Monday, October 26, 2015

31 Days of Horror- Day 26: The Children (2008)

(dir. Tom Shankland)

Ghost House Underground

*First time viewing

The most awkward holiday reunion ever turns bloody when a family’s children fall victim to a sickness that gives them an insatiable desire to kill the adults around them.

Tom Shankand’s The Children is predicated on the notion that many already find children kind of creepy and kind of gross sometimes. Even the kids we love to can irritating, messy, infuriating, and a little alarming, but our relationship between them remains unspoiled (in many cases) by adults’ awareness not to let children gain insight into their private qualms and frustrations. But The Children features a set of kids whose unexplained illness gives them a subtle awareness to their guardians’ inner thoughts, setting them a path of distressingly innocent-minded, and seemingly reactionary murder.

While all of this seems like a perfect set-up for a horror-comedy, The Children plays it straight and pushes the limits of violence further than what you might expect (an incident involving a sled and a garden rake won’t soon be forgotten.) The film carefully establishes its adult characters and their flaws and regrets, which provides a negative energy that the children seem to feed off of and adjust their personalities to accordingly (it’s rather clever and subtlety-handled metaphor in the film.) And when the adults are forced to defend themselves, violently and to their own terrible regret, this too is treated with a seriousness that makes the film occasionally uncomfortable to watch. While there’s no great lasting impact to this winter holidays bloodbath, Shankland makes the film more interesting and frightening by refusing to explain either the sickness or the children’s greater plans, instead letting the irrational become the unsettling.

Scare Factor: 3/5 The Children is one of the better creepy kids movies because of its refusal to temper any element of the film, and because its stark emotional brutality. Like a dark(er) Richard Matheson short story, The Children adds an element of fantastic to the mundane and provides a quick and effective jolt of fear.  

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