Celia (1989 film)

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Celia (1989 film), child of terror....

Celia (1989), AKA Celia: Child of Terror, Celia: A Bad Dream

Summary

"The eerie, chilling tale of one child's terror." An imaginative and somewhat disturbed young girl struggles with her insecurities while growing up in rural Australia against the backdrop of an rabbit-overpopulation ecological disaster and the Red Scare through fantasies about ghosts and strange creatures.

Details

  • Release Date: 1989
  • Country/Language: Australia, English
  • Genres/Technical: Drama, Thriller, Fantasy
  • Setting: 1950s Australia
  • Runtime: 1 hr 43 min
  • Starring: Rebecca Smart, Nicholas Eadie, Victoria Longley
  • Director: Ann Turner
  • Writer: Ann Turner
  • Producer/Production Co: Seon Film Productions
  • View Trailer: (link)
  • IMDB Page: (link)

Ratings

MPAA Ratings

  • Rated: (not rated) (Perhaps equivalent to a PG-13 for Violence, Adult Content and themes, mild Profanity)

Though a story about children with some fantasy content, this is probably not suitable for younger children, thanks to some nightmarish imagery in an otherwise solidly realistic film, with some unsettling violence and adult themes, though perhaps older and more mature children could probably handle the film, especially with some adult guidance (a child finds her grandmothers corpse, an animal is tortured and is later found dead, a family faces discrimination and is subjected to violence when their involvement in the Communist Party is revealed, a group of children listen through the walls while adults have sex in a neighboring room....)

Tentacle Ratings

A rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:

  • S____ (One Tentacle: Debateably Lovecraftian; has almost no direct connection to Lovecraft's work)

Y.Whateley: There is a sort of Australian take on Southern Gothic literature here, with the dark secrets and hidden corruptions of a small town and its families being dragged into the light against a backdrop of heat, chaos and decay. This is a genre that Lovecraft would have heavily influenced, though I suspect calling this film "Lovecraftian" might be kind of polarizing. The odd period setting, the monsters, and the weird nightmare logic might appeal to some Lovecraft or CoC fans in different ways, though the film mostly hovers nearer the "real world", and never dives very deeply into a Lovecraftian world of unnatural cosmic secrets and horrors (in spite of being marketed as horror, it's actually about 95% Australian To Kill a Mockingbird, with only about 5% "Pickman's Model" style horror). Still, there's something about it that got under my skin a bit, and I think that the right "Lovecraftian" audience will find a lot to like in this movie, especially if they take it from the point of view of the question, "what would a 'Lovecraftian' movie look like, if Lovecraft's unreliable narrator were as crazy as he sounds?"

Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.

Reviews

Review Links:

  • Brett Gallman at Oh The Horror!, (link) - "...A slightly disturbing and emotionally powerful Australian thriller, a riveting film which holds on to its audience with a seething level of intensity bubbling just below the surface.... should NOT be misconstrued as a 'horror' film... instead, the impact... is made all the more shocking because of the reality in which its story is based...."
  • Janet Maslin at The New York Times, (link) - "...[Writer/Director] Miss Turner, who builds up Celia's outrage slowly and surely, makes a big leap at about this stage in the story. And when the film takes a lethal turn it seems to be going too far, no matter how carefully this development has been set up and foreshadowed. Not even the nightmare figures out of Celia's storybook, presented here as if they were real creatures climbing into her bedroom window, can fully illuminate her dangerous state of mind. Still, the film tries hard, and it remains thoroughly gripping...."
  • George Pacheco at 10,000 Bullets, (link) - "...A film which begs repeated viewings, possessing a visceral, gut-punching impact which demands ingestion and discussion...."
  • Y.Whateley: Just about as odd an oddity as I've seen in a while: it's a Weird Australian Thing, set in the 1950s during an Australian Red Scare and a rabbit overpopulation disaster, and concerns an imaginative but vaguely odd little girl who conflates the fears of Communism and ecological disaster with finding her communist grandmother's dead body and a sort of fairy tale she heard in school about a horde of ghoulish monsters that sneak into farmhouses at night to carry people away. The resulting film doesn't have a very direct plot and runs on kid-logic, and it could be considered a horror movie only in its story-telling methods that use the irrational way that kid-logic can make a half-understood world look nightmarish at times, with brief nightmare sequences, adults acting illogically and hysterically based on information they won't share with their children, the cruelties of the world making their way through parents' attempts to shelter their children, and that sort of thing. There is a sort of Australian take on Southern Gothic literature here, with the dark secrets and hidden corruptions of a small town and its families being dragged into the light against a backdrop of heat, chaos and decay. This is a genre that Lovecraft would have heavily influenced, though I suspect calling this film "Lovecraftian" might be kind of polarizing. The odd period setting, the monsters, and the weird nightmare logic might appeal to some Lovecraft or CoC fans in different ways, though the film mostly hovers nearer the "real world", and never dives very deeply into a Lovecraftian world of unnatural cosmic secrets and horrors (in spite of being marketed as horror, it's actually about 95% Australian To Kill a Mockingbird, with only about 5% "Pickman's Model" style horror). Still, there's something about it that got under my skin a bit, and I think that the right "Lovecraftian" audience will find a lot to like in this movie, especially if they take it from the point of view of the question, "what would a 'Lovecraftian' movie look like, if Lovecraft's unreliable narrator were as crazy as he sounds?"


Synopsis (SPOILERS)

 Spoiler Section (Highlight to Read)

An imaginative and somewhat disturbed young girl struggles with her insecurities while growing up in rural Australia against the backdrop of an rabbit-overpopulation ecological disaster and the Red Scare through fantasies about ghosts and strange creatures. As her grandmother dies, her friends' family is revealed to be Communist activists and her friends are threatened by anti-Communist mobs, her pet rabbit is confiscated by the government and then returned to her dead, and dozens of other things go wrong, the girl's imagination tips over the edge into delusion as she leads her friends in strange magical rituals, and the girl becomes dangerous, culminating in her shooting one of her neighbors, seen through hallucination as a monster....


Notes

Comments, Trivia, Dedication

Associated Mythos Elements


Keeper Notes

  • 1950s rural/small-town Australia, with the Cold War paranoia, searing heat, looming ecological disaster, and small-town secrets and corruption, looks like a fascinating setting, perfect as a backdrop for weird Gothic horror stories. By the end of the film, young Celia might perhaps insist that her neighbors really do turn into sinister, ghoulish "Hobyahs" at night to torment her and her friends, clearly portrayed as delusion in the film - but, what if she's right, and her neighbors really are secretly cruel and mischievous monsters that torment ordinary people by night?