Year Released: 1971
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 102 minutes
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This French film made and immediately banned in 1971 was inspired by the real life murder of Honora Parker. The incident occurred in New Zealand on June 22, 1954 and was an event that stunned the world, as the killing was executed by two teenage girls. Pauline Parker (16) and Juliet Hulme (15) were the culprits whose abnormally strong friendship lead Parker’s mother, Honora, to forbid the girls to see one another. Mrs. Parker felt that the relationship was unhealthy, if not altogether unnatural. It was deduced that the girls were entangled in a lesbian relationship. From Pauline’s diaries, the authorities found the written evidence that they needed to successfully convict the youngsters of murder. Being underage, they each received six scant years in the slammer and while on trial showed little if any remorse at all.
Director Seria plays with the facts a bit, but the claustrophobic tone of the real story comes across splendidly. Here Pauline becomes Anne and Juliet is Lore, and these are the most minor of the differences. Seria really kicks the facts to the curb by having these two girls “… renounce Jesus Christ and all of his works.” They’re bored with being wholesome and vow to live a life dedicated solely to sin. They make a blood pact with one another in a ceremony that is conducted by Anne’s family gardener, Leon. How do they repay him for his services? They kill his beloved pet birds one by one, “so that he can suffer more.” These girls are more than mischievous, they’re downright sadistic.
Later they flirt with a farmhand and when he acts upon what he feels to be an invitation to sex they burn up his stables. Once again the flirting routine takes place with a stranger passing through town and when he attempts to take the girls up on their promiscuous and provocative behavior they club him to death with a wooden log. The girls do not attempt to murder any of their parents though it is obvious that they do hold them in great contempt. The girls are never shown being convicted or even apprehended; here the director opts for a surreal ending.
The film closes with the girls reciting poetry during a school play and at the poem’s conclusion they douse one another in lamp oil and light themselves afire in front of the entire town. So visually powerful is this sequence that director Seria is easily forgiven for his disregard for the true facts of the crime and how it actually ended. It’s a poetic and largely symbolic finale that really punches home the notion that these two girls have no intention of ever being separated from one another.
It should also be noted that famed director Peter Jackson took on this same subject with his 1994 film, “Heavenly Creatures”. Here the story is treated much more faithfully and Jackson really ups the ante in regards to the supposed lesbian nature of Pauline and Juliet’s relationship. This so outraged Juliet Hulme that she came out of the woodwork to denounce the film. Ms. Hulme had left New Zealand after her six year sentence, residing now in England, and changed her name to Anne Perry to become a best selling author of Victorian era crime novels. If the homosexual subplot of the “Heavenly Creatures” incensed her to the point of revealing her true identity, whatever will she think of Joel Seria’s adaptation of her and Pauline as little Satan-worshiping she-demons?
Mondo Macabro serves up some fantastic extras including; A featurette entitled “Hellish Creatures”, interviews with the director and the film’s star, plus an art gallery and optional subtitles.
Posted on June 6, 2006 in Reviews by Christopher Curry
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