s soon discover that Aery isn’t as imaginary as June says she is…
Let’s get the good stuff about June out of the way first, shall we? Director/Co-writer (with Sharon Y. Cobb) L. Gustavo Cooper does a very good job of keeping the movie flowing in a straightforward manner. June isn’t the type of film that’s gonna keep you at the edge of your seat, it’s a slow burn movie that methodically lays its cards cards on the table. I have no problem with that approach if the source material is gripping, but the script isn’t particularly gripping (more on that later). Cooper also does a good job with his actors, everyone is believable and I even felt a pang of remorse for June and her predicament. Kudos to Kennedy Brice for turning in a good performance despite the fact that she had very few lines to speak, she says a lot with her eyes and I was summarily impressed with her. Both Van Dien & Pratt also do a very good job as the Andersen’s as well. Their relationship felt very real to me, almost as if they weren’t acting at all. The cinematography (by Ryan Patrick Dean) is crisp and clear, and the few makeup FX we see are fairly creepy – but they’re on screen for only a few seconds.
Now to the bad stuff. I called June a slow burn movie, and indeed it is, but it’s so slow that it loses a lot of the momentum it built up in the beginning during the ritual. I have no problem with slow burn, methodical films, but the near glacial pace of this one is a big detriment to enjoying it. Additionally, there are quite a few loose ends left dangling in the breeze after it ends. You see, the film tries to shuttle back & forth with its fairly stilted narrative. Sometimes it’s a story of a young couple dealing with a troubled foster child, other times it’s a kind of conspiracy flick with a group of people who know what Aer is and need June to complete the ritual that was thwarted at the beginning of the film. I would’ve preferred it if it stuck to one of those narratives instead of trying to meld them together, because it really doesn’t work unless you give both of those htreads an ending. June leaves both of the narratives dangling at the end – explaining none of them.
In trying to combine elements of both Carrie (1976) and Firestarter (1984), June forgets what made these films successful (relatively so in the case of Firestarter). Both of those films saw their plots through to the end, they had conclusions that made sense, and they each had a nice share of WTF moments that made them memorable. June completely fails in this regard, and that’s a shame because it isn’t a terrible film – it’s just ordinary. It doesn’t seem to want to aspire to greatness, it settles into its Lifetime Movie Of The Week vibe, and stays there. If you’re in the mood for a horror film that you can watch with the lights out without any fear of being scared silly – then June is for you.
June – 2 out of 5 shrouds.
RLJ Entertainment releases June to DVD and Digital on October 6th.