Ever watch a horror flick and, when it’s over, sit there kinda feeling confused? It’s not that what you just watched was a bad movie — hell, there’s a lot of things you can recall that were impressive — but there’s just something…amiss. You can’t really put your finger on just what it is that has you bewildered, but you know you feel unsatisfied?
L. Gustavo Cooper’s latest flick, June, is one of those that left me feeling a little lost when it was all said and done…but I’ll get to that in a bit.
Little June is an orphan who’s moved from foster home to foster home; horrific in its own right, the family we first meet the child with is a nightmare vision of the child-welfare system. The sleazy, backwoods environment that the poor girl is living in hits all the bad redneck stereotypes: old beat-up mobile home, overweight, profane foster-father with a creepy leer, badly made-up and poorly-dressed foster-mom who seems to be a cheap, chain-smoking stripper, and foster-siblings whose sole purpose in life seems to be the taunting of June (which is watched with either a sardonic grin or annoyed apathy by the foster parents). Social worker Mr. Emmanuel, on one of his visits, promises June that he’ll find her a better place, admitting that he “knows what happens when she gets upset”.
Well, it’s not long before this becomes apparent to us all, when at a picnic where little June is bearing her usual tormenting, the dam finally breaks — with a scream that echoes with a force like thunder, a powerful blast shakes the gathering, upturning trailers and sending people flying. Soon after, Emmanuel gets her adopted by a loving couple who are unable to have children of their own, the Andersons. These people seem to be just what the child needs; loving, caring, willing to be actual parents to the little girl. Still, June’s strange drawings and behavior are still troublesome, but she blames a lot of it on her “imaginary friend” that she calls “Aer” or “Aery”. These odd behaviors will come to rock the loving couple and their household, culminating in a conspiratorial chain of events that will change their lives, and perhaps the world, forever.
Let me start by saying that I found the photography in this film to be beautiful; Cooper’s shot choices and framing show a sound eye for cinematic effect. Secondly, I was very impressed with the cast; everyone really seems to bring their “A” game, and I found each character easy to believe in, with a particular nod to young Kennedy Brice as the titular character; she shows a wide range and impressively effective nuance for an actress so young. The effects are minimal, and largely digital, but within the context of the film (and considering the budget) they’re effective, with any shortcomings largely forgivable.
Now…as always, I don’t want to give anything away, but the biggest problem that I had with this film is that it sorta seemed to lose sight of what it wanted to be — at times it was a family drama, with this loving couple enveloping this poor child with all of their compassion — at others, it was a conspiracy-laced horror flick with possession seeming to be the soup d’jour. The narrative jumps back and forth between these two ideas so much that to me, the film became disjointed and difficult to stay absorbed in. There were parts of both ideas that were done well, but it seemed each time I began to become invested in one aspect, I would be bumped to the other for a bit. As others have mentioned, the film bears some elements from films like Carrie and The Omen; personally, I was also reminded at times of The Last Exorcism and The Happening (see the flick and you’ll get all the references); however, Cooper’s script is unique enough to blend these themes without copying them and creates a cinematic environment uniquely his own. Given this, the script had a lot going for it; there were flashes of genius in the story, but either through bad editing decisions or pressure to create a “scare flick”, I felt a lot of that got diluted in the final product.
So there it is, folks…my opinion is that June is a well-shot and very nicely-acted film that suffers from trying to do too much – we’ve got the underlying theme of a child finding a family to love her, and ultimately her place is the world, juxtaposed with that of a child bearing the burden of the unimaginable power of an unseen entity — this is a good idea, quite worthy of exploration. However, the focus should settle firmly on one of those elements whilst using the other to support it — here, I felt that in what seems to be an attempt to balance the two almost equally, neither theme is adequately delivered upon.
As I said at the top there, this wasn’t a bad flick; there are a lot of good points…but in the final evaluation, I was left feeling short-changed when the credits rolled.
Of course, that’s just my way of seeing it.
Three pennies for a nickel.
RLJ Entertainment releases JUNE on DVD next Tuesday, October 6th.