Wicked Little Things has a very important lesson to teach us all. Zombie/Ghost children are terrifying.
It’s that simple. It doesn’t matter how hokey or obvious the plot, if you get your monster right then you will succeed in scaring the pants off your audience.
It’s surprising how many horror filmmakers seem to neglect this.
The film begins with the prologue of a mining disaster in 1913, killing a whole group of young children.
In the present day recently widowed Karen Tunny (Lori Heuring) and her daughters, Sarah (Scout Taylor-Compton) and Emma (Chloe Moretz) move into the family cabin, inherited after the death of her husband. One small problem, the cabin is in the back of beyond, up a mountain, and hasn’t been lived in for years.
On arrival the front door, seemingly painted with blood, creaks open. Uh oh. Turn back ladies! Foolishly they move in, battling with dodgy electricity and broken pipes.
Needless to say, the decaying interior of the house is the least of their worries.
Stories of zombie children and mining accidents abound, whilst Emma is drawn deep into the woods by the cries of children to find her new friend Mary (Helia Grekova). The only problem is Mary’s dead and she and her friends are bent on killing anyone who gets in their way. Throw in a crazy neighbour sacrificing pigs to the children, and the descendent of the dastardly original Mill owner and you have a totally run-of-the-mill (no pun intended) painted-by-numbers plot.
The plot is stunningly obvious and ridiculous, though luckily thankfully the film doesn’t try to hide this, clearly signposting the narrative direction from the get go.
Karen even finds a handy drawer full of newspaper clippings and photos which explain the background. The characters consistently do the most stupid thing, and it all feels quite blah blah blah.
And yet, the film has a massively powerful trick up its sleeve: the dead children. Are they ghosts (they are dead and vengeful, but they aren’t apparitions)? Are they zombies (they kill the living and eat their flesh but they move normally and once bitten no one else becomes a zombie)? Who cares about such details. They’re dead, seriously pissed off and look completely ghastly. Apart from being dressed in old-fashioned mining garb (think Victorian urchin with a flat cap) they bear striking resemblance to the child in Ju-on/The Grudge (Takashi Shimizu, 2002): deadened white faces, black eyes and mouths smeared with blood. They run through the foggy woods at night with pick-axes and shovels, killing anyone who comes into the wood and then tearing them apart for dinner. Crikey Moses, I haven’t been that scared for a while.
Additional film information: Wicked Little Things (2006)