Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Top Scary Movies for Halloween

It is the time of year to talk about Halloween and scary movies. This blog entry does not have much to do with the law. Although, I encourage you to contact the Law Office of Scott Lerner if you go on a killing spree and need representation. I do frown on such behavior and encourage peaceful ways of resolving your differences.
I'm making a list of my top 10 favorite Horror Movies. It is not in order. If you make the list you are already a winner.
The Shining - (the original) - The Stephen King story is great but the direction of Stanley Kubrick makes it a classic. Also, the acting is fantastic. I still get a chill when the twins say, "Come play with us, Danny. Forever and ever and ever."
The Omen (The original from 1976) - The juxtaposition of timeless evil in a little boy just gives me a chill. This movie takes such an unbelievable premise and makes it real. Who needs modern Hollywood special effects?
The Thing - To me this is John Carpenter's masterpiece. Halloween never scared me very much. The Thing plays on your sense of isolation and claustrophobia.
The Sixth Sense - How can M. Night Shyamalan make such a great movie and such bad movies afterwards? Given its PG-13 rating it goes to show that gore, sex and bad language are not necessary for fright. When the father is watching the video-tape the look on his face expresses far more horror then any special effect can.
The Ring - Is there a pattern or two on the list? So far the movies all concern a child. Also they all start with the word "the." Based on the Japanese movie "Ringu" this adaptation is nightmarish. The premise seems silly but it works. The scariest thing to come from Japan since "uni."
Pet Semetery - Little kids coming back from the dead just scare me. Fred Gwynne should have received an Oscar. Most Stephen King books don't make great movies. "Pet Semetery" and "The Shining" are the exceptions. Both also involve Native American burial grounds.
The Orphanage - I'm not a big fan of subtitles but this film is well worth the effort. The atmosphere of dread. The dead children. This movie is just spooky. Another movie that does not need a lot of special effects to be effective.
Hellraiser - This film is original and scary. It paints a new picture of hell on earth. The only Clive Barker movie on the list but "Candyman" is listed as an honorable mention.
Rosemary's Baby - I purposely did not include older movies (this might explain the absence of "Psycho" from my list). This movie I made an exception for. Roman Polanski may be a good topic for my law related topics but this movie speaks for itself. It shows even an infant can be scary.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (the original) - Wes Craven made some scary movies. "Scream" and "The Serpent and the Rainbow" both deserve honorable mention. Yet, a monster that can enter your dreams is a monster well worth being afraid of. The bastard child of a hundred maniacs is one evil dude.

Top ten lists always provide room for argument. What scares me might not scare you. My life experience impacts my list. I am not a fan of your basic slasher film. I prefer a supernatural element to my movies. I could have easily made this a top twenty list and included all of those movies receiving honorable mention and listed below.

Honorable Mention: The Exorcist, Candyman, Alien, Friday the 13th, The 9th Gate, The Fog, Night of the Living Dead, Saw, Evil Dead, An American Werewolf in London.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Case 39 and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

I saw the movie Case 39. I guess I should say spoiler alert before I go on. This is not a movie I want to endorse or recommend but it did make me think about our legal system and how we deal with children.

The movie involves a woman who works for a social service agency concerned with abused and/or neglected children. The California equivalent to the Department of Children and Family Services. Emily (played by Renee Zellweger) is assigned to an unusual family. She feels the daughter is being abused. She ends up rushing to the home just as the child's parents are shoving the child into an oven.

The child is saved by Emily and her friend Detective Barron (Ian McShane). The result is that the parents are sent to a mental health facility and the child ends up living with the social worker. The child turns out to be an evil demon that feeds on death and misery.

Evil child movies always give me the Heebie-jeebies. The juxtaposition of the innocence of a child with the evil of an ageless creature is unsettling. This movie lacked the chills of The Omen or The Exorcist but the idea is the same.

The point I want to make is not that they don't make movies about possessed children as well as they did in the old days. The point is that our legal system has some severe limitations when dealing with children.

Emily is hard working and caring. That being said she had 39 cases in her caseload and limited time to spend on each. She also had no children of her own and had a difficult childhood. Thus, little real life experience concerning how to raise children. Although, fictional the description of Emily is not far from a realistic account of the problems facing social workers.

In these types of cases a social worker makes a decision based on a moment in time rather then over a period of years. I'm not saying they necessarily make the wrong decisions only that their decisions are based on limited information. The Courts have the same limitations. The Judge's understanding of the case is limited to the evidence presented by the parties. The Court often never hears from the children personally. There are certain exceptions to the hearsay rules in Illinois related to children in abuse cases. In addition it is not unusual for the parties not to seek the testimony of the children.

The hard cases are not the sever abuse cases or the drug exposed infants. The hard cases involve the close calls. Foster homes are often worse then leaving the child where she was at. Some foster homes contain other children who have been abused. These children may act out against other foster children in the home. Relative placements can also be troubling. If a mother abuses her child then giving the child to the grandmother who raised the abusive mother may be a mistake.

Supervision is also difficult. Social workers have a large caseload. It is difficult to monitor all the the placements. I court hearing every six months or so is no guarantee anyone is providing proper services and supervision to those involved. In addition case workers are often lacking in the experience and education to deal with children with sever psychological and emotional problems.

I don't have the statistics as to how many children who grow up in foster care end up having a successful and productive life. I will say based on my experience that many of them grow up to have their own children raised in foster care. I can also say that success stories are the exception and not the rule.