Child Eater
R0 - America - MVD Visual
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (28th May 2017).
The Film

For the past twenty-five years, the township of Widow's Peak has lived under the shadow of Robert Bowery (Jason Martin), a madman who started to lose his sight from a degenerative disease and came to believe that he could retain his sight by eating human eyes, preferably those of children. Although his body was never found, the police believe him to dead, but the rumor persists that he lurks in the woods, haunting the abandoned game park where he used to chase his victims in the dark as a sadistic game. Having failed to get out of the dead-end town, Helen Connolly (Cait Bliss) is working as a waitress and looking for any side jobs she can find. Her ex-boyfriend Tom (Dave Klasko) shows no signs of growing up emotionally while her gay best friend Casey (Brandon Smalls) has just joined the police force under her sheriff father (Sex Tape's James Wilcox). Helen is not particularly enthusiastic when her father gets her a job babysitting the son of new resident Matthew Parker (Weston Wilson), even less so because widowed Parker has purchased the farmhouse formerly belonging to the Bowery family. Parker asks Helen not to tell his highly imaginative son Lucas (Colin Critchley) about the local legends, but the boy already knows and, in fact, believes that the creepy old birdwatcher he has sighted in the tower deep in the woods has tried to get into the house at night. Helen assures Lucas that there is no one in his closet or under his bed, only for Tom to show up as an uninvited guest. When Lucas disappears from his room, Tom suggests that the boy has a crush on Helen and is trying to get rid of him. The two search for him in the woods and the abandoned gamepark only to discover that the legend of the Child Eater is indeed true when Tom steps into a bear trap and has his eyes ripped out and eaten. Helen runs through the woods and happens upon the house of Ginger (With Honors' Melinda Chilton), the one-eyed "one who got away" who wants Helen to call Lucas in order to use him as bait to catch Bowery. Helen manages to get away and back to the Parker house only to have her own run-in with the Child Eater, ending up with a stab wound and a concussion. As the sheriff and his deputies – rookie Casey, wiseass Wesley (Revolutionary Road's Andrew Kaempfer), and spunky Rebecca (Kara Durrett) – search the woods for Lucas and the assailant. Learning that she is pregnant, Helen feels that Lucas is her responsibility and sneaks out of the hospital to find him herself and take on the Child Eater. A riff on a number of vaguely familiar urban legends – even the Child Eater's own backstory is tied in with another of the town's local legends about a black stork that stole children rather than delivering them – Child Eater does not offer up much new in the way of plotting, but it is sensitively acted, atmospheric, and at times genuinely creepy. The backwoods of Widow's Peak and its moonlit and backlit environs seem as much inspired visually by the film Lady in White as older expressionistic films while the film also boasts some atmospheric locations and effective if derivative production design (including Ginger's home glutted with broken porcelain dolls and shrouded in a labyrinth of veils and drapery). The stalk-and-chase scenes are nothing new but Bliss makes for a compelling heroine even if the pregnancy subplot seems an unnecessary motivation, and the stock horror imagery and plotting just works because of the convictions of the filmmakers.

Video

MVD's single-layer DVD features an adequate progressive, anamorphic 2.20:1 encode with day scenes looking sharper than the night scenes which feature a lot of backlighting in both the interiors and exteriors (which appear to have also been darkened in post so that the blood looking black in some shots).
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Audio

Audio includes a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a 2.0 stereo downmix. The mixes are sedate, with subtle use of atmosphere in the surrounds and some directional jump scares, along with some cliché but no less effective subwoofer rumbling before the scares. The box mentions the existence of closed captions but they are not on the disc.
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Extras

Extras include an audio commentary by director Erlingur Thoroddsen, actress Cait Bliss, and actor Jason Martin. Thoroddsen reveals among other things that the he first made a short version of the film with much of the same cast - which is sadly not included as an extra - while Bliss reveals the extent to which her family contributed to the production (including her family home and an apartment building belonging to them), and Martin discusses "hand acting" with the prosthetic fingers for his character. The deleted scenes (16:11) are bracketed by explanatory text with reasons for their deletion. The excised bits include a longer introduction to Helen and Casey, an argument between Helen and her father as they arrive at the Parker house, a less suspenseful introduction to Ginger that provides too much exposition, an extended version of Lucas' abduction, an alternate edit of his fight with the Child Eater back in his home, and an extension of Helen evading the killer on the way back to the house. The box mentions the presence of a trailer for the film but it is not on the disc.
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Overall

A riff on a number of vaguely familiar urban legends and films inspired by them, Child Eater does not offer up much originality, but the stock horror imagery and plotting just works because of the convictions of the filmmakers.
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