19 February 2017 | Coventry
creepy little brat!
For some bizarre reason, and ever since I was a young and irritating little kid myself, I've been most fascinated by horror movies/thrillers that deal with murderous, psychopathic children. The younger and crazier, the better! So, naturally you start with the classics in the genre, like "Children of the Corn", "The Bad Seed", and "Village of the Damned/Children of the Damned". When you get a little older and begin to dig a little deeper, you stumble upon the more peculiar titles (like "Who can kill a Child", "The Pit", "The Children of Ravensbeck" and "The Other") until - eventually – you fanatically seek out the most obscure and undiscovered gems ("Friday the 13: Orphan", "Cathy's Curse", "The Godsend", "Devil Times Five"). Then, just when you assume there isn't left to discover and you already accepted the fact that the newly released killer-children movies are vastly inferior, you come across this modest but very effective made-for-TV production and never knew it existed! It's small and insignificant triumphs like these that make life just a tad bit more fun!
"A Little Game" is slick and curious 70s TV-gem about a recently married couple who are nervously awaiting the homecoming of the wife's 13-year-old son Robert from boarding school. Robert's real father was his true God, but he died in a car accident that his mother caused and since then Robert has been very rejecting towards another male role model in his life. From the first moments that they meet, Robert behaves aggressive and rude against his stepfather, but his mother is convinced that he only needs time and extra affection in order to adapt to the new situation. When stepfather Frank begins to have good reasons to suspect that little Robert is, in fact, a genuine psychopath who may has killed a fellow student at his boarding school, the mother naturally doesn't believe him and tension mounts in their relationship.
This film, courtesy of Paul Wendkos who also served us "The Legend of Lizzie Borden", "Terror on the Beach" and "Haunts of the very Rich", is full of clichés and shortcomings, but I vastly enjoyed the tense and foreboding atmosphere. It owes most of its impact to the genuinely evil nature of the youthful protagonist and the adequate performances. You better don't contemplate too much about the one- dimensional characters, the dumb decisions they make and how badly they communicate with each other
The four lead characters only have one particular characteristic, but each of them surely excels in extravagantly showcasing this characteristic! Robert is psychotic in every sense of the term! He talks and stares aggressively, dominates his supposedly best friend, terrorizes the maid, manipulates the mother, openly threatens to kill the father and actually aims loaded guns at them! Robert's alleged "best friend" Stuart – or Stu, as he prefers – is a weak and wimpy kid without backbone. He allows for Robert to reign over him, even though physically speaking he could easily beat him, and he covers up his weakness by talking endlessly. He can be manipulated by everyone; by Robert primarily, but also by the stepfather and even an insignificant wannabe Humphrey Bogart private detective. Then you have the stepfather, Frank, who's clearly supposed to be the normal person in the bunch, but he's seriously – by lack of a better description – stupid! He comes across as completely powerless when he gets threatened by a 13-year-old skinny kid and doesn't even succeed in persuading the mother that her son has some serious issues. I mean, at least try to record all the evil things that he says or do something! The mother is naive and almost single-handedly brings naivety to a whole new level! She's literally blind for the terror that goes on in her own house and defends her son without even listening to her husband's cry for help. She thinks it's totally normal for a young teenager to demand that she divorces and – as the ultimate icing on the cake – she considers an authentic hunting rifle is the ideal Christmas gift for a 13-year- old. Seriously, the highlight of the film was this piece of dialog: "Frank, honey, I know what you could buy Robert for Christmas. A rifle! Coming from you, it would be the perfect peace offer". That was pure genius! I know the situation is different in the United States compared to here in Europe, but come on
You don't give a lethal shotgun to a 13-year-old; let alone a borderline 13-year-old. It gets even funnier, because the stepfather initially refuses and then she just decides to buy the rifle herself. "Oh Frank, you should see how happy he is!" Awesome, awesome, awesome!