Deadly Doll's Choice: The Children (2008): The Kids Aren't Alright

Small things are creepy, and all manner of tiny terrors have been unleashed over at The Deadly Doll's House of Horror Nonsense during this entire month of February, the shortest of the year. So for our film swap this month, we also kept things small. For my pick, I gave her the James Bond meets Lucky Charms lunacy of Darby O'Gill and the Little People, one of the most liquor soaked kid’s films of all time. In exchange, the Deadly Doll chose for me the 2008 British horror flick The Children. Kids, as we all know, are little innocent faced killers laying in wait to kill adults with unabashed glee if given half the chance. That's why I don't have any Bugg-lets running around. While others may be willing to take the chance and willingly bring a potential murderer into their home, films like The Omen, Who Can Kill a Child, The Bad Seed, and Village of the Damned have taught me how to play it safe. (For this same reason, I've never seen Cujo because I want to keep my dog.) The Children is just another reason in a long line of reasons to advocate a childless existence as a form of self preservation.

It all starts when a group of friends all retreat to a countryside mansion with their families for the holidays. Teenage daughter Casey (Hannah Tointon), by far the oldest of the kids, has no interest in going along, but her mother Elaine (Eva Birthistle) forces her to go instead of to the cool party she wanted to attend. Pretty much right off the bat the kids start acting fussy and soon fussy leads to irritable, which leads to light violence, which leads to killing the hell out of anyone who is not still in grammar school.  The adults for their part seem so taken aback by the sudden turn in their kids behavior that the find themselves defenseless against their oncoming progeny. One by one the kids turn evil after contracting some kind of virus that makes them go mad, and pretty soon the whole place turns into an area that even Spongebob Squarepants would be hard pressed to find solace.

Lately, one certain Republican candidate, whose name remained un-Googleable, has been advocating an end to contraception. That's right. No rubbers, no pill, no sponges, no rings, no nothing. Just tons and tons of unwanted children being born day after day and waiting for the right moment to kill a mess of folks. I think maybe that candidate, who has a brood of like 26, ought to take a look at Tom Shankland's picture and realize what a vulnerable it is in which he lives. With the many kids around, it doesn't matter if you have a Kevlar sweater vest; you're going down with extreme prejudice if they turn on you. Granted, most kids don't turn on their parents and kill them outright. Instead, like I did, most children merely eat way at their parents with disappointment, emotional distance, and abject neglect. You know, the traditional way that it's been done for years.

 As a film, The Children has quite a few great things going for it. Right off, I have to mention the titular “children”. While none of them were terribly great actors (primarily they were called upon to do a lot of blank staring), they were one of the creepiest groups of kids ever assembled at one place at one time ever. If there was ever a group of kids who were going to kick off a plague of homicidal primary schoolers, this is the group. The film also gets a boost from the snowy setting, always interesting when blood gets in the mix, the speedy pacing, keeping the film under the ninety minute mark, and deliberate camera work that amped up the tension of the kills considerably. There was also a fair amount of gore which remained realistic for the most part and added to the kiddos menace by not being too far over the top.  However, there are a few things that keep me from loving these kids unconditionally.

First, they're all crazy killers. I feel like I've covered that pretty well. Secondly, while much of the film making is solid, Shankland felt the need to include some quick music video style cuts that neither enhanced the film nor did anything other than remove me from the moment. He also did a poor job of making anyone into a character. A normal readers will notice, I eschewed my usual breakdown of the actors because I could easily just divide them into two roles, kids with little to no lines and adult dummies, blended together. On the whole, they didn't seem like the best parents, and while I certainly didn't wish for their kids to turn on them, they put themselves into that particular risk group when they had babies as I mentioned earlier.

The Children (2008) has an appeal to it as a straight up horror romp, but it lacks a real overall character to the film that many other killer kid films, including The Children (1980), seem to have. Without adult characters that are interesting and sympathetic, the adults become meat bags for their half pint slashers to go to town on, and while I enjoyed the effects of the slayings, they left me feeling like nonplussed. Tom Shankland is clearly another horror director on the rise, but he needs to learn how to balance the human with the gore driven. Without it, all that he gives us is a beautifully dressed film with little contained inside. That about wraps it for me today, but don't forget to go over to The Deadly Doll's House of Horror Nonsense and see what Emily thought of Terrance Trent D'arby O'Gill and the Little People. Okay, it stars Sean Connery and not the late 80's R&B singer, but what a film that would have made, right?

Bugg Rating

1 comment:

  1. See, I've seen the film a few times so maybe I didn't catch it right away, but I actually really like how the adults are dealt with. There's great passive aggressiveness between the sisters and how they judge each other 's parenting styles. And I think Casey (the oldest daughter) is such an integral role: she's at the age where she doesn't want to be a kid anymore, but once the kids start going crazy, she slowly regresses back to needing her mom, leading to the pretty damning ending and mom's choice. Maybe I've just watched it a lot, but I really like the subtleties of the non-murderous characters.


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