The Children (2008)

You brought them into this world. Now ... They will take you out.
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The Children - You brought them into this world. Now ... They will take you out.

If ever there was a commendable lesson in modern day parenting then Tom Shankland's The Children is it. If you are going to be hippie, hipster, new-age, middle class, tosser parents and you force this upon your children then they will probably get sick in the head and kill you. Intuition provides an inclination of where the story is going to go from the title and from the offset it feels nice that some of these parents are going to meet their demise at the hands of the little brats through whom they vicariously rectify the elements missing in their own lives. It also warns that if your ego places your own being above that of your self-sculpted trophy children then they will probably become little shits. The parent characters are a subtle mixture of the successful silver spoon birthed self-righteous pricks and their underdog relatives who are in self denial of their aspirations to achieve similar levels of prickness. With the added bonus of these families being forced together for Christmas, this dynamic provides emotional complexities and instils a sense of rooting for the bad guy while knowing that this is ethically wrong.

Killer kids is a tricky subject to approach tactfully and effectively and The Children succeeds in this department. Often films of this ilk resort to ridiculousness or to the supernatural, this movie manages to avoid both of these and puts forward a plausible tale with just the right amount of shock tactics to be effective without being gratuitous. With child death there is also a fine line between being unsettling and distasteful and once again The Children treads this line quite proficiently erring on the side of unsettling yet not holding back when the moment necessitates.

The child actors in this film really express the creepiness of their characters well and all do an exceptional job of acting evil. The evil is more a lack of emotion for the atrocities they are responsible for rather than behaving feral. There is a subtle element of guilt and confusion expressed as they ponder over the bloodshed while also managing to seem to be thoroughly relishing the carnage. Paulie has the advantage of blonde curly hair which is known to be the mark of Satan, yet his actions still excel at being sickly and a cold hearted killer. Rantings in the first paragraph of this review aside, the reason for the bad behaviour is an illness so there is a subtle element of not being able to control their actions. This is quite a challenging mood to emit as an actor and especially as they are all fairly young it is a commendable performance. As time progresses the looks of the evil kids deteriorate and once again this is achieved with a huge spoonful of subtlety rather than morphing the killers into deranged rabid monsters.

There is always a huge buildup of tension before an adult chows down on the dirt. With only staring children and music to create the tension, sometimes these buildups can go on for too long. Only a minor gripe but there aren't the tools in this situation to reach Final Destination levels of dragged out escalations. Initially the shock and gore happens mostly off-screen, the aftermath is shown but you don’t see the splat. As the film progresses the violence becomes more in your face with brief yet graphic leg-snappy, eye-gougey goodness. As the more mature members of the family struggle to survive, inevitably some kids are going to die and this is seen rather than implied and, as mentioned before, this comes off with a well crafted sense of tragedy yet relief and isn't just shock tactics.

A lot of the story is inferred. There isn't much to spell out but the viewer is left alone to work out the finer details, hints are dropped for the cause for the childrens changes and some of the more intricate details of the family's relationships. The ending is one of the apocalyptically ambiguous endings popular in 80s horror. It implies there is a lot more happening outside the confines of the house in which the viewer has seen the film unfold and that maybe something bad and unexpected is going to happen in the next few minutes. But you'll never know because the credits roll so wait for a sequel. It's a fairly clichéd ending but still one that gives a sense of horror.

The Children is horror by numbers and is obviously aimed at a more mainstream horror audience yet it knows this and doesn't try to be anything more. Knowing this results in a competent horror with the right balance of the right elements.
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Categories: British Horror Movies
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