The Ending of Se7en had Nothing on The Afflicted; This Entire Movie is a Downer

Main Cast: Leslie Easterbrook

Director: Jason Stoddard

Sometimes when you see a movie that claims to be “based on actual events”, you never know what you’re gonna get, how much of what you’re seeing is actually fact-based. According to the research I did afterward, many of the details of Jason Stoddard’s 2010 movie The Afflicted are based on real events.

A fictionalized account of the life of Theresa Knorr, The Afflicted tells the story of the abuse Maggie puts her children Cathy, Carla, Grace and Bill through after her husband Hank leaves her. Well, he tries to leave her. But she kills him and hides his body in a freezer instead. Afterward, Maggie’s dementia gets worse and worse, spending all day drinking and all night listening to evangelical programs on the radio or TV, insisting that what she’s doing to her children is the word of God.

Since Maggie doesn’t work, she decides to put one of her daughters to work to bring in some money, turning her into a prostitute. Another daughter acts out in school and tries to tell someone what’s going on at home, but Maggie has a very practiced social face and no one believes the daughter. To punish her, Maggie shoots her in her chest and handcuffs her to the shower rail. Later, deciding to let her daughter go, Maggie refuses to let the bullet leave the house and digs it out with an X-acto knife. Later, she tells her son, Billy, to dispose of the body.

The prostitute daughter tries to escape, so Maggie forces the other two to join in beating her to a pulp, then locking her in a closet until she dies. All of which, according the reports, are true accounts of the treatment Theresa Knorr’s children received at the hands of their obviously insane mother.

The movie version however takes place over a number of weeks as opposed to the years the Knorr children suffered.

Leslie Easterbrook (The Devil’s Rejects) plays Maggie and she seems to really be getting into the character of a crazy woman. I won’t say she lights up the screen as there’s nothing but darkness and terror in every scene, but she’s certainly a sight to behold, I’ll give her that.

The children all seem distant and withdrawn–which I would expect, in their situation–but on screen it just comes across as lack of confidence and talent.

This was definitely a very uncomfortable movie to watch and there are several times you want to look away to avoid seeing what’s going on, and that’s probably Stoddard’s intention. Like horror author Jack Ketchum has said, and I’m paraphrasing, it’s not the ghosts and goblins that are really terrifying, but your neighbors, because you just never know what the hell’s going on behind their doors. And sometimes people are just plain terrible to each other.

I’m not sure a movie like this could be said to offer any sort of “entertainment”, especially considering how accurate is its portrayal of the abuse those kids suffered, which brings to mind why would anyone make this movie?

As a cautionary tale? To shine a light on the evil that men do? To somehow glamorize the torture the Knorr kids lived through?

I don’t know. Then again, I’m the one who watched it. For my part, though, I didn’t know about the Knorr case until afterward. But that’s not to say I wouldn’t have watched it anyway out of sheer morbid curiosity. So what does that say about me?

And maybe THAT’S the point Stoddard wanted to make.

Either way, The Afflicted is a passable movie with one really good, albeit demented, performance, and a handful of other underwhelming performances about a real life incident you probably don’t want to know anything about anyway. So take that and make up your own mind if you really want to subject yourself to the mental aftermath of seeing something like this and knowing how true it was. But what’s the alternative? Turning a blind eye? Pretending stuff like this doesn’t happen?

I wish I had the answer.

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