This handsome but juiceless film adaptation of Jack Ketchum’s novel takes place in a small New Jersey town during the summer of 1958. Twelve-year-old David is smitten with 14-year-old Megan, who just moved next door. Megan and her sister were recently orphaned when their parents were killed in an automobile accident, and she is now living with the Chandler family (consisting of husband, wife and three sons).
However, the Chandler patriarch’s abrupt and adulterous departure has set Mrs. Chandler into a dangerous mental state. Mrs. Chandler begins to violently punish Megan and her sister for the smallest of infractions, and she recruits her sons to join in dishing out the sadistically harsh discipline. Can young David save Megan from this torturous existence?
Filmmaker Gregory M. Wilson has beautifully recreated the mood and environment of the late Eisenhower era. Rarely has a low-budget film offered such a smart level of art direction, costume design and set decoration to evoke the feel of a particular time. Special kudos are in order for William M. Miller’s crisp cinematography.
Unfortunately, the film is stuck with an utterly quotidian screenplay that never truly provokes the viewer, despite the extremes in child abuse violence. The press materials for this film repeatedly name-drop Stephen King, as if trying to scare up class by association. Yet the film never evokes King’s sense of casual sadism and dark humor. Instead, it only churns up a predictable tale that is heavy on sickening cruelty but absent on emotional horror. The result is a great-looking bore.