After last week’s examination of Ruth Platt’s disappointing The Lesson, our education theme continues on the site with Suffer the Little Children, Corey Norman’s adaptation of the 1972 Stephen King short story of the same name. Setting unnerving psychological horror against the backdrop of an elementary school, it’s an adaptation that succeeds despite its imperfections by handling its devastating finale with an impressive amount of poise.
Our central focus here is the apparently deteriorating mental state of one Emily Sidley (a mostly convincing Anne Bobby, though her grip on the material arguably slips in the film’s more intense moments.) She’s pretty evidently having a tough time, and an unnerving (and slickly delivered) moment with one of her pupils is the first signal to the audience that all is not as it seems. Whether it’s in her head or something more tangible isn’t clear, but the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it presentation is jarring in all the right ways.
Norman has an eye for a shot: glacial tracking shots in corridors build tension neatly, and the decision to never let the camera linger too long on the threat is a wise one. Anthony Lusk-Simone’s score moves in smooth synchronicity with the tone as the film dramatically spikes upwards in tension, and the film’s final third cuts through the simmering tension of what’s come before with a shocking, arresting shudder.
Aside from the occasionally shaky line delivery, performances here are mostly solid, and while the decision to leave the film’s central mystery unanswered may alienate some viewers in need of a more definite answer, Suffer the Little Children is solid stuff, with plenty to brag about in terms of craft.