Saturday, December 7, 2019

Ten dark stories of kids in peril

Zach Vasquez is a native of Los Angeles, California. He writes fiction and criticism.

At CrimeReads he tagged ten top novels and films "that put children up against the outsized terrors of the adult world," including:
Tideland, by Mitch Cullin (2000)
(Film adaptation, 2006)

The third and best-known entry in Mitch Cullin’s Texas Trilogy, Tideland is a grimy update of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland set in the desolate badlands of the Lone Star state. After both of her junkie parents overdose, young Jeliza-Rose spends a summer living alone at her grandparent’s abandoned farm. Or, not quite alone, as she has the corpse of her father and a collection of sentient doll heads to keep her company. Eventually, she falls in with real—and really dangerous—people in the form of her neighbors, a brother-sister pair with a past connection to her father and some upsetting family secrets of their own. Jeliza-Rose processes her harsh and fearsome circumstances by delving further and further into an elaborate fantasy world, but eventually, the darkness that surrounds her on all sides threatens to overwhelm both realities.

Cullin’s novel was adapted in 2006 by Terry Gilliam, who you would assume would be perfectly suited to the material given his penchant for magic realism and dark phantasmagoria. However, the film ended up being his most divisive to date, the ugliness of the story proving too repulsive for many a queasy viewer. But Tideland also has its champions, including fellow surrealist maestro David Cronenberg, who hailed it as a unique and “poetic” horror film and one of the best movies of its year. It’s a hard watch to be sure, but if you respond to the other works listed here, it might just be your cup of LSD.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue