If you’re a Gen-X horror fan, you’ll likely remember the hysteria that accompanied the dawn of the new millennium. Fears about the ‘Y2K bug’ had people believing that planes would fall from the sky. Experts warned that entire infrastructures may collapse. Never one to miss a panic the horror genre responded with a handful of ‘end-of-the-millennium’ thrillers designed to exploit fears that the end of times was upon us. Most of these movies were apocalyptic predictions that the year 2000 heralded the rise of Satan, including End of Days, Lost Souls, and Stigmata. One of these movies, Bless the Child, got the memo late and released several months after nothing happened on January 1, 2000. Not surprisingly, audiences ignored it and critics hated it.
Unable to have children of her own, Maggie happily takes custody of her sister Jenna’s infant daughter. A drug addict, Jenna disappears and for the next six years, Maggie cares for the autistic Cody, forming a strong bond. But Jenna eventually re-surfaces, now married to an enigmatic cult leader, Eric Stark. At the same time, the bodies of several missing children sharing the same birthday as Cody have turned up across the city. When Stark and his followers kidnap Cody, Maggie turns to FBI agent to help her save the girl from a ‘slaughter of the innocents’.
Bless the Child a Flat, Paint-By-Numbers Thriller
Stop me if you’ve hear this one before – the end of times is coming and only a very special person can save us. Bless the Child suffers from a lot of problems. First and foremost, it’s a mix of silly, uninspired, and totally derivative. You’ve seen this scenario play out many times before. And director Chuck Russell (The Blob, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors) makes no effort to detour from the predictable. This is paint-by-numbers storytelling and cookie-cutter filmmaking. Even the usually reliable Christopher Young delivers a score that’s overbearing, not scary.
…Bless the Child is a watchable but strangely flat thriller.
A lack of scares, however, is the thriller’s primary concern. Perhaps the derivative plotting undercuts the scares if for no other reason than we know what’s coming before it happens. As a director, Russell knows how to stage decent action sequences and jolts – look no further than his filmography. Notwithstanding his track record, Russell doesn’t seem to know what to do with the material. Aside from a handful of decent interactions between Sewell’s cultist and the child savior, Bless the Child is a watchable but strangely flat thriller. Poor special effects only exacerbate the lack of scares and suspense.
Bless the Child Child a Mess of Ideas and Bland Performances
On the surface, Bless the Child is an embarrassment of riches in terms of casting. There’s Kim Basinger, just a few years removed from winning Best Supporting Actress for L.A. Confidential. Joining Basinger in Bless the Child, Jimmy Smits, Angela Bettis (May), Christina Ricci (Yellowjackets), and Rufus Sewell (Dark City, Old) fill out a stellar supporting cast. No one looks like they’re having much fun. Neither Basinger nor Smits seems to be able to make hears or tails of their generic characters. And then there’s normally the excellent Sewell working with what should be a juicy role as a self-help guru and cult leader. Yet he’s somehow completely dull and forgettable.
…but Bless the Child never explores the conflict of the faithless confronting good and evil.
Maybe the source of the problem resides in the thriller’s cardboard cutout screenplay. Though it seems unbelievable, three writers shared credit for the screenplay. Cleary, there were too many cooks in the kitchen here. Nothing about Bless the Child goes beyond the superficial. While Smits struggles to find anything to his character that is more than just ‘that FBI guy’, Bettis feels wasted in a role that’s more of plot instigator. Meanwhile Basinger should have something to sink her teeth into, but Bless the Child never explores the conflict of the faithless confronting good and evil.
Bless the Child May Be the Worst of the End-of-the-Millennium Horror Movies
Minutes after Bless the Child ends, you may have trouble remembering just what exactly happened. Not even a decent Kim Basinger performance can exorcise the derivative plotting, sluggish pacing, and lack of scares. Little distinguishes this effort from the handful of other ‘end-of-world’ thrillers that Hollywood pumped out around the millennium. There’s nothing compelling about Bless the Child, and it’s never silly enough to veer into ‘guilty pleasure’ territory. Not only is it a bad movie, it wasn’t even released on time to cash in on the Y2K panic.