Looks like it's time for another adaptation I've not seen the original of. This time it's a Brit horror, from the 1970s, that ran with the creepy child trope with great abandon.
In the 1600s, a local village child finds a hideous skull in a newly ploughed field. With the remnants of an eye, a wicked claw and a small patch of fur remaining, the remains look like no human or animal anyone has seen before. The local squire is summoned, but before he can observe the corpse, it is spirited away. And so begins a chain of horrid events, all of which are linked back to the innapropriately named Angel Blake.
The village children begin to show cruel and vicious tendencies, beating their fellow children, driving adults to madness and being rude to a vicar. Their evil drives wedges through the thin cracks in civility, such that the village begins to tear itself apart, with paranoia run rampant.
As might be expected, it has a very seventies feel, with a lot of gruesome moments, particularly the roving groups of children manipulating their victims into death. Rebecca Ryan as Angel is the absolute master of this, with her twisted nature and ability to play the victim that allows her to achieve her aims. Kelly Wenham does a good turn as her accomplice Margaret, cruelly tempting Thomas Turgoose's simple but honest Ralph. There's no small amount of body horror as well, with the devil's skin growing on the children like a fungus.
The obvious big names attached to this are Mark Gatiss as the squire and Reee Shearsmith as the Reverend, and they always suffer slightly from my vision of them through the lens of The League of Gentlemen. Shearsmith is here in his "uncertain but earnest" persona, but Gatiss gives an unusual showing as the vengeful squire. Bloody good (pun intended). The original Angel Blake, Linda Hayden, also turns up to play one of the distraught matriachs of the village.
Significantly longer than the norm for this sort of production (audio dramas tend to default to about an hour), and in fact rather longer than the original film, suggesting it's been expanded a fair amount. Doesn't feel at all stretched though. The time flew by while listening to it, and I'll probably pull it off the (digital) shelf again in the future. A good bit of horror, with enough juicy elements to please blood fiends.