Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2018
Images from the Internet
Lost Child (aka Tatterdemalion)
Directed by Ramaa Mosley
Green Hummingbird Entertainment / Laundry Films /
Variant Pictures / Breaking Glass Pictures
Variant Pictures / Breaking Glass Pictures
101 minutes, 2018
Have to say, I really like many of the local legend subgenre releases, whether the mythical beings are “real” (e.g., can be found on Wikipedia) or made up simply for a particular film. It seems many of them refer to backwoods areas like the Ozarks regions. This one, y’all, is one-a-‘em, about a life-draining spirit that comes in the form of a child called the Tatterdemalion (translated as a person in tattered clothing, or being dilapidated). This film actually began titled with the name of the creature, but they were wise enough to change it to its present, more accessible one.
Here, we meet redheaded Fern (a glamoured-down Leven Rambin, o the mainstream-level. The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, and “True Detective”), who has come home to said Ozarks after nearly a decade to look for her brother, bringing with her a strain of PTSD from multiple tours of combat. While ramblin’ about looking for her kin, she stumbles into a kid named Cecil (newcomer Landon Edwards) roaming around the woods by his own self, and takes him in.
Of course, everyone is nervous that the kinder is said tatten… you know what, I’m really glad they changed the name. Anyway, people keep giving Cecil different kinds of tests (like to see if he avoids salt). The response is left kind of open of course, not to show a hand one way or another.
That’s one of the things I like about the film, that you really don’t know what’s going on between suspicion, fear and reality. Meanwhile, Fern has been fading and weakening, having trouble sleeping and eating. While they take place, the viewer is left to try and guess if these tests prove if it’s the PTSD or perhaps the Tattythingie.
As a side note, one of the things that drives me a bit crazy and seems inconsistent in the storyline is that if Fern grew up in these here woods, why has she never heard of the Tattsrats if everyone else has? This seems like a bit of a plot hole. And let’s not talk about that Cecil wears the same clothes throughout most of the first half of the film, that are unstained while living in the woods, being tan cargo pants and a white tee.
Anyway, like most psychological or supernatural dramas, whatever this turns out of be, it has a pretty slow build, so the viewer gets some perspective about the people and the area, though a bit of patience is needed as an uneasy bond builds between Cecil and Fern. Luckily, it’s beautifully shot with hues that are of earth tones, nice angles, and the camera isn’t afraid to linger on a shot for more than five seconds, as with most modern releases; usually the bigger the budget, the less space between edits.
The film seems to take place in the early 1990s, considering the huge size of computer, lack of cell phones and internet, and I’m pretty sure Fern is coming back from the first Gulf War. It was a tipping point in history, just before different cultures would collide and then splinter even further thanks to the World Wide Web. But it also makes people to not be able to look things up and get instant answers (such as me looking up the Tattentinkle on Google).
There’s also three dudes that come acallin’ in one form or another. The first one is Mike (Jim Parrack), a relative Southern Gentlemen social worker type who isn’t afraid of a one night stand, another is Billy (Taylor John Smith) her estranged brother who is a patch of rough and violent southern gravel, and the third, Fig (Kip Duane Collins) is neck deep in the local mythology. Some extremes to choose from, but I’m willing to bet that not everyone is as they seem, even though I haven’t gotten that far (yes, I’m writing as I’m watching).
One of the things I really like about this film is that it does not shy away from social commentary about the first Bush years. There is extreme poverty shown, a kids in custody problem (which currently still exists, even in the North, by the way), drug use, and essentially backwoods ignorance that one would hope has improved somewhat (though the occupant of present White House may show different).
A fanatical belief in creatures in the woods is similar to religious fervour, which brings fear, blame, and then anger in a misdirected way to adapt to what is going on around one; in logic it’s known as a fallacy from ignorance: my sheep died so there must be something evil out there as I don’t know why else.
As slow a start as the film kicks off on, it gradually builds, and the entire third act is an incredible thriller that comes as a surprise due to its step-by-step building of events and personae. If you’ve started the story, give it the time. There’s no jump scares, no viscera, but there is violence and hardship coming to a very satisfying conclusion.
This film has a lot to unpack. It’s more than just about some Untiddytang creature, it’s also about the overarching social and governmental routine as monster, which did not take care of veterans, was unsupportive of extreme poverty, and a social system of child custody, which is one scary mofo (I have loosely been involved with the latter, and see the results of government policy as it stands).
This is definitely from a female perspective, of a female character in a male society, but even with all the political and social standings it presents, it never takes away from the story nor does it hit the viewer over the head. It’s all subtle and emphasizes the points of the story rather than distracts from them.
Again, to be overly redundant, it’s good they changed the name of the film.