Godsend

Movie Review by Dan Spiers

Starring: Greg Kinnear, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Robert De Niro, Cameron Bright
Director: Nick Hamm

Paul Duncan (Greg Kinnear) and his wife Jessie (Rebecca Romijn- Stamos) have a moon-faced child, Adam (Cameron Bright), who dies in a traffic accident. All child deaths are tragic, but it is made clear this is particularly tragic because Adam is particularly pretty and his family particularly happy.

Whilst arranging for the burial the despairing couple are approached by a trench coated figure, Dr Richard Wells (Robert DeNiro) who informs them in hushed tones that he can clone their son and effectively bring him back to life.

Though the procedure is illegal the couple accept the offer and relocate to a small town called Riverton to be near Dr Wells’ Godsend Fertility Clinic. The treatment proves successful and Adam’s childhood proceeds smoothly until he turns eight, the age at which he first died, and all goes terribly wrong.

Nick Hamm (THE HOLE) has produced an atmospheric film, but considering it’s a self -proclaimed horror movie, atmosphere is no recompense for terror. He has chosen a subject matter that instills fear in great swathes of the public but once brought to the screen is akin to a GM food documentary: it’s worrying and diverting, but not something that’s going to make you shriek. It does have a grainy, washed out resolution, which gives it a rather austere quality, but the narrative never succeeds in reaching any sort of crescendo.

At various points we see burning altars, twitching shower curtains and disorientating woods but this staple imagery is negated by the refined, almost stately development of tension. It’s clear Hamm has made an intentionally cerebral shocker avoiding CGI and the cruder limb-lopping, blood-spurting elements of horror, but at times that’s exactly what it needs.

For it is too reliant upon the dramatic kudos provided by Kinnear and in particular DeNiro. They deliver a sort of hackneyed, horror gravitas as they wrestle with the moral, ethical and legal consequences of the treatment. They’re reminiscent of Gregory Peck in OMEN in that he brought credibility to an often-derided genre. But whilst Peck had devil-child, devil-dogs and devil-nannies to counterbalance, GODSEND has a disturbed boy with a bulbous forehead.

It is Adam who’s intended to unsettle the audience, but the boy engenders too much sympathy. He is, in effect, an insane Dolly The Sheep, and as a product of Dr Wells’ genetic engineering is blameless for the havoc he wreaks. And a sheep is not a satisfactory focus for a horror movie. If this is as horrifying as psychological realism gets then give me chainsaws ripping through flesh, give me blood flecked fangs, give me bolts through necks, for horror’s sake give me a haunted house. Even that would do.

2 out of 6 stars

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