Director – Tom Shankland
Cast – Hannah Tointon, Eva Birthistle, Stephen Campbell Moore, Jeremy Sheffield, Rachel Shelly, Raffiela Brooks, Jake Hathaway, William Howes, Eva Sayer
Release Year – 2008
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Horror films involving children as the killers(antagonists) are not uncommon. The Bad Seed and The Omen took care of bringing that idea to the masses, with chilling performances by the children which gave us the ultimate feeling that children have the potential to be very, very evil. It has since been over 30 years for us to finally receive another great horror film involving maniacal children. Sure Hollywood has tried, and unsuccessfully gave us the 2006 remake of The Omen instead of an original film. Leave it to the UK to show some guts and give us The Children. Not a remake, and no real A-List stars, this film is the anti-Hollywood.
The film begins with a family(we never hear their last name) taking a Christmas vacation to Jonah’s(the husband/father) sister Chloe’s(played by Rachel Shelley from “The L Word”) place way out in the country. The plan is to spend their vacation with her and her family, while getting some important work done without the distractions of city life. Both families have young children who seem to range in age from 4 to 6 years of age(I could be wrong), and offer the usual bits of annoyance that children of that age often bless their parents with. Jonah’s family also consists of a rebellious teenage daughter named Casey(played by Hannah Tointon), who seems to be hated by her little sister for unknown reasons. All is going well until the children start showing flu-like symptoms caused by something in the surrounding woods or wind(we never really find out). What seems like a common cold quickly turns into something more sinister as the children are taken over by homicidal feelings and decide to use them on their parents, for no obvious reasons. The parents are oblivious to the notion of their own, YOUNG children trying to kill them, because young children are just darling little angels right? Right???
Right off the back, this film puts you in the parents shoes constantly asking yourself “Would I kill my own child if he/she was trying to kill me, my spouse, or my teenage daughter? I have a duty to protect my family at all costs right? But even from my own small children?” Wow, yes this film really tugs at you and what you would do in this high stress situation. Psychology and sociology majors would love this film because of the gender differences you will most likely find in the decision making. Men will most likely want to protect their entire family(wife included), or their youngest child. While women will most likely want to protect all of their children, even though it would mean her or an older child dying. This is a really interesting concept because this horror film actually makes you…what is that word seldom used in horror movies…THINK!
Aside from the psychological aspect, this film does actually get pretty creepy. When I first read about this film I was thinking to myself “What the heck? These are just kids? They can’t be scary…”, and although I personally did not find them “scary”, they were pretty darn freaky and did a very good job acting for such young children. Director Tom Shankland(no, his last name did not originate in a prison) manages to set a very grim tone with his great use of cinematography involving the snow covered woods, eerie music, and superb quick cuts of horrific future events that splash through the film at random times. The quick cuts give us an strong feeling that the climax of this film is not going to be fairy tale worthy, all while keeping us in the dark as to how bad it will really get. I applaud Mr. Shankland for providing us with all these aspects of intense atmosphere that only add to the fact that sooner or later in the film, you are going to see some gruesome events that even The Bad Seed and The Omen were not able to give us. I love it! Lastly, I was really surprised at the gore in this film. I was really expecting to not see very much gore due to the fact that these are children, but amazingly…Mr. Shankland managed to incorporate a pretty good amount of gore and some pretty gruesome scenes into this film. I love this notion simply because of how unorthodox it is to have this much gore in a film at the hands of small children. The Omen had some neat death scenes, but Damien used supernatural powers to make them happen. He didn’t physically make those gruesome things happen like the children in “The Children” did. Hehe.
On a lighter note, I have a strong feeling that we are going to see Hannah Tointon in future films, at least in future horror films. The 21 year old actress is beautiful in that dark, seductive kind of way. I’m sure her fan base is growing more and more as people get a hold of this great film.
Overall, a great film with a horror sub-genre done right, which we do not see too much of these days. Definitely worth a watch if you can find it.
– I ranked this film #5 in my Top 10 Horror Movies of 2008 post.