One Halloween night, a heavily pregnant woman is found dead after being repeatedly stabbed by her ex, the two babies apparently still alive in the blood pooling between their mother’s legs. This forms both the prologue to Bad Apples, and its primal scene, setting all the pieces in place for a good old-fashioned calendar slasher. Fourteen years later, two sisters leave their trailer home one Halloween night for a nearby suburban street where Ella (Brea Grant) and her husband Robert (Graham Skipper) have just moved in. There, giggling behind their matching masks, the twin girls embark on a killing spree against the street’s residents.
With Bad Apples, his previous feature Infernal and his forthcoming Utero, writer/director Bryan Coyne is becoming something of a specialist in maternal anxieties and diabolical children. Indeed, everything in Bad Apples revolves around children: Ella and Robert have moved from Los Angeles, a place plagued with ‘troubled youth stories’, to this small town in part to overcome the loss of their own baby; Ella is a schoolteacher, who works professionally with teenagers and “loves kids”; across the street lives a convicted sex offender (Miles Dougal) who once preyed on the young; and then there are the two girls, ‘born out of violence’, and continuing it. In an early scene an actual US flag is used by them as a murder weapon, hinting that Bad Apples is unmasking a peculiarly American legacy of abuse, abandonment and underclass alienation.
Not that these themes come across especially coherently, in a film far more concerned with creepy kids and arbitrarily vicious acts, all expressed in the familiar genre language of slice and dice, and made complete with references to the shower scene of Psycho, the relentless masked psychopath of Halloween and even the axed bathroom door of The Shining. A coda, one year later, ritually resurrects the motifs of expectant mother and home invasion, promising yet more class revenge.