The Children (2008)

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.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


  1. Reminds me of "People Toys," my least favorite movie, which I managed to avoid at the drive-in though a couple of title changes till they got me with "The Horrible House on the Hill." I wanted to see whatever the second feature enough to sit through the foulest movie I ever saw.

  2. so weird that we watched this last night, too-- i liked it, jeff didnt. that curly haired kid was damned near anemic, he looked so sick.

  3. All the quick jumpy cuts and stuff kind of killed it for me.

  4. This arrived via netflix the day my wife peed on a stick and found out we're having a kid. This flick was a great little way to celebrate the fact. the kids, especially the little girl (even moreso than the autistic son) was uber creepy. I like the lolita subplot that got abrubtly dropped midway through the film as well.

  5. I remember being that 'easily amused asshole' too and trust me it is interesting after you have kids because after mine were born my tolerance for children being killed in films dropped to 0.
    Now they're older it doesn't seem to bother me as much although I stear clear of stuff like Baby Blues, The Children and Who Can Kill A Child?
    There is still the occasional film thought that really pisses me off like Feast 2. That scene with the baby...ugh.

  6. Finally caught this and I think this is a tight, effective, and moody killer kid film. Surprised its not getting more love on here. Thought the cinematography was great, solid acting, and I really thought the parents' reactions the shenanigans were realistic for once. I also thought the cutaways from the gore (and I do love my gore, don't get me wrong) were a great choice. Showing very little of the gore worked with the mood.

  7. I loved this movie - it's so rare to find a film rated 15 (UK) which genuinely scares.


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