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Celia-Child of Terror (Katarina’s Nightmare Theater) 
Written by: on March 20th, 2013

Theatrical Release Date:
Australia, 1989
Director: Ann Turner
Writer: Ann Turner
Cast: Rebecca Smart, Nicholas Eadie, Victoria Longley

DVD Release Date: February 26th, 2013
Approximate Running Time: 103 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: N/A
DVD Release: Scorpion Releasing
Region Encoding: All Regions
Retail Price: $17.95

Celia is a slightly disturbing and emotionally powerful Australian thriller, a riveting film which holds on to its audience with a seething level of intensity bubbling just below the surface.

This film should NOT be misconstrued as a “horror” film, despite being tagged with the unfortunate and misleading tagline Child of Terror. Instead, the impact of Celia is made all the more shocking because of the reality in which its story is based. The film’s plot—written by Ann Turner, who also directs—deals with the repercussions of the communist scare in a small, rural Australian township.

At the center of this story is Celia Carmichael, a young girl who just isn’t quite the same after the death of her grandmother, and who dreams up terrible, imaginary monsters (“The Hobyahs”) and cinematic film noir fantasies in order to cope with friction between her family and their new, Communist sympathizing neighbors. This plot line of the “Red Scare” against suspected Communists is a hard one here, and is juxtaposed against the keeping of Celia’s pet rabbit within the story’s framework.

This is because rabbits have been considered vermin and ecological pests in Australia, due to the immense damage the animals do to crops. The scenes of abduction and internment of these rabbits—particularly Celia’s, an event which proves to be yet another traumatic event in the life of this sweet young girl—can clearly be compared to the horrors of McCarthyism in the U.S., and possess some serious emotional power without ever coming across as preachy or heavy-handed.

No, Turner’s narrative is intensely personal and vital, building with a smoldering fire right until the film’s shocking climax. In the meantime, we as an audience end up caring deeply for these characters. These are flawed, damaged people, yet never does the characterization ever fall into stereotype or pigeonholing. Even the seemingly innocent possess a dark side here in Celia-A Child of Terror, and there are no real heroes are villains in Turner’s world.

This is a film which begs repeated viewings, possessing a visceral, gut-punching impact which demands ingestion and discussion.

The DVD:

Scorpion Releasing presents Celia-Child of Terror in an anamorphic widescreen presentation which preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. Sound and picture are both excellent—as opposed to many other Scorpion discs, this film isn’t a relic from the bygone grindhouse days, but a seriously dramatic and artistic statement—with no signs of print damage or audio drops. Extras include a vintage, Australian featurette on the film, as well as an interview with writer/director Ann Turner. Overall, Celia receives an recommended presentation from Scorpion Releasing.

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