Bargain Basement of Terror – Wicked Little Things (2003)
I don’t find zombies scary. It’s not that I don’t like zombies, I think they can make for very compelling story telling, I’m just not afraid of them. This movie, however? It scared the pants off me.
Wicked Little Things shows us a generational tragedy in fragments, with the story of the zombies woven around it until the two plotlines meet up. The cast of characters has some horror movie favourites; Karen (Lori Heuring) the battling mother and Sarah (Scout Taylor-Compton) the teenage daughter, her younger sister Emma (a young Chloe Grace Moretz) the wide-eyed moppet who’s either disturbed or might, just might, be uncanny, and then there are the “crazy old man” and the Evil Capitalist. If you’re following tropes it’s a fairly predictable guide to who’s going to survive. The plot itself kicks off with a classic trope, that of the newly widowed parent moving their family out to somewhere isolated, which the children are of course unhappy about. Here they move to an old family property made completely uninhabitable by neglect, located in a dying mining community in the middle of nowhere. The mother and older daughter fight, she meets the local boys, and then of course we first learn about the zombies.
The film’s in world zombie folklore is perfect because it feels completely natural to the setting; in a town traumatised by a history of collapses and corrupt overseers of course people believe that the unquiet dead will be roaming around. This is the kind of urban myth that grows out of survivors guilt and powerlessness in the face of injustice, only then it’s not a myth, the zombies are real and very, very effective when it comes to violence. Even though you as the audience know that they’re not just a local myth it’s still a shock when you see them in action for the first time, helped along by the brutal, unflinching cinematography.
The zombies themselves were a real surprise because they’re nothing like either the Haitian original or the cinematic standard we’ve come to expect, and this uniqueness is a lot of what makes them so terrifying. Instead of rotting and consumed with a mindless hunger their flesh is seemingly intact, and they have a definite and bloody purpose which they pursue with an inhuman single-mindedness. Unlike the monsters in a lot of films they actually stay just as frightening once you’ve seen them properly, if not more so. Much of the credit here has to go to the child actors, because a lot of what’s so sinister about them is that they play a close line between human emotion and an uncanny blankness at the most horrifying moments. There’s also something about their makeup and costuming that’s truly chilling, placing them right alongside scarecrows, dolls and other anthropomorphic things that should look human but aren’t quite right.
As well as being frightening it’s also a compelling story, even if I do think the ending is a bit pat, and I can recommend it as a good date movie as long as you’ve eaten first (or at least don’t make pasta in a red sauce and serve it while you’re watching – yeah I didn’t think that through did I?).
Creepy kiddie zombies what’s not to like I give Wicked Little Things a big 555/666
Review by Siobhan Ball
You should be able to grab a copy of Wicked Little things for about £2 including postage from an Amazon reseller