Everyone and their dog can easily tell you the name of the most demonic child to ever grace screens. Yes, you got it – I’m talking about The Omen series’ Damien Thorn.
A very similar child that you probably haven’t come across, however, goes by the name of David… and you can find his particular supernatural exploits in director Stewart Hendler’s 2007 entry, Whisper.
Josh Holloway, of Lost fame, stars as Max, a down-on-his luck ex-con who is desperate to go straight by purchasing his own diner. He needs a loan to do this, however, and much to the dismay of both he and his girlfriend, Roxanne (another TV star, Sarah Wayne Callies), the local bank manager is less than happy to trust Max with such a large loan in difficult economic times.
With seemingly no other option on the table, Max falls in with his old crew including hard man Sidney (genre favourite Michael Rooker) and agrees to take on a ostensibly simple kidnap and ransom job. The target is 8-year-old David Sandborn, son of a wealthy businesswoman and presumably easy mark.
Dressing up as Santa Claus, Max pulls off the kidnapping with consummate skill, and the group whisk the boy away to a snow-laden rural retreat, where he will remain held until the ransom money is paid.
But the pressures of having the cops closing in on their trail is nothing in comparison to what sweet little David introduces to the gang, what with him being a little devil and all. Before you can say “boo”, the demonic imp is inciting visions, inducing heart attacks, and kicking off all manner of deadly accidents using his hellish powers. Blind to the cause of all the troubles befalling the group, Roxanne finds herself inescapably drawn to the boy, her logical faculties overruled by her maternal instincts and desire to raise a child with Max. And so, gradually, she becomes an unwitting tool in David’s arsenal, and placed directly in the firing line when the truth is out and Max has no choice but to fight back.
Largely forgotten in the killer kid genre, Whisper spent quite some time locked away before it finally received distribution, only to be rather summarily ignored once it landed on shelves. It was a somewhat unfair treatment, however, as Hendler’s film is a taut little chiller held up by strong performances, a killer mean streak, and some great visuals.
David is a suitably creepy and manipulative little devil, and certainly not afraid to get vicious when he needs to. Taking a leaf from The Omen, he even has his own pack of demonic dogs for protection. Young actor Blade Woodruff brings David to life with an unsettling air – he has all the power in the world, and he knows it. And he finds it suitably empowering that you don’t. There’s a real feeling of damnation to the flick – like every effort that Max, Roxanne and co. make will ultimately be in vain. Nobody feels safe from David’s wrath – and that’s a good thing for maintaining tension in a horror film.
So go ahead and give Whisper a try if you’ve previously ignored it. You’ll probably find yourself pleasantly surprised at its no-prisoners approach, and thoroughly unexpected method of sending its antagonist off in the finale: It’s most certainly something you don’t see very often in the movies!
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