Something wicked this way comes in Terry Gilliam's adaptation of a cult novel by American author Mitch Cullin. 'Tideland' is a disturbingly creepy
story of child abuse, madness and addiction and it is difficult to know where it will find an audience. Almost too disturbing for adults and with plenty of nightmare-giving possibilities, this is unlikely to appeal to any but the most devoted of Gilliam fans.

The events of a strange summer are told from the perspective of the precocious nine-year-old Jeliza-Rose. Alternately smothered and forgotten by her junkie parents, Queen Gunhilda and Noah (Tilly and Bridges), her household chores include massaging her mama's fat legs and preparing the needles for her daddy's fixes. It's not surprising that they don't last too long, Queen Gunhilda dying of a seizure and Noah ODing in a chair directly after he takes Jeliza-Rose back to his own childhood home, an abandoned prairie farmhouse.

As he steadily and gruesomely decomposes, the film becomes more fantastical. The little girl embarks on an exploration of the vaguely menacing house and cornfields that surround it, talking mainly to a set of well-loved dolls' heads, long since separated from their bodies. She also develops an odd friendship, of sorts, with witch-like taxidermist Dell (McTeer) and Dell's mentally damaged younger brother, Dickens (Fletcher).

There's a thin line between imagination and madness here, with Gilliam's potent visuals and detailed production design vividly portraying Jeliza-Rose's 'Alice In Wonderland'-influenced inner world. In a strong cast, the young Jodelle Ferland is natural and compelling in a very disquieting role and Jeff Bridges also, although in a very different way, grabs your attention as the dead and decaying Noah.

Although it looks wonderful, this journey to the dark, unpleasant heart of American gothic is difficult to swallow. 'Tideland' is dirty realism at its most unwholesome.

Caroline Hennessy