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The Children
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The Children – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Elaine (Birthwistle) takes her husband Jonah (Campbell Moore), two young kids and teenaged daughter from a previous marriage Casey (Tointon) to her sister Chloe’s (Shelley) beautiful country home, so that the two families can see in the New Year together.
What begins as a catalogue-perfect short-break, with beautiful people and their beautiful kids enjoying each other’s company in a beautiful setting soon degenerates into a holiday from hell, as one by one, the young children come down with a mysterious illness, whose only symptom seems to be a taste for blood.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

It’s always nice to see a film that subverts the perfection of the catalogue normality that self-important middle-class families enjoy, but a film about killer children is a brave subject to tackle and a tough one to sell. And I’m not sure this succeeds.
This film is in the unprecedented position of trying to elicit sympathy from the viewers for the helpless adults, being driven to use force to defend themselves against the ruthless onslaught from a group of cute pre-schoolers, who’ll stop at nothing to kill every adult in the world in as brutal a way as possible.
But given that children don’t quite have the same subtlety of expression as adults, they just pull “evil” faces throughout, so it neither comes as a great surprise when their murderous streak emerges – neither is it, oddly, that hard to want them to be ripped to shreds to stop their rampage. Rather than persuading us to sympathise with the cute kids, the film makers end up disarming the children, with their obvious evilness.
The direction is rather clumsy – early on, before the blood-letting begins, most of the supposed shocks and frights just come from eery music or sudden sound-effects, rather than anything that’s actually happening on screen. These incidents bridge far too long a gap before the real plot kicks in.
And when the violence does start to unwind, most of the earlier bloodshed seems to be a result of accidents or coincidences rather than any conscious actions stemming from the children’s evil virus.
The only real tension in the film comes from wondering whether the cantankerous teenager will side with the kids or the adults.
Another problem is the smug adults aren’t sympathetic enough for us to root for them in the traditional horror-movie-hero way.
The film is little more than a wet dream for parents with naughty kids – if you’ve ever thought to yourself “I’ll kill those wretched kids,” this film is more of a fantasy than a horror film.

opens nationwide 5th December 2008

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