The Pit and the Pending Doom

I’d been thinking. Most of the horror movies I like have kids playing a crucial part to the story. Of the top of my head, I’m thinking of “The Sixth Sense,” “The Others,” “The Shining,” and “The Exorcist.” What is it about that age that goes well with horror? The innocence? A child’s gullibility? Maybe above it all, it’s vulnerability. We can watch adults and stupid teens die in horrifying ways. But no, not the kid. That’s just mean.

In southern Italy, we meet a 10 year-old boy wearing short pants. Michele, our plucky and good-looking hero, opens up a hole on the ground. What he finds horrifies him. He runs away, but returns when curiosity overpowers his fear. As the movie deepens, Michele will visit and lowers himself into the hole as frequently as he can. The content of the hole becomes his heroic discovery. His own little secret to keep.

The first part of the movie triggers our fear of the unknown. We’re clueless as Michele when he opens the hole. Then that fear elevates when we figure out things ahead of Michele. We’re scared for the kid because of what we know. The tricky situation that arises is more complex than a boy of his age can comprehend. He’s unaware just how risky his actions are. If Michele had been a little older, then things would turn out different. When the movie reaches its tense climax, everyone involved is scared and the suspense is frustratingly good because a kid’s life is at stake. And the ending? It’s one traumatic jolt.

You wonder if an intelligent film like this can pass through the filters of big movie studios. But hey, maybe they can make a remake of this, since it’s popular copying effective horror movies from countries that take more risks. Unlike most horror films, it contains some gorgeous cinematography. It’s not always dark and dreary. It’s visually memorable, especially that image of Michele prancing through a field of waving stalks. It’s nostalgic in the way it magically captures the joy of childhood. Its sense of wonder. But it also harrowingly reminds us of the immense gap between childhood and adulthood. As adults, we know there’s enough stuff in the real world to scare the hell out of us. In a way, it is with puerile spirit we go to average horror movies featuring ghosts, monsters, and nearly infallible murderous villains. You won’t be pleasantly frightened unless you leave your mature cynicism and bring the inner child that’ll believe just about everything. On the other hand, “I’m Not Scared” and the better films of the genre are not biased. They’re able to satisfy both opposites.

Grade: A-