Euro-Horror Project: The Godsend

(Gabrielle Beaumont, 1980) The Godsend is usually overlooked, and when it’s noticed it’s usually scorned. But it’s close to my heart regardless, and I can’t give up the old VHS copy I pull out of storage every year or two. There’s something appealing about its bucolic countryside, and Angela Pleasence’s creepy presence, and the strange blonde child her character abandons to a perfect family bursting at the seams of their English cottage-manor. There’s no use posturing that the movie’s an underappreciated gem – Beaumont is a television director, and it shows in her overuse of expository shorthand and her love of a generic score – but it still possesses an X-factor, something hard to shake. Chalk it up to The Godsend’s gauzy-wispy, almost neorealist tone, or its Bad Seed origins, or the way it vexes motherhood; like the fathers in The Omen and It’s Alive, Malcolm Stoddard’s doting dad is the first to suspect there’s something off about the offspring of a stranger who took tea in their living-room, gave birth in their guest-bedroom, and vanished. Whey-faced Bonnie (played successively by Joanne Boorman and Whilelmina Green) is the cuckoo’s egg who turns a lovely family against itself, aided by her adoptive mother’s (Cyd Hayman) transition from a woman of sense to one of drawn anxiety when her children start dying off. The Godsend creates an observational, almost documentary remove from the family’s movements across the screen, lulling us with its painted domestic idyll before washing it all over with a layer of the grotesque.  –Ranylt Richildis

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