NOVEMBER 6, 2009
If I ever have kids, I must remember to re-watch some of my favorite killer kid movies after they are born, and again when they are old enough to murder me, and see how they affect me then. Because now, as a childless, easily amused asshole, my biggest complaint about The Children is that they often shy away from the killing (both ways), offering only the quickest of quick glimpses for many of the kills and keeping others entirely off-screen. Not that I am a gorehound or whatever, but after Orphan (and my recent viewing of Who Can Kill A Child?), I have been sort of conditioned to accept that the violence is OK to show, whereas this film treats it as something of a taboo.
Otherwise, it’s a solid entry in the sub-genre. The isolated setting and compact cast (4 kids, 5 adults) allows for some genuine tension, because you know that a few parent vs. child scenes will occur (instead of bringing in obvious fodder like a boyfriend or a neighbor), and while nothing manages to get as gut-wrenching as the climax of The Good Son (save the evil son or the innocent nephew?), it still has a bit of that flavor. Writer/director Tom Shankland also makes the bold choice of making the father refuse to see the children as evil, instead of the mother which is what you’d expect (a la Who Can Kill A Child*).
I also enjoyed the occasional creepy bits, such as one kid banging endlessly on his xylophone (this has an amazing payoff in the toy’s final appearance), and another speaking in some sort of robot tongue. Shankland also gets a lot of mileage about the family cat, who is pretty obviously dead but we never really see what happened to it (a deleted scene explains a bit more, so it’s the rare deletion that resulted in a more interesting subplot). And you gotta be some sort of sick genius to come up with the “surgery” scene that serves as the film’s goriest highlight.
I could have done without all the little “psycho” quick cuts that occasionally serve as transitions but usually just zap you out of a scene. I get their intent, but they don’t quite work for me. More than once they merely broke the tension of a scene prematurely. Shankland is also a bit too fond of harsh close-ups of random objects (snow flakes, toys, etc) and extended shots of pooling blood. Again, the violence in the film seems a bit stunted, and these shots seem to exist solely to make up for it. “Sorry we didn’t show the impact and that you’re kind of confused as to what exactly happened... here’s some blood.”
Ghost House Underground and Lionsgate have jam-packed the DVD with bonus material, kicking off with a 20 minute making of (with chapter breaks!) that covers the production. Then there are about a half dozen mini-featurettes (3-5 min each) that cover some production aspect in more detail, including one on the fake snow. A few deleted scenes (which are all quite good for a change, though I wouldn’t protest their deletion - the film’s compact running time was a definite plus) and some trailers round things out. There are also 40 second music video promos for each of this years’ GHU titles (why only four this year instead of eight?), but you can skip them unless you enjoy hearing portions of some not very good faux metal songs.
It’s been a good year for KK movies here at HMAD, with the previously mentioned titles, not to mention my long overdue viewing of Children of the Corn (and the new version, which I seem to be alone in enjoying). Not sure what that says about me, but if you were planning on asking me to babysit and have reconsidered, I understand. I don’t want to be near your murderous little brat either.
What say you?
*I won’t spoil the twist, but now that it’s on DVD I don’t mind hinting - I just want to say that while Orphan also had the “suspicious mother/oblivious father” setup, it was actually integral to the ultimate point of the film for it to be that way. If it was the other way around, the movie wouldn’t work.