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Godsend

Year: 2004
Director: Nick Hamm
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Robert De Niro, Cameron Bright
As horror film institutions go, there are seminal favourites like the dark and stormy night, the door you just know there's something behind (while one of the characters creeps slowly towards it to fling it open and reveal some nasty surprise), and for the more cerebral of the horror genre, there's the creepy kid.

Lovable tots who give nothing away, stare sullenly and have evil (or at least a disturbing wisdom) in their little eyes have been around since the child zombie turned on its mother in 1968's Night of the Living Dead.

Gage Creed in Pet Sematary, the little twin girls in The Shining (not to mention the psychic Danny Torrance himself), Rachel's far-too-quiet son in The Ring, the entire support cast of Children of the Corn, the list of haunted ankle biters goes on.

The reason evil children frighten us so much (when all they really do is stand and stare balefully) would contain enough psychology to fill a PhD thesis, but whatever the reason, filmmakers have long pumped the little darlings for all the terror they can convey.

Godsend is no exception. When he turns eight years old, Adam Duncan - cute son of parents Paul (Kinnear) and Jesse (Romijn-Stamos) - turns strange; going into trances, exhibiting quietly violent behaviour and suffering night terrors and horrifying daytimes visions.

Something has gone wrong with Adam because he's not the first Adam, he's a clone of the original that was killed years earlier.

In the second mainstream movie to deal with the subject of human cloning (the first - the woeful Governor Schwarzenegger 'action' movie The 6th Day, hardly rates a mention), Paul and Jesse lose their beloved son at age eight in car accident.

Naturally distraught, the last thing they're ready for is Dr Richard Wells (De Niro) showing up at Adam's funeral with an incredible offer; having perfected human cloning, he wants to create another Adam, one that Jesse will be able to bring to full term, give birth to naturally, and who will grow up a carbon copy of the original.

Adam Part II's eight birthday passes and the nightmare begins, one that will have far reaching consequences for Paul, Jesse and Richard (who's stayed close to the family since the procedure).

Like in The Ring, you'll be curious about the explanation for the events of the story while spending a couple of minutes here and there hiding behind your hand waiting for some horrible shock accompanied by a sudden burst of sound from the orchestra (and there are several). The explanation and twist are more or less satisfactory, but more could have been done in their impact.

Nick Hamm's closed-in direction and a cold, bleak suburban landscape coloured in washed out grey and white shades (it seems to be dark even in the middle of the day) will remind you of The Sixth Sense, but it's still an effective technique.

The camera warps the surroundings and tracks at a high frame rate, giving the picture an occasionally gritty edge and helping to heighten the sense of confusion and fear of Adam's desperate parents as they try to explain his bizarre and terrifying behaviour.

Greg Kinnear need not convince any more of his skills in any genre after forging equally strong reputations in both comedy and drama, and it's been a steady rise to fame for model-turned-actress Romijn-Stamos, after a bit parts in Austin Powers; The Spy Who Shagged Me led to her role as the iconic Mystique in X Men and higher-profile roles ever since.

As always, De Niro quite effortlessly commands every scene he's in, but it's Cameron Bright, playing Adam, which impresses. While it must be next to impossible to get a truly convincing performance out of a little kid, some - like Dakota Fanning, Haley Joel Osment and Bright - come close to being uncanny naturals.

Creepy, atmospheric and dramatic, and while it's not the most original idea, it's the first time bioethics has been treated seriously on film - even if it's dressed up as a skin-crawling thriller.

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