Director: Alan Briggs
Intervision Picture Corp./Severin Films

A school project gets swept up into a nation's moral panic with the British shot-on-videotape horror epic SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN, on DVD from Intervision.

A recreation of "true events" that occurred at the now derelict Sullivan Children's Home, SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN opens as mute girl Elizabeth (Nicola Diana) turns up on the doorstep with a letter suggesting that she has been abandoned by her parents. Unable to track them down, the staff take her in, setting off a chain of mysterious injuries and inexplicable outbursts of violence between the other children. Supervisor Maurice (Colin Chamberlain) at first suspects the cause is the bad influence of returning orphan-turned-rock star Mick (Jon Hollanz) – accompanied by his roadie Hustler (editor Mark Insull) – but that may be his jealousy over the younger man's interest in his colleague Jenny (Ginny Rose) who starts to believe that little Elizabeth may be the cause since she seems to have made lapdogs of former bullies Carol and Jules but she cannot explain how Elizabeth is able to influence them or any of the other children without the ability to speak. As events take on a telekinetic turn, Maurice, Mick, and Jenny suspect that Elizabeth is something more unnatural than a mere troubled child.

A videotaped take on the "devil child" subgenre mounted by members of the Meg Shanks Drama School, SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN features uneven performances, limp staging, dodgy photography (with the white balance shifting between shots from white and blown-out to sickly yellow), listless editing of endless dialogue scenes (including the painfully obligatory romance between Jenny and Mick), and a music track that often muffles the camcorder microphone-recorded dialogue. On the other hand, it has zombies, blood-gagging children, adults bloodily killed by children and bloodily killing children in self-defense, children chanting "Come, Satan, come!" like metal fans, interjections of metal guitar, and Jesus Christ with his crown of thorns and his phasers set on stun. At times it almost seems to be a quirky Christian scare film, particularly with the knife-wielding children a visualization of the Whitehouse crowd's fear of "imitable behavior" combined with devil worship and heavy metal music (including the godawful theme song "Suffer Suffer Little Children" that Mick puzzlingly thinks would be appropriate accompaniment to a girl's birthday party). It is ultimately too silly to take seriously, although the bloody finale does have some moments reminiscent of the queasy climax of BEWARE: CHILDREN AT PLAY.

Sourced from videotape, Intervision's single-layer, fullscreen transfer is soft, noisy, and prone to drop-outs, and tape damage on top of the amateurish video editing of the production. The audio problems on the Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track are just as much the fault of the editing with music muffling dialogue, and music breaking up at the high end, so it is just as well that optional English SDH subtitles are also included (although they do refer to Maurice as Morris despite the correct name being listed in the end credits).

Intervision has scrounged up a pair of nice extras starting with "School of Shock" (10:31), an interview with director Alan Briggs, a rock promoter who offered up his experience with video to Meg Shanks and her students. The script was workshopped by the students through improvisation exercises and they would also judge the auditions. Briggs notes that the students working behind the camera also took initiative on location by ripping a bannister out of one derelict house to use on the staircase of the house they were going to shoot in, and that it was the children calling for more blood. He also notes that the parents were supportive of the effort, helping with the promotion of the film through funding and transportation. He reveals that the president of Films Galore who picked up the movie was an eccentric fellow who believed in aliens and decided to skip over the step of submitting the film to the BBFC, and that the company's offices were raided by the police shortly thereafter. "Seducing the Gullible" (8:54), an interview with "Legend of UK 'Nasty' Era Fanzine Critique" John Martin, sheds more light on the Video Nasty era of moral panic for those of you who have not seen Nucleus Films' two VIDEO NASTIES documentaries (both available in separate three disc sets from Severin stateside) and the film was certified with two minutes of cuts but seized by the police under the charges that it might be obscene and in violation of the Protection of Children Act of 1978. Films Galore did not take this lying down and threatened to sue for lost revenue before the master tapes were returned. Martin notes that the film ultimately was not the succès de scandale in spite of attempts in advertising to capitalize on the controversy. A newly-made trailer (1:37) is also included. (Eric Cotenas)