FTP: Children of the Night (2014)

MAY 29, 2023


I don’t know what the oldest movie in “the pile” is, but Children of the Night (aka Limbo) has to be in the running, as it came out in October of 2015 (and, since it was sent for review consideration, means I probably got it a month earlier). My life is very different now! Since this film has been sitting there waiting for me to watch it, I’ve moved, gotten a new (used) car, published two books, lost two side jobs (typical layoff and covid shutdown, respectively), and helped turn a baby who only just started walking into a 9 year old who has his own TV and can figure out Zelda bosses easier than I can. Kind of crazy, at least in a low key way that's probably not interesting to anyone reading.

But I bring it up because I wonder if I would have enjoyed the film as much then as I did now. My thoughts on “evil” children movies have gone through the wringer since I had my own child, but here’s one where the kids – who are all vampires – are actually the good guys. Sure, they need human blood and can be pretty creepy, but they also just want to do kid things and eat curry (a drug to their vampiric kind – a delightfully odd idea I must say), as none of them asked to be vampires. And they’re all being hunted by a group of black-clad men who believe them to be the devil spawn or whatever, so it’s not hard to, at the very least, hope they take down the hunter jerks with them.

Caught in the middle is Alicia (Sabrina Ramos), a writer who got a tip about the retreat where all of the children live, believing them to all be suffering from some kind of illness with no cure. At first she’s confused, then scared once she realizes what they are, but then comes around to being an ally, thanks in part to the fact that one of the children is actually her girlhood bestie. As vampires tend to do, he hasn’t aged since she last saw him when they were adolescents, so she finds herself weirdly drawn to this now-man trapped in a child’s body, and of course wanting to protect him so she doesn’t lose him again. It’s a potentially icky plot point, and has a few eyebrow raising moments (they don’t *do* anything, I should stress – she just acts charmed by his seemingly inappropriate comments instead of overly concerned), but it’s ultimately a rather sweet unconventional (and, again, physically platonic!) love story.

But it’s also a vampire movie, and while there isn’t a lot of action, what we get is pretty entertaining, since it’s… well, a bunch of kids taking on grown men. At one point a kid literally kicks the head off one attacker, and the other kids momentarily kick it back and forth like a soccer ball – it’s delightful. The music accompanying these scenes is also top notch, as it weirdly reminds me (of all things) of the music in Tetris Effect: Connected, where it’s exciting but also kind of relaxing? Hard to explain unless you’ve also played that game (and you should! It’s the best version!). I also like how they handle the usual tie-in to pop culture vampires, as it proposes the idea that Bram Stoker was a self-loathing vampire who wrote his book to expose the (real) Dracula, who as it turns out is the grandfather of one of the children there. Silly? Sure, but I’ll take it over the usual corny line about Bela Lugosi “getting it wrong” or whatever

. Honestly the only real flaw, besides running a little too long, is that the low budget is occasionally far too apparent on screen. The video/soap opera look I eventually adjusted to, but there are a number of scenes where it seems like they tried to hide a mistake with a superimposed black oval? For example, in one scene, it seems one of the child actors missed their cue and just stood there while the others ran around, and they tried to hide it with one of these ovals, but another actor crosses in front of them, so the oval disappears and we see the kid just standing there – it’s seriously far more distracting than it would have been to just not draw our attention to it in the first place, though I’m sure it could have worked if the oval in any way matched the color of the rest of the image. There are a few other lo-fi “fixes” like that in the movie that kind of keep calling attention to how under budgeted it was, distracting away from the surprisingly involving story. For some reason there’s a remake of One Cut of the Dead coming, but I feel something like this would be a far better option to remake, as the low budget (which was part of One Cut’s charm, not a handicap) actually harms it here and it deserves a polished presentation.

Director/writer Ivan Noel provides a commentary where he notes some of their budgetary issues and thanks the many people who did favors (CGI shots of a moon eclipse, for example), making it a fine track for those who might feel they can’t pull off their own ambitious projects due to a lack of resources. He also notes that the movie was an hour longer at one point (I’m sure he meant his first assembly as opposed to a “director’s cut”; people who don’t understand the difference make reporting on such things an incredible nuisance), though the only other bonus feature is a 20ish minute behind the scenes where we can see everyone was just enjoying the experience and having a sort of summer camp vibe during the proceedings. Since the movie was still too long, I can’t say I need MORE scenes from the film, but if this stuff was in any way elaborate I can’t help but wonder if he tightened his script in the first place perhaps some of those limited resources wouldn’t have been spread so thin.

That said, what’s left is still much better than I would have guessed after the first few minutes (my heart sunk when I saw that video look), so he pulled it off! It has a lot of tones (sweet and nostalgic! Dryly ironic! Kind of scary!) but Noel balances it out fairly well, and Ramos is an engaging presence (as is Ana María Giunta as Erda, the childrens’ caretaker, wearily dealing with things like one of the children sleep-flying). And then I had to laugh that since the movie’s ten years old now, all of the kids in it are now adults. Such is life in the pile!

What say you?


Post a Comment

Movie & TV Show Preview Widget