Color, 1983, 75 mins. 12 secs.
Directed by Alan Briggs
Starring Colin Chamberlain, Ginny Rose, Jon Hollanz, Nicola Diana, Mark Insull
Intervision (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)

Connoisseurs Suffer, Little Childrenof '80s Suffer, Little Childrendisreputable shot-on-video horror will feel like they've died and gone to heaven with this incredibly cheap, technically inept, and utterly unforgettable amateur gore film mounted as a project for a British children's drama school! Shot (and apparently edited) with a consumer VHS camera, it's a singular experience that you'll either classify as pure garbage or depraved genius... or perhaps both at the same time.

At the Sullivan Children's Home, overseers Maurice (Chamberlain) and Jenny (Rose) don't always agree how to manage the young orphaned brood they're charged with keeping healthy and educated. However, that's nothing compared to what happens when mute young Elizabeth (Diana) gets dumped on their doorstep. At first things seem to be manageable enough, even if strange things keep happening like kids falling bloodily downstairs, doors slamming shut, and two kids having a traumatic, life-changing nightmare about shambling zombies. The adults' social life (which also involves a visit from a former resident and current pop star) also takes a hit when they head out for a night at the club, which gives Elizabeth a chance to start gathering her own little devil cult up in the attic. Soon all hell is breaking loose as objects fly through the air and Elizabeth starts speaking in a growling demon voice ("Die, bitch!" and "Kill the Christ worshipers!" are a few of her slogans), with every floor in the house soon getting sprayed in blood. Suffer, Little Children

Wow, Suffer, Little Childrenthis is really something else. The whole school project vibe is difficult getting used to at first, but once the pounding hard rock score kicks in and Elizabeth starts here white-robed devil antics, all bets are off. The effect here is fairly similar to those much-loved horrific Christian scare films, complete with a climax that... well, Jesus Christ (literally), it's unlike anything else you've ever seen. It's absolutely worth sticking around until the one-hour mark, which is when the film really goes over the edge with a girl repeatedly stabbing herself in the leg in front of a Thompson Twins poster as blood sprays all over the wall. After that it's a nonstop parade of insane carnage with child actors running amuck with sharp implements and mutilating everyone in sight, complete with rampant zoom lens and strobe light abuse. Absolutely stupefying. And yes, there's even a new wave theme song you'll never be able to get out of your head.

The handiwork of writer Meg Shanks' school staff and pupils, this film became an odd lightning rod for controversy during the video nasty era when it was pushed out onto home video before BBFC certification was complete. The VHS was quickly seized in some shops and remained a covert under the counter item for a while as the media briefly ran wild with the story of an immoral work of depraved violence starring impressionable tykes. However, by the time the film barely earned an approved release in 1985 with nearly two minutes of BBFC-mandated cuts, the amateur nature of the production left everyone scratching their heads over all the fuss and the film vanished entirely almost as quickly as it had appeared.

Suffer, Little ChildrenThat means the complete version on display on Intervision's 2017 DVD will be a new experience for just about everyone, and as usual, the label continues to be a beacon of sorts for SOV horror nuts. This still looks like a really crappy VHS production from 1983, of course, with Suffer, Little Childrensome hilarious analog videotape edits that will make anyone who tried to make their own homemade horrors back in the day beam with nostalgia. (But seriously, that soundtrack is epic; it would be great if someone could dig up the original tracks for a soundtrack release someday.) The English mono track is often hard to make out given the primitive recording and some of the mumbling cast members, so the optional English subtitles are greatly appreciated and probably necessary for most viewers. The extras kick off with director Alan Briggs doing a new interview, "School of Shock" (10m31s), in which he talks about going from being a rock concert promoter(!) to hooking up with Shanks' school to create this as a showcase for young talent. He also goes quite a bit into the film's aborted release and the press frenzy over it, not to mention noting how anyone with a laptop can come up with something a lot more polished today. "Seducing the Gullible" (8m54s) features video nasty chronicler John Martin going into more depth about the wrangling between the BBFC and one-off distributor Films Galore, including wild publicity stunts such as a very nervy lawsuit attempt and the dubious jacket claim that this is a reenactment of true events. Needless to say, if what goes down in the final stretch actually occurred anywhere, it would be pretty tough to cover up. A newly-created trailer ("Come, devil, come!") wraps up a package no self-respecting lover of zero-budget, VHS-lensed horror could possibly do without.

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Reviewed on August 31, 2017