Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?

Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? ★★½

Although this plays out every bit like a Christmas tale for children, in retrospect it's quite sick and probably not suitable for kids, not least because the moral of the story is that storybooks are dangerous. The film stars Mark Lester (Oliver! himself!) as misbehaving, over-imaginative orphan Christopher who, together with his sister Katy, blags his way into a Christmas sleepover held annually by Shelley Winters' "Auntie" Roo Forrest, a former vaudeville star who hasn't got over the death of her young daughter. Roo takes a shine to Katy and invites her to live with her, but jealous Christopher comes to believe that their host is the witch from Hansel & Gretel and ends up trying to kill her before she kills them. It's a cute and twisted shaggy-dog story, but the script - and indeed Lester's limited acting abilities - don't permit us to really get inside Christopher's mind, so instead we spend a lot of time with Roo. And while Winters is always very watchable, her character too lacks depth, so the action is padded out with an irrelevant subplot about a fraudster. A flawed film with an amusingly macabre denouement.