25 November 2012

Children of Sorrow 2013 - REVIEW

It's not every day I get to attend a film festival in LA so I was really excited about traveling to California for Shockfest Film Festival. Escorted by actor/director Alex Ballar, we made our way to Raleigh Studios for the "For Kids... Not" screening block that included two short films, Adam and Kill Devil Hill (my review here) and the feature Children of Sorrow. I was pleasantly surprised to see a packed audience for the return of the Rogue River duo, Jourdan McClure and Ryan Finnerty.

Ellen (Hannah Levien) is on a mission to find out what happened to her sister. Her last known location was a compound in Mexico where she had gone to "find herself". Simon Leach (Bill Oberst Jr.), the enigmatic leader of the cult, happily accepts her into the fold and introduces her to their way of life. At first she's hell bent on finding out the fate of her sister but the longer she's there, the more she starts buying into the cult type rhetoric and is systematically sucked into their lifestyle. Simon uses his influence to break them down one by one, exposing their weaknesses and leaving them completely vulnerable so he can step in and fill the void. He convinces them that his way is the only way and eventually manipulates them into doing the most horrific things. 

The thing with most Indie films is that often times they will suffer in one area or another because of a lack of funding. It seems inevitable these days that a film either has a great cast or a great visual story. Thankfully, McClure seemed to have a strong grasp on the casting part of this conundrum. What had to be an emotionally draining experience on them, each and every cast member played their part to a tee. It's been a while since I've seen a film where the commitment of the actors was so fierce. Oberst dominates the screen (as always) and gives the performance of his career. It's hard to know his personality and imagine that he could even come close to capturing a character with this degree of sadism. He is nothing less than mesmerizing on screen, especially in this film. The perfect storm of perversity.

Shot in four different perspectives, Children of Sorrow delves deep into the inner workings of cult life. We get little glimpses from Hannah's camera as she secretly films her infiltration of the camp. Father Simon records his ventures citing posterity reasons. Mary (Whitney Nielsen) takes the reins when Simon decides he wants to be in front of the camera. Lastly, we have the security cameras. This is where we get to see the true Father Simon. In front of the camera, he may seem like a confident, loving person but behind the scenes, he's really a self hating, manipulative, controlling con artist that gets off on playing with people's emotions. In my opinion, there is nothing more horrifying than the deliberate terror that one human can inflict on another and writer Finnerty weaves quite an entangling web of truly intense horror. 

While I thoroughly enjoyed this film and will highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a hard core psychological horror, I did feel at some point the direction of the film got lost. I'll explain... the first quarter to half of the film, the main focus seems to be all about Hannah finding her sister but somewhere in the midst of this, it shifts and becomes all about Father Simon. It's possible that it was intentional and that the more she became seduced into the family, the more irrelevant her story became. In which case, I would've liked to have seen a smoother transition into that story line. However, this absolutely does not take away from the fact that this is a truly terrifying look into the cult psyche. Forget jump scares and things that go bump in the night, this is how real horror is done.


  1. Thank you Twisted Central, for taking the time to write about CHILDREN OF SORROW. I am eternally grateful to Jourdan McClure and Ryan Finnerty for allowing me to give voice and life to Father Simon. That bastard still haunts my dreams. I hope he does the same for the eventual viewers of the film.

    1. I just watched this film and it definitely will have me having new nightmares about Simon. Great work dude!

  2. Any news on where we can watch this film?

  3. You can find an update here :) http://www.twistedcentral.com/2013/05/after-dark-films-announces-fourth-film.html