The Afflicted, renamed Another American Crime for overseas release in Germany, a sickening horror film produced by Midnight Releasing in association with Afflicted Picturehouse, and written and directed by Jason Stoddard, on a streamline budget of $180,000. Inspired by the Theresa Knorr case, the movie roughly follows the real life events through a tragic timeline, but translates into a disturbed mother of four who delivers an unimaginable level of abuse to her children, most which actually occurred. Theresa herein becomes Maggie portrayed wonderfully by Leslie Easterbrook a star of over 30 horror films and easily identified to her role in the comedic franchise of Police Academy, shows a woman defending her actions with her own twisted interpretations of the Bible. A brief note of whom the centralized character (Maggie) plays Theresa Jimmie Francine Knorr is an American woman convicted of torturing and murdering two of her six children, by the means of burning one alive and starving another, while using the others to facilitate and cover up her crimes. She is currently serving two consecutive life sentences at the California Institution for Women in Corona, California eligible for parole in 2027.
Stoddard’s film contains three important characters in this film, Maggie, her children, and a misguided preacher with them all roasting over a fiery pit of damnation, abuse and torture, while Kane Hodder (Hatchet II ) makes a cameo appearance of about 10-minutes as a lovable Dad who knows far too much. As many films previous and since then use the overstated phrase of ‘based on a true story’ although likely due to legal reasons one could not state the film is actually based on the story of Ms. Knorr. However, one must note that film, grows from a darkened place and transcends in deeper depths of depravity exposing a psychological character study, i.e. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986). In discussions with horror fans, some feel bored with status of the genre, seek out the more extreme, and those accustomed to PG-13 bliss, likely easily offended by a dark vile beast of a movie, testing die-hard horror fans’ limits with this disturbing film. A good cameo appearance from horror icon and legendary stuntman and actor Mother Maggie, runs rampant with her madness, sickening interpretation of the bible and discipline running amok, while maintaining a happy household of homicidal intentions. Easterbrook gives a starling and compelling performance unleashing an eye-rolling, over-the-top dark and deranged mind of a mentally sick woman applying her own twisted religious interpretation while enforcing an unimaginable level of abuse to her four children, causing them constant fears of being beaten and insanely abused by her. Just as with all fictional and real life killers, a justification always exists to balance her woes, struggles and matriarch position, however she goes further to instill her version of home schooling with her own ‘board of education’ paddle, to dispense her own quite vicious brand of discipline, especially after her eldest child Cathy (Michele Grey) to inform authorities fails. Michele takes commanding presence with role of Cathy with aches for help and pulling at the audience, her end comes eerily close to the real life fate of one of Knorr’s children.
Herein, the insanity of Maggie swells as if a tsunami burst onset, with two forms of abuse, first from the Kings James Bible’s Proverbs 13:34, ‘Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child’ and the distasteful sinister forcing prostitution of her youngest daughters, thereby supporting the family and honoring thy mother. The second aspect became the harder visual sickening display occurring on the screen. The grueling repulsive rape scenes first involved actress Katie Holland handling the role of Carla and while disgusting the audience bear through the scene as Katie provided wonderful acting via her facial, the vacant look that captures true dissociation and hopeless, which is very commonly associated with child abuse cases. However, the second rape scene vastly far from an easy viewing, as it involved actress Randi Jones, as Grace (who’s voice dub by Tammy Trull), appearing as a younger teenage sister. In fact, this reviewer recalls watching this movie at the 2010 Terror Film Festival and this second rape scene exhausted the patience of the audience and caused many to leave the theater. Later discovered that Stoddard stated, “We kept the crew to a minimum and used extreme close ups letting audience use their imagination”; hence borrowing from the method of Brian de Palma and Tobe Hooper used in their films. In both actresses’ cases, their vacant facial expression, echo the pain of situation, and hopelessly to please their mother, abandoned by the system of ignorant authorities.
J.D. Hart provides the only brief comedic relief with his character Cowboy Profit, a television preacher who is anything but godly, his character’s last name properly stated on the credits, perhaps suggesting, and a play on words that television preachers or prophets are another racket to device the faithful. He visits the brothel, drinks to ungodly portions, and swears immensely, portraying hypocrisy at every turn in his life until the moment of redemption falls at his feet.
The best way to prepare to for this gripping film, start first with repeat viewings of the original I Spit On Your Grave (1978) and then stiffen your backbone and breathe slow and steady for the grim bleak horrendously true loathing family values dynamic storyline. This film has caused many in the horror genre heated discussions over the abuse references and the presentation of the suspension of disbelief, and the level of disgusting. Nonetheless, the perceive suspension of disbelief discussion surrounded the children not fleeing or informing authorities of Maggie is abusing them with far fetching atrocities, however they did and results in ignorance and more beat days for them. In fact, Maggie thwarts their actions each time, with a devilish divine influence of knowing how to con the gatekeepers in her path and hence the children are giving a Palvo response of more beatings. Interesting enough, some cinema fans suggest understanding the psychological aspects of the abuse, especially from real life cases, to this film as it mirrors each other. As the shared abuse in life and film follows but not limited to berated insults, vehemently controlled, isolation, trapped with commitment bonds for others in the abuse, which occurred to both Maggie’s children and to the Ms. Knorr’s children. Referring back to my notes of this airing of the movie recalled some of the audiences’ reactions Director, Martin Binder of Quick Shop (2011) stated, “considered the second rape in the film too much, since having a nine year old daughter [at home]”. While on the other hand screenwriter Joe Randazzo stated, “the intent of film especially horror is to offend, to push boundaries.” Lastly, one woman referred to the entire film with a one-word answer, “Porn!” it is not that, rather it makes the lasting impression with viewers and communicates the hidden abuses which destroy the innocence of children under the disguise of religion.
One can only imagine what dreadful news story awaits for exposure to society, thinking of the absent children, those tucked behind a neighbor’s door, unseen, suffering in pains and torments, while under the guise of righteousness. Easterbrook sells a maternal monster very well, and the children suffering in the cruelest manner, assisting in the pain, and anguish of others being in fact disease killers themselves. This movie is definitely not for the faint of heart, and lays as a hidden cult gem, appealing to the torture porn audience and those tired of the same ‘ol horror tales.
This review was originally posted on the now defunct Rogue Cinema website in May 2017 with a view count of 1,671.
IMDb Rating: 4.6/10
Baron’s Rating: 4.5/10