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31 Days of Halloween

[Nightstream] ‘Pelican Blood’ (‘Pelikanblut’) review: The Devil made me do it

Too much going on?

Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.

Listen to the latest episode of our weekly movies podcast, Adventures in Movies!

One of the creepiest sub genres in horror are the films about outwardly innocent children who are actually the spawn of Satan. It may not always be literal, but these bad seeds are willing to take things to the deadliest extremes. They are able to cause incredible amounts of havoc and destruction. They are some of the most frightening villains in horror history.

Pelican Blood (Pelikanblut)is about a single mother named Wiebke (Nina Hoss). The police horse trainer adopts a five year old girl named Raya. As expected, Raya initially seems to adapt to life with her new mother and sister, Nicolina. They seem like they are going to be one happy family. Before long, Raya begins to have increasingly violent outbursts. 

There are few surprises in the beginning. Raya is sweet and gets along well with everyone. As expected, she begins to lash out viciously at everyone. What is surprising is how quickly things escalate. There is little build before Raya is attacking her new family and banging her own head on the floor. These are the moments that add mystery and tension and it is surprising to see them left out.

[Nightstream] 'Pelican Blood' ('Pelikanblut') review: The Devil made me do it

Pelican Blood asks different questions than similar films. Of course, There is the mystery involving Raya. There are so many mysterious incidents surrounding the young girl. The film also feeds into the audience’s instinct to believe something sinister is going on. But instead of leaning into the possible supernatural aspects of the story, Pelican Blood asks a far more interesting question. What if Wiebke is somehow to blame? Writer-director Katrin Gebbe establishes Wiebke excels at taming hard to tame horses. There is an obvious parallel to her new daughter.

This adds a layer of realism to Pelican Blood that usually does not normally exist in these types of films. Since it is so grounded, it also makes it more frightening. It is a refreshing twist on the genre helped by amazing performances. Since things happen so quickly, the length of the film becomes an issue. At over two hours it is simply too long. What ends up happening is Pelican Blood becomes a collection of Raya’s antics. They are powerful to be sure, but it gets to be exhausting for the audience.

The final act highlights that Pelican Blood has run a little long. After building a down to earth, albeit terrifying story, things take a turn for the sensational. While it demonstrates Wiebke’s passion, it will be an off putting decision for many. Demon children are an important part of horror history. Pelican Blood is a unique take on the genre. While filled with strong performances, an odd twist will end up disappointing many.

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