The Children *** ½
Directed By: Tom Shankman.
Written By: Tom Shankman based on a story by Paul Andrew Williams.
Starring: Eva Birthistle (Elaine), Stephen Campbell Moore (Jonah), Jeremy Sheffield (Robbie), Rachel Shelley (Chloe), Hannah Tointon (Casey), Raffiella Brooks (Leah), Jake Hathaway (Nicky), William Howes (Paulie), Eva Sayer (Miranda).
There is something incredibly creepy about children, isn’t there? That is why there are so many horror movies where kids are the bad guys. Children of the Corn, The Bad Seed, The Omen, The Good Son and the recent Orphan are all examples of horror movies with children as the bad guy. The Children is the most recent, and perhaps the best, example of this. This is a brilliantly terrifying movie about a group of children who try and kill their parents.
Elaine (Eva Birthisle) and Stephen Campbell Moore (Jonah) have three children. Teenager Casey (Hannah Tointon), 10 year old Miranda (Eva Sayer) and 6 year old Paulie (William Howes). They travel to Elaine’s sister place out in the country. Chloe (Rachel Shelley) and Robbie (Jeremy Sheffield) are the exact opposite of Elaine and Jonah, and have two young kids of their own - Nicky (Jake Hathaway) and Leah (Raffiella Brooks). It starts out as any other Christmas holiday, with lots of talk and playing with the kids. Tense dinners as Jonah tries to get the much richer Robbie interested in a shady business deal. In short, it’s like everyone else’s Christmas.
But then something starts happening. Paulie starts throwing up, and the rest of the kids appear to be ill as well. There is something dead in their eyes. They start to manipulate their parents by playing divide and conquer, separating their parents so they only have to deal with one of them at a time.
I’m not sure that there is anything more terrifying than the thought of your kids trying to kill you. It is a thought that would not even occur to most parents. Parents have blinders on when it comes to their children, so no matter what they do, they are still perfect angels in their eyes. So when one by one, the parents start dying, the other parents look for any other explanation then the one that is starring them directly in the face. The fact that Casey (who has not been infected by what the other kids have, probably because she is too old) always seems to be around gives the adults a perfect scapegoat for everything that has happened. She is the only one who knows what is really happening, but of course, no one will listen to her.
The director is Tom Shankland, whose previous film The Killing Gene (aka WAZ) was essentially a high end torture porn movie. With The Children, he has grown leaps and bounds. The Children is violent and bloody, but does not depend on gore to get scares. Instead, the film depends on a growing primal terror. Almost the entire film takes place in the sunlight, set against the bright whiteness of all the snow around them. Snow is perfect for horror films, as it soaks up all the blood, and provides a perfect cover and setting for horror films. The film is expertly crafted, and is also well acted by the entire cast. The adults are all fine, but it is the kids who are truly brilliant. They are the creepiest kids I can remember seeing in a movie. And Tointon is perfect as the rebellious teenager. The Children is perhaps the best horror film of the year.