A Life of Horror

Mel Harris and Dwight Schultz in Child of Rage (1992)

The Rev. Rob Tyler (Dwight Schultz) and his wife Jill (Mel Harris) are a happy couple and become even happier when they adopt Catherine (Ashley Peldon) and her younger brother Eric (Sam Gifaldi) who lost their mum when they were young and their father couldn't cope raising them on his own. But no sooner have the children arrived and Catherine starts showing some extreme behaviour as she is rude, violent and destructive as well as controlling when it comes to Eric. As Rob and Jill attempt to get to the bottom of things what they discover horrifies them.

Within minutes of "Child of Rage" starting I realised something; Will Ferrell must have studied this movie and Dwight Schultz's performance as inspiration for his own in "A Deadly Adoption". I say that because Schultz unfortunately plays the Rev. Rob Tyler with such a gee whizz sense of enthusiasm that it is comical and not in a good way as it sticks out like a sore thumb. It especially sticks out when everyone else in the movie is playing things in a serious but controlled manner as it fluctuates from weak to comically wrong.

Ashley Peldon in Child of Rage (1992)

Aside from Dwight Schultz's performance we have the story and "Child of Rage" is another one of those TV movies which takes its lead from a true story although how much fact and how much fiction there is is another matter as I suspect the emphasis has changed in turning the story in to a movie. What we have is a movie of three parts with the first part focusing on making young Catherine a horror child as she has a seriously sinister side. From attacking her brother in his sleep to being a right little madam who is demanding and frankly a little nightmare it is full on. It gets close to being too over the top with too much focus on making Catherine an almost demonic child.

But whilst this is going on it is paving the way for what they discover about Catherine as we get brief moments which hint at what may have happened to her when she was younger. I should say spoiler alert but it is pretty obvious that Catherine was abused by someone, turns out it was her father, and it is this which has made her behave in such a demonic, sinister fashion. And of course this leads to the final third and that is very much the salvation of Catherine as she begins having sessions with a psychiatrist.

So "Child of Rage" ends up pretty obvious and at times seriously unsubtle as well as uneven with some performances being over the top. But then there is young Ashley Peldon and it has to be said that between her delivery and some of the writing she creeps you right out. A scene where Catherine is with Rob's father and says she will be his special girl, his hot girl is so unsettling that it makes your skin crawl and that is because of Peldon's delivery.

What this all boils down to is that "Child of Rage" is a movie which is unsettling, seriously unsettling but that is in many ways due to the focus on making a young girl almost a demonic child rather than because of the story. But it is also unsettling due to its uneven performances with sadly Dwight Schultz unable to get the serious tone of his character right whilst Ashley Peldon shines.

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