Following up from his widely successful short Child Eater (2012), Icelandic director Erlingur Thoroddsen is back with the Kickstarter-funded feature film equivalent, also titled Child Eater. The feature-length equivalent expands on the world and legend Thoroddsen created in his short and provides us more of an insight into the world of Robert Bowery, plus more jump scares.
The narrative revolves around a legend created for the film. The story goes that in the 1970s there was a petting zoo owned by a man called Robert Bowery. When he was diagnosed with a case of macular degeneration, his dream was destroyed and he became vengeful. On the petting zoo’s final day, it was discovered that all the children visiting the zoo had their eyes ripped out. In the present day Robert Bowery is an urban legend that kids joke about at sleepovers and parents use to stop their children going into the forest. The story of Child Eater revolves around a kid named Lucas, whose parents have just moved into the house next to the petting zoo. One night, while Lucas is being babysat by Helen, he recounts a man he has been seeing and Helen recognises the similarities to Robert Bowery. When she decides to check his closet one last time, she discovers Lucas has gone missing. Flashlight in hand, Helen takes to the woods and follows Lucas’ trail to the old Bowery Zoo.
Thoroddsen is an award-winning writer and director born and raised in Reykjavík. He is a recent graduate from Columbia University’s MFA Film Directing Programme, where he has completed two horror shorts as his thesis. One of them is The Banishing (2013), which won the Screamfest LA Launchpad Award, and the second is the short Child Eater (2012), on which this feature film is based. When the short premiered online, it was the Vimeo Staff Pick and travelled to festivals including SXSW and the Reykjavík International Film Festival.
The film is rather similar to the short equivalent: the storyline is almost the same, as well as the aesthetics and style of film-making. The feature film expands on the history of Robert Bowery, extends the search for Lucas, and also provides more of a backstory to the main characters. At times the film comes across like a B-movie in that the low budget shows, but the jump scares are perfectly time and Thoroddsen proves that he knows how to make a good horror. There isn’t too much unique about the narrative, but Thoroddsen is talented and creates a gripping, tense, and truly scary atmosphere.
Child Eater is an excellent start to the career of a horror film-maker, and it will be interesting to see Thoroddsen returning to Iceland and work locally. Child Eater the feature will keep its fans and Kickstarter backers happy, and will do well in its festival run.