Children of the Fall (2016)

Rating: C+

Dir: Eitan Gafny
Star: Noa Maiman, Aki Avni, Yafit Shalev, Danny Leshman

This takes place on an Israeli kibbutz in the days leading up to, and as the start of, the 1973 Yom Kippur war. After a somewhat awkward prologue, in which a German woman is murdered the previous year, everything seems fine as Rachel (Maiman) arrives on the commune, eager to find herself. She’s the product of a mixed marriage – her father was Jewish, her mother wasn’t – but is thinking about possibly converting to Judaism. Rachel quickly realizes life is not quite as idyllic there as she hoped. She immediately meets harassment from local soldiers, and there’s escalating tension on the kibbutz. In particular, between the Israeli residents and those who have come there from overseas – some of the latter are calling out the Israelis for racism.

More pertinently to the horror classification, someone is killing off the participants in various grisly ways, and there is no shortage of potential suspects. Could it be Sam (Michael Ironside, in an unexpected supporting role), the local weed farmer with a grudge against Israelis? Bobby (Leshman), the sensitive virgin with a liking for David Bowie, who feels bizarrely like he’s intended as a young Robert Smith? Or even possibly Rachel herself, since she is there, less to discover herself, than to escape from something back in America. It all feels very Scream-like in a number of ways, though I should remain vague on some specifics for spoiler reasons. The setting does provide some originality, not least for the range of languages present: English, Hebrew, German, Russian and even a little Spanish are all used.

It is clearly trying to make political statements here, and that’s one of the reasons why the 111-mnute running time feels a bit excessive. No slasher needs to be any longer than an hour and a half. I couldn’t honestly tell you what the message was though: I more or less tuned out during the sections, such as the polemic rant one resident indulges in at lunch. The horror elements work better, with some nicely unpleasant deaths of those who choose to violate the killer’s moral code. Having things come to a head during the outbreak of war is also a novel idea. It does explain why Rachel can’t find anyone to help, since the authorities are busy with being invaded ‘n’ stuff.

The slasher isn’t a genre for which I have particular fondness, yet I will confess this did just about manage to keep my attention to the end. I do have some questions about the way things are resolved. For example, I found the way in which enemy bombing plays a part, just a bit too convenient of a deus ex machina. There is apparently a “director’s cut” available. I’m not sure what the differences might be: I suspect they’re likely not anything I’d want to see more of. Unless it perhaps explores the double-meaning of the title, which could plausibly refer either to the season or the religious state. Not many films can say that, I guess.