Celia (1988)

CeliaPosterIf it’s true that all the best movies involve Commies and outcasts (and certainly it is), Celia’s got a lot going for it. It has been on our watch-list for about six months, but it wasn’t until I found out it was Australian horror that it became must-see. The words “Australian” and “horror” go together extremely well, but turns out movie isn’t really a horror movie – though horrible things do indeed happen.

This movie is set in 1957 Australia, amidst both the red and rabbit scares. The story centers around Celia Carmichael, a young girl whose best friend is her Marxist grandmother, whom Celia finds dead in her bed in the very first scene of the movie. Not the ideal way to start off a young girl’s summer holiday; all Celia wil have to entertain herself is a daily trip to the pet store to gawk at the pet rabbits, and a fairy tale book about the Hobyahs, evil monsters who creep into town at night and prey on innocent citizens. Her overactive imagination gets a break when she meets her new neighbors the Tanners.

One of Celia's most prized possessions: grandma's mask.

One of Celia’s most prized possessions: grandma’s mask.

Celia becomes fast friends with the family of five that moves in next door, and they quickly become her allies in her strange, ongoing war with her supremely bratty cousin Stephanie and some other kids from town. Unfortunately for Celia, though, it soon comes to light that her neighbors are <gasp> Communists. Horrified and disgusted, Celia’s father not only tries to bribe her away from the Tanners with a bunny rabbit, he tells his cop brother (Stephanie’s father) about Mr. Tanner’s party affiliation, and soon after Mr. Tanner finds himself jobless.

This puts quite a lot of pressure on Celia’s already strained relationship with her father. She doesn’t seem to trust or respect him, and continues to run with the Tanner children. It’s clear now the other group of children are chastising the Tanners for being Communists, and Celia for associating with them, though the young kids really have no idea what any of it means.

Bunny, Mask, things are okay... right?

Bunny, Mask, things are okay… right?

All the while, the Australian government has decided to take action in regards to the rabbit problem, and demands all pet rabbits are relinquished to the government. Celia holds on to her pet rabbit as long as she can, but not long after the Tanners are forced out of town, her Uncle John comes to claim her pet rabbit, attempting to placate her anticipated rage with a new puppy. The puppy doesn’t cut it, and Celia’s absolutely beside herself.

Celia is a very intelligent, tenacious and open-minded young girl, brought up in a very closed-minded social setting. For much of this movie I was impressed with her character, and also with Rebecca Smart’s portrayal of her. I must say, the turn of events at the end

She don't mess around.

She don’t mess around.

definitely threw me for a loop, and though I watched it probably a week or so ago, I’m still not sure how I feel about it. This is a pretty classic coming-of-age tale, as the poster touts it is “a tale of innocence corrupted.” Indeed, the movie starts out with Celia finding her grandmother’s corpse, and it’s a spiral into adulthood from there.

Honestly, I am surprised I hadn’t heard of this movie sooner, the subject-matter itself is interesting, and on top of it it’s Australian! I’m not sure how it escaped my radar, but I definitely recommend this.


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