Child of Darkness, Child of Light

Father Justin O’Carroll is a Vatican miracle-investigator so common in movies.  His latest job is to check on two teenage girls who are pregnant and claiming to be virgins (yeah, that old story).  If they are telling the truth, one is carrying a fetal Christ, and the other is carrying a fetal Antichrist.  With the help of Sister Anne, one of those sexy and occasionally naked nuns that fill the Catholic church, he must determine which is which, because none of these people ever read The Bible so they don’t know what’s supposed to happen.

Child of Darkness, Child of Light is the film you make if you don’t have much money and realize that someone already made The Omen.  It starts with the same premise, then ignores Revelations and tosses in an early Second Coming of Christ (and isn’t he supposed to pop in as an adult the second time?  I guess the Bible is vague on all the interesting stuff).  Gone are ferocious dogs and dark Satanic deeds.  In their place are crows.  Granted, these are pretty nasty crows as they manage to kill people, but a crow isn’t my idea of the coming apocalypse.  More my idea of the coming corn harvest.

The idea of the Antichrist, even if matched by The Second Coming, is fitting for suspenseful horror, but here it is a mystery because it is cheaper to shoot a guy asking questions and dwelling on the answers than demonic creatures creating chaos.  But if you’re going to construct a mystery, you should make the answers important to the viewer and relevant to the film’s world.  The question here is: which girl will give birth to the Son of God, and which to the Son of Satan?  And the answer is: Who cares?  The two girls are painted with the same brush.  Both are nice, clean-cut schoolgirls with similar home lives, and they take up equal screen time.  Both are living through the same events, which, unfortunately, the filmmakers decide to show us (so we see everything twice, a huge problem for pacing and for keeping the audience awake).  There is no sentimental favorite for the viewer, so what difference does it make?

While the investigation is taking place, The Devil (as well as God) is strangely silent.  What the good priest finds is that being a pregnant teen takes all the fun out of study hall.  Now I’m sure you can make an interesting movie about the trials of a pregnant high school student, but when the end of the world is at stake, how badly schoolmates tease isn’t gripping.  Things pick up at the end, but that doesn’t excuse the dullness that came before.

For a film that accepts the existence of God, The Devil, Jesus, and virgin births, follows a faithful priest and a nun, and is vaguely based on The Bible, it might be considered strange that I gave the film an extra , but this is a movie uninterested in religion.  The setting is merely a fantasy setting.  No one is trying to convert you or cares what you believe.  Since it is concerned with mystery over fright, it isn’t important for the viewer to believe in the devil to feel all those scary bits.