The Children is a brutal but atmospheric and disturbing slasher.
The Children is a science fiction horror slasher that doesn’t have the usual masked killer, but some pretty creepy kids as brutal killers. Although this could have easily turned into a comedy slasher, it is anything but. It’s a very atmospheric film with a tense and foreboding way of filming with brutal kills, upset children and an overall unsettling feeling. Brutally killing kids is often a taboo even in horror films, but this film handles it with care and realism, although that makes it all the more disturbing.
Elaine and her husband Jonah and their kids Miranda and Paulie and Elaine’s older teenager Casey, go spend the Christmas holidays with her sister Chloe and her husband Robbie and their children Nicky and Leah. What should have been a nice cosy Christmas and New Year in the secluded countryside, turns into a nightmare when first the children seem to have picked up a virus. But it’s not the flu, but a virus that urges the children to turn on their parents.
Why you should watch it
The Children could have easily been turned into a comedy or parody on slaying parents and kids, but it isn’t. It’s a very tensed film with a foreboding atmosphere with beautiful shots of the wintery countryside that has a serene feel about it as well as an ominous vibe that gives you the feeling that something is not right with nature.
The shots of the trees that blur into the kid’s faces like infected veins, or the blood turning the pure white snow into a crimson red, all symbolize the tainted innocence and purity of the kids due to an unknown force. Although you’ll get an inkling of what is happening it doesn’t come completely clear, why and how exactly. The focus remains on the psychological side, the question what it takes for parents to neutralize their kids before they are being slaughtered by their own kids themselves.
Their transformations are excellently executed without the kids becoming murderous evil kids, which would be more leaning towards something more comical. The kids are simply falling ill, vomiting, getting a fever, feeling strange and it seems that they don’t know what’s going on either. Although they sometimes have a malicious smile on their face, when they kill someone, it mainly seems that they are just executing an act without meaning or knowing what they are doing. It’s not that they go on a purposeful murder spree to kill all the parents. It’s also very upsetting to them and that makes it all the more disturbing.
The kills are brutal, although the real act isn’t shown, just after the act and before the proverbial axe hits its mark. But that doesn’t make it any less brutal, on the contrary, the reactions before and afterwards of the kids and the surviving parents at that moment are the main focus and very unsettling.
The parents are for a long time clueless of what’s happening, being assaulted and attacked, while the kids are mostly screaming and crying. Casey is in the middle of it all. A rebellious teenager who rather went to a party than spending time with her family, is the only one who quickly adapts to the events and knows what’s going on. She’s the anchor of the film and the main perspective through which we follow the events. She’s the one who sees it all clearly, but her character isn’t flawless which makes her unreliable to her parents, all the more when she’s seeking a connection with Robbie, the cool uncle. Her character is the one that gives the film a perspective and more depth.
It’s an intimate film with a simple premise, one location, with only a couple of actors, of which only five of them are (nearly) adults, and the four kids who give an excellent performance as well. With great shots and cinematography a good music score and editing that shuns away from becoming a brutal slasher, it’s an unconventional film in which kids are not only killers, but also fair game to kill. Although that doesn’t mean that the parents turn on their children too easily, it’s a process that shows the inner struggle between protecting your own children and surviving. And that part is very well executed.
My favorite part
Sleigh riding is an absolute death trap. One minute they are all having fun in the snow. Pelting each other with snowballs, sliding down the hill on a sleigh, pulling an embellished sleigh and playing in a tent that is decorated. The next minute all hell breaks loose. That exact moment is very well executed, while creating a foreboding atmosphere, it now breaks loose, and the horror is real.
Gore factor: ★★★★☆
Originality factor: ★★★★☆
Cast and crew
The Children is directed and written by Tom Shankland and cowritten by Paul Andrew Williams. It stars Eva Birthistle (Elaine), Hannah Tointon (Casey), Stephen Campbell Moore (Jonah), Eva Sayer (Miranda), William Howes (Paulie), Rachel Shelley (Chloe), Jeremy Sheffield (Robbie), Rafiella Brookes (Leah) and Jake Hathaway (Nicky).
Duration: 85 minutes. Music: Stephen Hilton. Cinematography: Nanu Segal. Edited by: Tim Murrell. Produced by: Allan Niblo, James Richardson. Production companies: Screen West Midlands, BBC Films, Aramid Entertainment Barnsnape Films. Distributed by: Vertigo Films, Icon Productions, Ghost House Underground.