Imagine a group of young children in a Sunday school class manage to see Children of the Corn. Imagine that group of children obtain a camera and sixteen dollars. Imagine those children then decide to make a movie inspired equally by their religious beliefs and Children of the Corn. The movie that you’re imagining probably comes close to resembling Alan Briggs’s Suffer, Little Children.
Now available on DVD through Intervision, Suffer, Little Children simultaneously represents the best and worst of VHS horror films from the 1980s. From a technical perspective, everything about it is completely awful. The sound quality is abysmal, the story is nonsensical, the acting is totally amateur, and the first half of the film is mind-numbingly boring. It’s forgettable in every single measurable way. For forty minutes, it’s nearly unwatchable — then it enters into completely bat-shit territory and becomes the kind of wildly entertaining movie that genre nerds adore.
As much as I would love to dive into the final fifteen minutes of Suffer, Little Children, it’s something that is best experienced firsthand, and I would hate to spoil the film’s most shocking moment. All I can say without spoiling the magic is that it’s totally original, outrageous, and something that you certainly won’t see coming. It also makes the entire movie worth watching.
Intervision’s DVD transfer is about as solid as these kinds of releases get, given the fact that the source material is of an atrociously low quality. Audio levels are completely out of whack, with much of the dialogue being completely inaudible, while the loud, thrashing score overpowers everything else. You probably won’t be able to make out what any of the actors are saying in conversation, but you’ll have no problem hearing the score, which sounds hilariously similar to the opening title theme from The Office. As far as music is concerned, though, the definite highlight of the movie is its excellent punk rock theme song that finds the vocalist screaming, “Suffa, suffa, suffa, little chillllllldren!” repeatedly. It’s a bonafide banger that promises to get stuck in your head for days to come.
Visually, the video is consistently fuzzy throughout, and there’s even a moment where analog static covers the entire screen for a few seconds. Given the fact that the film is a micro-budget production from the 1980s that didn’t receive any legitimate home video release, this isn’t all that surprising, and there’s really nothing that can be done to improve the image quality. It’s a low-quality VHS movie from decades past, and sometimes you just have to take what you can get.
In addition to the film itself — which alone is worth the price of this DVD — the release includes a couple of bonus features. An interview with Alan Briggs finds the filmmaker chronicling the unlikely production, and an interview with Video Nasty expert John Martin finds the critic discussing the controversial nature of Suffer, Little Children. While the true story behind the film’s creation isn’t quite as bizarre as the movie itself, it is pretty unbelievable in its own right.
Despite bearing plenty of faults and strongly resembling a high school class project, there’s something about this movie that is just engaging. It’s so unusual — even by VHS-era standards — that anyone who gets a kick out of such schlock should immediately seek out Suffer, Little Children. Now that it’s finally available on DVD, there’s really no excuse to miss it.
Suffer, Little Children is now available on DVD through Intervision.