This weeks FMF is my attempt at one of those Creepy Kid Scary Movies that comes out in late August/early September. It will be the directorial debut of some Spanish or French filmmaker, and it will be long and boring, and if you feel like it’s every creepy kid movie rolled into one, that’s cause it is.
Kodi Smit-McPhee stars as a lonely orphan boy named Toby. He lives in an orphanage run by Janet Prickle, played by Kyra Sedgwick. She is your run of the mill really mean house marm. Whenever one of the boys in the orphanage acts up or does something she doesn’t like, they stuck in The Black Box. It’s a really small room about 5 by 5 that has no windows so it’s pitch black. Typically when a boy enters the box, they are stuck in there for an hour. Prickle thinks the boys fear the lack of space and scream because they are afraid of the dark, but little does she know that there are dark spirits that feed on the dark and the fear.
All of the boys at the orphanage pick on Toby because he is generally quiet and easily frightened. They play tricks on him and stuff and never get caught. Toby often draws really cool but dark pictures of him fighting back against the bullies. One of the biggest tricks they often pull on him is stealing his nightlight. He’s 10 years old and still needs a nightlight so they rip on him for that. In a later scene we see the boys steal his nightlight and then pick a fight with him. He is too afraid to hit them back, and knowing this, one of the boys hits the other one, and blames it on Toby. Prickle comes and sees the boy lying of the floor and begins to chastise Toby. She tells him he’s going to spend the day in the Black Box because fighting isn’t allowed. Toby is normally ok with this, but when he reaches into his backpack he sees his nightlight is gone and this sends him into a panic. He pleads not to get sent to the Box but Prickle ignores his cries and send him back in locking the door. This time, the camera follows Toby in and then we see a creature come out of the shadows and it roars directly into Toby’s face, he screams and passes out. The next day he has a white patch of hair on the side of his head and the kids make fun of him for that. One of the bullies who isn’t as bad, tosses the nightlight back on to Toby’s bed and he’s clutches it tightly.
Toby stops talking. All of the kids think he’s even weirder. For days on end he just draws weird pictures of the shadow creature. Prickle tries to get him talking, but he refuses, she decides to take him to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist, John Hodge, played by Guy Pearce is a bit strange, and off kilter, but he used to live at the orphanage as well, so he connects with the children. When Toby walks in, he notices that John also has a white patch of hair. John asks Toby why he’s clutching his nighlight and Toby doesn’t answer. John then asks, if he’s holding it because of what he saw. Toby looks up and John now has his attention. He tells Toby that he saw the same thing when he was younger, and it affected him for many years. People used to call him crazy, but he knew he wasn’t. The creature, it builds strength on the fear and screams of children, and if it gets strong enough it will transition out of the shadows. John warns him that people wont believe him, they’ll think he’s crazy, but he has to stop it. Toby finally speaks, and asks how. John tells him he has to stop Prickle from putting the boys into the Black Box to starve the creature, and then destroy the Box. (John’s job is to explain what his happening and nothing else)
Back at the orphanage in the evening, Toby comes back and begins speaking again, he tells the boys they have to stop getting in trouble because the creature in the Box is getting stronger, and soon he’ll be able to actually hurt them. Most of the boys don’t believe him. The oldest one of them all, Marcus, played by Devon Bostick, calls Toby a wimp and says there is no such thing as ghosts and monsters. He decides to go into the Black Box and prove it. He goes in and Toby trying to stop him gets grabbed by the other boys. The moment Marcus closes the Box door behind him the Box starts shaking and Marcus screams and screams and the boys laugh thinking he’s just joking, but once the box stops shaking, the door opens and Marcus falls out of the box, not breathing. He’s dead. Apparently all the creature in the Box had to do was terrify one child to death, before being able to leave the Box and live in the shadows of the entire orphanage. Now the creature is out and it’s night time. A storm conveniently knocks out the power to the orphanage. Also this is set in the 1950’s cause that is cooler. Anyway the creature is out and the boys are in hiding and an angry Ms. Prickle warns them they will get the Box if they don’t stop running and screaming. She’s also an alcoholic and has a drink in her hand cause why not? As she says they’ll get the box, the creature comes out of a shadow behind her and says, “there is no box” and lifts Prickle up into the ceiling forcefully killing her.
Now all of the kids are terrified and Toby tells them that what he was saying before was true and the only way to stop the creature is to shine light on him. The kid from earlier who gave Toby the nightlight reminds him that the power is out and Toby says to build a fire. He runs down into the basement and a really tense scene happens where Toby with a small gas lantern looks for a book of spells. The creature is down there and he has to continually turn around or else the creature can emerge from the shadows and hurt him (because he is getting stronger, the creature can actually harm people now). Toby gets the book and runs upstairs, but not before being clawed across the back from the creature and he falls, the book slips out of his hands and into the fire that the kid made. So now Toby is hurt and their is no book of spells. The creature kills one more kid for good measure, and then is strong enough to shift from looking translucent, to being solid matter. He begins walking around the house creepily looking to kill all the kids, because then he’ll be able to leave the house, and terrorize the world.
(A flashback scene happens where we find he was the original owner and proprietor of the orphanage and would abuse the boys at the orphanage, until one day they fought back, and pushed him into a fire killing him)
So anyway, Toby gets the idea that if he can force the creature into the fire, that should end things. The boys all band together (finally) and force the creature back into the room with Toby. Toby all of sudden knows who the creature is and tells him that he can try all he wants they aren’t afraid of him. Some brave boys years ago stood up to him and they will too. They all surround the creature and Toby tosses gas onto the fire making it bigger and brighter and the boys all force the creature down and tie him to the floor. The creature in a scary voice says this wont stop him etc etc. and eventually the flames engulf him killing him, but now the house is on fire completely. Toby is brave and helps the kids out and brings them all to John Hodge. Hodge decides that he’ll take them all in. His house is large enough for all of them.
A scene three months later shows all of the boys getting along very well with Hodge as their caretaker and things are great. One day Toby goes down into the basement and sees a box similar to the one Prickle has. He is scared at first, and the music gets super scary, but then he opens the box and nothing comes out. He breathes a sigh of relief and closes the door. Then as he is headed back upstairs, he hears a few things fall over and thinks it’s the creature again, so he runs upstairs and closes the door.
“The directorial debut of some Spanish or French filmmaker” absolutely spot on.