Title: Celia Aka Celia: Child of TerrorDirector: Ann Turner
Starring: Rebecca Smart, Nicholas Eadie, Victoria Longley, Mary-Anne Fahey, Margaret Ricketts, Alexander Hutchinson, Adrian Mitchell, Callie Gray, Martin Sharman, Clair Couttie, Alex Menglet, Amelia Frid, William Zappa, Feon Keane, Louise Le Nay
Plot: Celia (Smart) is a nine year old with an active imagination growing up in 1950s suburban Melbourne, who constantly escapes into a fantasy world to escape the ongoing troubles around her, while society deals with both the fear of communism and the rabbit plague.
Review: This might be the vaguest Alt. Christmas movie I’ve covered to date, especially when the sole link we get to Christmas is in the opening scene which see’s Celia’s class breaking up for the holiday, while the blackboard reads “Merry Christmas” that’s it! No Christmas trees or celebrations, just some festive words on a blackboard. So while the link might not be the greatest, it does however mean I get to cover this obscure Australian film which sits amongst the likes of “Lord of the Flies” and “War of the Buttons” with a playful dark side which at the same time left me wanting to compare this film to arguably Peter Jackson’s best film “Heavenly Creatures”.
Right from the start director Ann Turner wastes little time in showing the audience an insight into the psyche of Celia which see’s here escaping from her troubled home life via her active imagination which see’s slime covered monsters lurking outside her window, while at the same time sharing a tight bond with the three Tanner kids who live next door and whose parents communist beliefs keep them isolated from the community. Its also through her eyes which we see various adult events unfolding from affairs and barbeques through to events happening in society such as the rabbit plague highlighted through news reel footage which really helps to capture the time period and especially the tensions of the time.
Its worth pointing out that this isn’t a horror film as for some reason the distributors were seemingly keen to market it as judging by the alternative “Child of Horror” title, no doubt the result of them not knowing how else to sell this film, which is understandable when it constantly seems to exist in its own unique world were Celia can switch between blood pacts and childish feuds with her cousin Stephanie (Frid) and her committing and covering up a violent murder with little concern for the consequences of her actions, while the mock hanging she carries out with her friends is awhole other thing entirely. That being said the film is frequently a fascinating and surreal film.
The feud with Stephanie continually makes for one of the pillars of the film here as they engage in a series of tit for tat exhanges, with their rivally seemingly spawned out of their polar world views as Celia fights against the rule governed world of adults, while Stephanie is more happy to submit and more often use them to get a Celia often via her policeman father. However this being said she too has her own bad seed moment when she chooses to brand Celia’s rabbit seemingly out of pure spite. For some reason these confrontations usually around the quarry where Celia and her friends prefer to hang out for no real reason, especially when there is nothing of any real interest there apart from an old shed and it was a setting that I constantly thought would lead to some big moment, but sadly it’s just a setting and nothing else.
The other main antagonist for Celia here is her father with who she has one of the more complicated relationship with as he constantly scoulds her for not following the rules or for her friendship with the Tanner’s especially when he finds out that they are communists. He’s also responsible for her losing her beloved pet rabbit “Murgatroyd” under the rules being enforced by the authorities as part of their attempts to curb the rabbit plague, however when given the chance to reclaim him, he’s happy for her to believe that he has died, despite finding him a couple of minutes earlier. These scenes of high bastardry being countered by scenes of her being taken fishing which only makes it the more confusing how we are supposed to feel about this relationship.
Due to Celia’s behaviour throughout the film its hard to know if this movie should be classed as a “Bad Seed” movie, especially with the events of the film being largely seen through her eyes, while her blonde hair and plats certainly bringing to mind Rhoda Penmark. At the same time a lot of her activities are carried out with her gang of sorts, making it more of a kids gone rogue movie.
This is far from the most action packed or gory film which means that those horror fans looking for their bad seed fix might find themselves sorely disappointed as it features neither but the interactions between the characters and occasional set pieces really help to carry this film which does at time feel a lot longer as a result than its surprisingly short runtime and what stopped me from rating this film higher. That being said it has enough interesting and occasionally shocking moments to make this one worth hunting down, more so when it’s the kind of film which is sadly not made enough in these times were films seem to fall into the category of high drama or blockbuster its films like this which make it so much fun to hunt down and experience these movies.