The Children (1980)

MAY 29, 2008


I hate to be so mean to Harry Manfredini, but he really brings it upon himself. Within 5 seconds of the introduction of his score for The Children (aka The Children Of Ravensback), I knew it was his music. How? Because, as always, it’s identical to his score for Friday the 13th. But unlike Hills Have Eyes 2 or whatever, this movie came out within weeks of F13, which means he was already being pretty lazy. Plus, the score is practically stolen from Bernard Herrmann to begin with, so he’s endlessly recycling a recycled score. Come on man.

At least the movie works without constantly being reminded of Crystal Lake. Like Crash! or some other low budget horror movies, it’s essentially a moebius strip film, where the same two scenes more or less repeat in succession for the bulk of the running time. Here, we have the sheriff investigating the disappearance of about a half dozen kids from a school bus alternating with scenes of those children, who have been turned into zombies of a sort, killing people by hugging them. I wish I saw this back to back with The Horsemen, as the two carry polar opposite messages (in this case, DON’T hug your children or they will kill you).

Eventually though, the sheriff does his job and figures out what is going on, and then the film kicks it up a notch. And by that I mean we see kids getting shot. But since they are zombies, shooting them in the chest does little besides make me laugh. No, the only way to stop them is to cut their hands off (!!!). There’s a hilarious shot during the epilogue of a bunch of their bodies lying on the ground with disembodied hands laying around. In short, the movie’s kind of awesome.

Speaking of the epilogue, maybe they just ran out of money or something, but it’s really disconnected and weak. We know there’s a final scare coming, and that part sort of works, but it comes after like a five minute sequence of shots of the house, the yard, etc, while the two heroes talk about the female’s impending childbirth. That or they had to make a 90 minute run time for some reason and needed to drag things out (the end credits run a bit slow as well). It doesn’t really hurt the movie overall, but its still pretty awkward.

Something occurred to me a few moments before said epilogue: killer kid movies rarely feature other kids being killed. As the zombie children murder half the town (all adults) I didn’t think anything of it, but I was rather shocked when a kid of about 4 years old is killed by his zombie brother (in a scene that seems inspired by Salem’s Lot). Even when they are the villains of the film and killing folks left and right, it’s still a taboo to have them killed. I actually wonder if that’s why they can only be killed by chopping off their hands, as opposed to the heads. But this was 1980, and I don’t think even today the world is ready for the awesome sight of zombie children being beheaded making up the “heroics” of a movie.

The movie was shot in Massachusetts, a fact that is unceremoniously dropped into the narrative during a news broadcast late in the film. Not that it really matters, but I would have liked to have known right from the start so I try to see if I could spot any locations I recognized. Oddly enough, there’s a prominent bridge in the movie that I actually thought was the one from Funny Farm, which was shot in Vermont (if you’re a geography wizard, you’d know that those two states border each other, something I only know because I lived there).

As I watched this on Instant View, I have no access to the extra features, but since the DVD is distributed by Troma, I’m guessing most of them having fuck all to do with the movie anyway. Still, if I see it cheap enough (doubtful, it's apparently out of print), I’ll totally buy it. Good stuff.

What say you?

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  1. I dug this movie. I got it in the Grindhouse box set that also has Raw Force. I'm pretty sure it was just a video transfer on that though, so it looked kinda shitty. Not sure if the Troma release is any different.

  2. Waaaaaaay back in the day, in the early to mid eighties, the USA Network used to play a lot of horror movies. A LOT of horror movies.

    This one was on a lot, and since I was maybe six or seven at the time, it kind of freaked me out. I'm always tempted to pick it up on DVD, but I don't think it'll live up.

  3. I first saw this as a kid at the Drive-in on a double-feature with Blood Beach. I loved The Children, and still do, Blood Beach on the other hand........

  4. This freaking movie traumitized me for years. Guess that's why I'm trying to find it now :)

  5. When I was a kid, this movie showed up at night on the USA Network show "Night Flight".
    They showed movies noone else would air.
    ( I also remember a killer toy monkey movie?)
    Why can't they have a classic horror channel?
    I think Thriller sucks IMO.

  6. I liked this movie, also. You said zombies of a sort. Do you think they were zombies, or the walking dead, by definition?

  7. this movie is awesome. i always wanted this movie on dvd and now i finally do

  8. there is a scene where a doberman is shot it reminds me of dawn of the dead when peters shoots the zombie children both dog and zombies are in a closet

  9. there is a scene with a doberman shot in a closet it reminds me when peter in dawn of the dead shoots the zombie kids in the closet


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