Kid characters in film have a way of extracting nearly every type of emotion out of us. They can raise the stakes of an already tense situation. They can show how silly and oftentimes corrupt the world is when shown through the eyes of a child. Or sometimes they can just creep us out the hell out. Nothing amps up the scary quite like containing it in a tiny unsuspecting package.
The success of the 1976 classic The Omen paved the way for a whole slew of “Evil Child” flicks. Movie houses were deluged with the likes of The Children, Alice Sweet Alice, Demon Witch Child, Cathy’s Curse, Bloody Birthday, and the film we will be discussing today, 1980’s horror-thriller, The Godsend.
It’s easy to forget these days that not all horror movies are targets at the male, 18-25 demographic. Some horror films are truly targeted at adults, preying upon uniquely adult fears. The Godsend is one such film and it hones in on the greatest dread of many adults, the safety of their children.
The story begins when a pregnant blonde woman shows up at the Marlowe household. Alan (Malcolm Stoddard) and Kate Marlowe (Cye Hayman) welcome the woman into their home where they themselves have four children. Kate helps the mysterious woman give birth and then shortly thereafter the lady disappears leaving her child, Bonnie behind.
Alan and Kate gladly take her in as one of their own. Bonnie is placed in the crib with their infant. One morning when they go to check on them, their biological child is dead. As Bonnie is only a few months old, they suspect nothing and believe their blonde hair, blue eyed adopted gift is a blessing. But over the years more horrific strangeness occurs, forcing them to consider whether the little girl is more than she appears (SPOILER ALERT: she most certainly is).
As it was already alluded to, it’s easy for this film to get compared to The Omen and some even say that it flat-out ripped the film off. However, firstly, The Godsend was based on a book that was released the same year as The Omen and the film adaption follows the novel in nearly every detail and plot point. Secondly, this is far more like The Bad Seed. It doesn’t appear that writer Bernard Taylor stole or copied the classic, but it may have inspired him. We have a cute blonde girl who looks as though she is the most innocent girl in the world yet evil lurks underneath. She was born that way. The plots are similar in certain ways but the tone is far different.
Whereas The Bad Seed was a chilling and dark tale of a mother having to grasp that her child is a murderer, The Godsend follows a father’s desperation to save his remaining child’s life at any cost while trying to convince his wife that their adopted daughter is evil. Comparing the two is like comparing apples to, ummm, well, caramel covered apples.
Ultimately, The Godsend is a film that will undoubtedly keep you entertained. It won’t have you trying to figure out a mystery: it’s made pretty clear early on that this young girl is evil, and all you have to do is sit back and wait for her thick-as-hell adoptive parents to figure that out.
While much of the dread and suspense of this film may be lost on younger, more gore and shock oriented, viewers, this movie really delivers a slow burn of ever ratcheting tension coupled with a disturbing soundtrack and a great cast.
Finally, if nothing else, The Godsend demonstrates the value of the word “The”. There’s another evil child movie simply called Godsend, and that one sucks. Let this be a lesson to all of you film titlers out there.
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