This is an excellent film and therefore in some ways it is a pleasure to watch, but anyone who has seen it will know that it’s effectiveness in fact makes it almost unbearable to watch.

The story revolves around two girls who have recently been orphaned and are sent to live with their aunt who has three young sons. She is a middle aged woman obsessed with feminine purity who sees the new arrivals as a potentially corrupting influence on the masculine world she presides over.

She actively encourages her sons to perpetrate more and more severe acts of bullying and sadism against the older girl who is eventually tied up in the basement and used as a play thing by all the neighbourhood children.

Only the boy who lives next door, who has become friends with the girl, has a growing sense of unease about the “games” which are taking a very sinister turn, yet he is powerless to change the course of events.

This film is very well written, directed and performed and is therefore a relentlessly depressing affair which is horribly painful to watch. The aunt is a very cold and manipulative figure whose brutality knows no bounds and her sons quickly warm to her ideals. Realising that they have a free reign under her they too become very savage. The culmination of the acts they perpetrate are some of the most shocking I have ever seen in cinema, all the more shocking because they are perpetrated by children, against another child, encouraged by their mother.

Truly gripping. Truly horrifying. Hard to watch and hard to look away.