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Roger Dollison, a police officer, and his wife Kendra are living the american dream. They have two children, Teddy and Sandy, and a lovely home and a dog named Rex. What they know and how they live as a family is irreparably changed one day when it is discovered that a classmate of Teddys is the apparent victim of sexual abuse and molestation at the respected neigbourhood daycare centre. Like all other parents, the Dollisons are tormented - "we should have known, we should have seen" - but there devastation is complete when Teddy tells his own story, one he promised his abusers he would never tell. Written by
I only finished the movie because meanwhile, I was writing this review....
Ugh. Yes, it's exactly like the McMartin mess, or the horrific arrests in Wenatchee, Washington. In the movie, the mother keeps aggressively questioning her little boy, over and over and over, until he finally tells her what she obviously wants to hear. The court investigators and "therapists" repeat the pattern. The questioning itself is sexually creepy, a relentlessy repeated assault in its own way.
The moviemakers throw in a doctor talking about physical evidence of abuse, maybe to justify the film's point of view: that two- to four-year-olds never make "things like this" up. Well, they will if every adult they know is asking them to. The way this piece endorses such discredited interrogation techniques makes watching it an exercise in frustration for anyone who knows what it takes to get a successful prosecution in real life.
(They also add a special arrest incident towards the end to "prove" their case -- no parallel to this fictional incident ever occurred in real life. Can't say more here without turning this into a spoiler, but you'll know it when you see it.)
Yes, children are abused, sometimes by paid care providers. But to watch a movie which affirms the ludicrous, hysterical accusations against so many totally innocent people, to watch re-creations of the trials that ruined the lives of countless children as well as the lives of the accused -- I didn't think I'd last until the end. It's just too sad, and made more so by the writing team's seeming endorsement of the abusive, paranoid, obsessional questioning techniques that started -- what can we call it? The bonfire of the sanities?
No one I know has ever been accused of child abuse, thank heaven, but my 12-times-over-great grandmother was accused of witchcraft and killed for it. Mobs filled with what they think is holy anger are just as dangerous now as three hundred years ago. Sensational drivel like this -- "These accusations of Satanic abuse are cropping up all over the country, there must be something there!" "So tell the jury that!" -- just eggs them on.
And whoever thought it was a good idea to have kids under ten, some of them under five, play these roles? It's traumatic to watch them delivering their lines; how much more traumatic was it to act these parts? The moviemakers' commitment to fight child abuse apparently doesn't apply to themselves. And what were the child-actors' parents THINKING? "Melinda" (uncredited, at least in the version on the A&E Network in 2005, but I think it was Cassy Friel) and "Teddy" (Brian Bonsall) were terrific. Professionals or not, though, they were too young to be exposed to this material, much less to be paid to act it out. Despite ruthlessly exploiting these real-life children, "Do You Know The Muffin Man" got an Emmy nomination for directing -- which just goes to show how crazed things were, back in 1989.
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