Sometimes TV series adaptations stir up something furious in us, a sudden supercharged desire to destroy the unholy abomination before it taints something we love (ahem, The Equalizer). Other times, they don’t seem like such a bad idea, as is the case with Little House on the Prairie. In our current climate, where people (me) are going around tagging TV adaptations as “unholy abominations” that should probably be purged from society, we could all use a palette cleanser. And there’s none better than Little House, a series as plain, tall and uniformly wholesome as TV could ever be.
Or maybe not, because as The Hollywood Reporter has announced, the Little House movie has picked up Sean Durkin as its director. The same Sean Durkin whose only feature credit is Martha Marcy May Marlene, which is also about a quaint little family living out in the wilderness – only Durkin’s version has a few more instances of rape and psychological torture. For those screamingly obvious reasons, he’s an odd pick for Little House, but the last director Sony had lined up for the project was just as bizarre: David Gordon Green, whose indie dramas and freaky comedies with Danny McBride have just as little to do with gentle pioneer families and the soft rustle of the country wind through your prairie bonnet.
So we must ask: what exactly is Sony’s game plan with Little House? Unless both Green and Durkin have attached themselves to the project out of nothing but fond memories of the Ingallses and life on the farm, there has to be some hidden darkness in the Little House reboot that would benefit from these kinds of directors. Our biggest clue comes from Green himself, who told Crave Online earlier this year (before he left the project) that his Little House might not resemble Little House in its most recognizable form. “I’m looking at it as more of a John Ford movie, kind of in the great western genre,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s a little house on a prairie.”
And while Little House was certainly wholesome, it was not without its own moments of rape, psychological torture and death. Does the name Sylvia ring a bell? Maybe not. Perhaps if we add the mental image of “raped by a mime,” it might help jog a few memories. Because yes, there is an episode of Little House where a young girl (named Sylvia) in Walnut Grove is attacked and sexually assaulted by a guy in a horrible mime mask. Then, she finds out she’s pregnant. Then, Mr. Mime goes in for the kill, and succeeds, mortally wounding Sylvia when she falls off a ladder (and then he ends up killed himself). Sylvia dies, and all those ’70s kids who tuned in to see something genteel had a wonderful scarring memory that would last them for years.
Conveniently, someone on YouTube has stitched this horror into a rapid-fire 30-second video, in case you’re curious to see the inner evils within Little House on the Prairie.
There might just be enough of a dark and disturbing vein within Little House for Durkin to work with. He’s a talented guy – Martha Marcy Marlene should prove that – and as odd as it sounds, at least Sony seems to know what they want from the quaint little town of Walnut Grove. Westerns are rare enough today that anything patterning itself after John Ford should be welcomed with open arms. Even if it’s something as bizarre as this.