|Bless the Child|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Chuck Russell|
|Produced by||Mace Neufeld|
|Based on||Bless the Child|
by Cathy Cash Spellman
|Music by||Christopher Young|
|Cinematography||Peter Menzies Jr.|
|Edited by||Alan Heim|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$40 million|
Bless the Child is a 2000 supernatural horror film directed by Chuck Russell and starring Kim Basinger, Jimmy Smits, Angela Bettis, Rufus Sewell, Christina Ricci, and Holliston Coleman. It follows a woman who discovers that her niece, whom she has adopted, is being sought by a Satanic cult seeking to use her supernatural abilities. It is based on the novel of the same name by Cathy Cash Spellman.
Maggie O'Connor, a psychiatric nurse in New York City, adopts her newborn niece, Cody, from her sister Jenna, a homeless heroin addict who abandoned her at Maggie's house just before Christmas. Maggie raises Cody herself, and during her formative years, Cody exhibits symptoms of autism, though Maggie is suspicious of the diagnosis. Maggie enrolls Cody in a special-needs Catholic school in Brooklyn, where the nuns notice Cody displaying possibly telekinetic abilities.
Meanwhile, a series of child kidnappings and murders are plaguing the city, investigated by FBI Special Agent John Travis, a former seminary student. The bodies bear occult brandings, and the victims all share Cody's birthdate and age. At her hospital, Maggie meets Cheri, a young heroin addict bearing a mysterious Luciferian tattoo, who knows Jenna. In conversation, Cheri implies that Cody is special, and urges Maggie to protect her. When Maggie and Cody stop in a church, Maggie is startled when all of the votive candles light themselves in Cody's presence.
When Maggie returns home, she is surprised to find Jenna, now clean and sober, there with her new husband, Eric Stark, a famous self-help guru, attempting to take Cody. Maggie refuses, but they manage to covertly kidnap Cody. Maggie reports it to police, and Agent Travis takes an interest in the case. Maggie attempts to learn more about Eric's organization, the New Dawn Foundation, by visiting one of their centers. Cheri subsequently contacts Maggie, and explains she was previously a member of New Dawn, which is actually a front for a Luciferian cult, spearheaded by Eric. She says that the cult recently began kidnapping six-year-old children and subjecting them to tests; those who failed were murdered in what Cheri describes as the "slaughter of the innocents." Cheri claims that Cody is destined to become a saint who will lead people to God, which Eric is attempting to thwart.
A group of cult members pursue Cheri after she provides Maggie Eric's address, and decapitate her in the subway. Maggie visits the address, located in a rundown building in Queens, and finds Eric, Jenna, and Cody there. Maggie holds Eric at gunpoint, but is chloroformed by his henchman, Stuart. She regains consciousness in the driver's seat of car, crashing into the side of a bridge. She is helped by a mysterious stranger moments before the car falls into the river. Meanwhile, Eric attempts to force Cody to watch as he convinces a vagrant to commit suicide by lighting himself on fire. However, Cody thwarts this by blowing out the match, assuring the man he has not been forsaken. After, Eric angrily burns the man alive. Jenna, meanwhile is kept sedated with heroin.
Maggie tracks Cody, who is being cared for by a nanny and member of the cult, Dahnya, and kidnaps Cody while she is visiting an orthodontist. Another mysterious stranger, this time female, helps them catch a subway train by holding the door open. At the urging of a Jesuit priest, Maggie leaves with Cody en route to Sister Rosa's convent in Vermont, but the cultists stalk them and manage to kidnap Cody. Maggie phones Agent Travis, who agrees to help her, tracking the cultists to a palatial estate owned by Eric. Maggie and Travis break into the home, but are assailed by cultists, who beat Travis. Maggie flees into the woods and reaches an abandoned church where the cult is preparing for a Black Mass. Meanwhile, the nuns at Sister Rosa's convent, worried over Maggie's failure to arrive with Cody, pray en masse for their wellbeing. Maggie stabs Eric, who then shoots her as she attempts to save Cody. Three orbs of light suddenly appear in the church as the cultists watch in terror, and Maggie's bullet wounds mysteriously heal. Travis and other police officers enter the church and shoot Eric to death, and watch as the orbs of light disperse.
Some time later, Jenna is in rehab and has asked Maggie to legally adopt Cody. While Maggie, Travis, and Cody walk to mass, another cultist stalks Cody, planning to stab her. Framed by statues of sword-bearing angels, she turns to stare at him. He stops, awestruck, drops the knife and flees.
The film opened at #7 at the North American box office making US$9.4 million in its opening weekend. It went on to gross only $40.4 million worldwide, below its $65 million budget.
Bless the Childreceived almost universally negative reviews from critics, with Rotten Tomatoes giving this film a 3% rating and is ranked #29 on their worst-reviewed films of the last decade.
Film critic Bruce Kirkland felt that Bless the Child was mocking Scientology in the guise of the fictional cult "The New Dawn".
Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
The film was nominated for one Razzie Award, Worst Actress for Kim Basinger, along with I Dreamed of Africa , but lost to Madonna for The Next Best Thing .
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