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One of the most effective aspects of this movie is the way the tension
builds inexorably. From the moment you see the children there is an
impending sense of doom. The children themselves are both brilliantly
cast and wonderfully realistic, by which I mean that their behaviour is
easily recognisable as the normal behaviour of manipulative and moody
kids, until it spills over to the purely demonic.
The rest of the cast who, apart from Stephen Campbell Moore, I didn't recognise, all portrayed characters who were very believable, even if not entirely sympathetic. After all, how can you sympathise with smug middle class parents discussing homeschooling now that they've sold the business? The adults were in fact wonderfully flawed, matched in spades by Casey, who enters the movie as the least sympathetic character: selfish, self absorbed, and distant in the way that only a sixteen year old can be. However, Casey is arguably the real hero.
The script skillfully presents the tip of the iceberg, suggesting and hinting at the unseen part of the characters' lives, never spelling everything out, but crediting the audience with the wit to work some things out for themselves. The horror cliché of characters doing stupid or unrealistic things that annoy the audience was always avoided, as was the use of the dark. Instead the action takes place against a white Christmas backdrop, which sadly reminded me a little of Reny Harlin's 'snow' bound Die Hard 2, but even so the blood on snow motif was very effective.
Tom Shankland's script, and in particular the dialogue, was very convincing, but he is also a highly visual director. According to my girlfriend the Miss Marple he helmed is quite beautifully photographed, and I really liked the atmosphere and visuals in WAZ. The Children also has the same stunning images, which along with the very powerful soundtrack, conjure a mood of foreboding and dread. If you appreciate horror movies with tension and beauty as well as a succession of wince- inducing set pieces, then this is a film for you.
Two families gather at a remote house for a Christmas and new year
holiday. However, the young children affected by something in the
woods, begin to turn on the adults.
I have to say, this movie was a welcome surprise. Written and directed by Tom Shankland (who made WAZ), and based on a story from Paul Andrew Williams (who made the recent horror The Cottage), The Children is a very well made movie.
One of the main reasons I enjoyed it was that it never explains why the children are doing what they are doing. It's suggested there is something in the woods to blame, but it is never fully explained. In a way this is similar to The Ruins, or even Rec and I liked that. Too many movies try to explain what is going on, but the better horror movies leave it open and I think this approach works better, as it does here.
The cast are all pretty good, with special mention given to Eva Sayer as one of the children, and Hannah Tointon as Casey the only teen in the group.
One of the clever things about this movie, and there are many things to like about it,is how the adults react as events get out of control. To begin with they are nice and friendly couples (the two women being sisters), but as the movie progresses, they turn on themselves as they refuse to accept what is happening. Of course by the time they do realise what is going on, it's much too late!
The movie is rated 15 in the UK, and does keep most of the violence off-screen, but it is creepy through-out, and Shankland keeps the tension and unease high, even when nothing has happened yet. And he stages some some impressive scenes, especially the first adult attack, involving a sledge, a trolley, with sharp items on it. It could almost come from a Final Destination movie!
And to top of everything, there is the ending. While not a truly bleak ending (although some may see it that way), it's a very, very creepy ending, and one I really didn't expect.
As horror movies go for this year, this is one of the best I've seen.
Horrid smug Middle class parents get killed by and kill their own
children, what could be better? Who could not enjoy this? Well, other
than 15 year olds who can't appreciate a horror film with *shock
horror* time spent on genuine character development, a decent script
and people behaving in a believable manner when confronted and confused
by the horror they're confronted with.
The Children is great because it's a rare oasis in the desert of generic (mainly US) horror, these are parents who understandably find it difficult to accept their own children have become killers and are obviously not too enamoured with the idea of killing their own offspring (which explains to certain 15 year old fools why the adults are so easily overcome). There are no generic idiot teens walking into danger for no discernible reason, in fact the one teen Casey (played excellently by Hannah Tointon) is the strongest character in the film.
This is the best Horror film I've seen in quite a while...if it doesn't appeal to teenage horror fans...so much the better.
A worthy British Horror film that delivers, despite a low budget. The
twist is the use of children both as the perpetrators, and victims, of
killing. Largely a cinematic taboo. Director Tom Shankland ekes the
maximum value out of a single setting, and small cast, wringing every
ounce out of an interesting idea.
Two related smug middle class couples spend the new year in the English Countryside with their children when something makes "good children go bad". The rustling trees and undergrowth are very reminiscent of the Happening. The malevolent children reprising themes from "The Omen", "The Brood" and "Village of the Damned". Shankland creates some genuinely scary scenes as the children turn on their bewildered parents. But insufficient prior characterisation means that the viewer tends to be more irritated by the adults poor decision making, than be sympathetic to their plight. The gratuitous "blonde in underwear" shot shows that Shankland understands the demands of the genre well! A generally pacey 84 minute story has expired as the film draws to its close, but the final shot is still pretty chilling, is a fitting coda, and offers the opportunity of a sequel. The fact that what has happened is not explained is a bonus, rather than a source of frustration, and the blood and gore, particularly as it is delivered by children, stretches the 15 certification to its limits.
Sufficiently off beat, both in terms of location and content, to satisfy the Horror crowd, and potentially a minor Cult classic.
Being a Horror Film person I have seen them all and was not expecting much from the trash that is flushed out to us. But I'm pleased to tell you that this movie was a nice surprise. The plot was basic, the characters were believable, and the movie had a nice pace. To most the premise itself seems to have been done before but No it has not the way that this film does it. All is revealed in this film and the cause is actually believable. I would highly recommend this film to anyone that enjoys horror films. The people that got on to give this one a low score obviously know nothing about the genre and need to go rate movies like High school musical or Paul Blart the Mall Cop. Official Chickencow post unaffiliated with any Film Company
Saw a preview of this. Was worried that it would be a bit cheesy but it had me and my girlfriend on the edge of our seats. Really gripping and uses psychological rather than gore to scare. Very good for a British horror and has a kind of style and gloss that you usually associate with American films. Lead girl (the one from Hollyoaks) is fantastic and very cute and there are good turns from some excellent upcoming British actors. Jeremy Sheffield (the handsome one from Holby City) is excellent I'm surprised he has not been a leading man before. Story pitch is about a couple of middle class families with issues who meet up for Chistmas together. One of the kids seems to have a virus and over the holiday gradually the behaviour of the children starts to change as they become wild and feral and turn on their over anxious parents. For people with kids it's pretty uncomfortable and creepy, but if you've ever got fed up of those overly protective middle class parents who let their kids do whatever they want and can't control them, then this is good fun. I notice it's from the same director as WAZ, which was also a good film so it seems like he knows what he is doing and is one to watch in future.
After so many good reviews I was pretty psyched to see The Children.
Several times I'd seen it put on a par with "Eden Lake", which I
thought was one of the most tense, horrifying, well-conceived horrors
of recent times.
I must say it started out really promising. It looked like it was paying close attention to building atmosphere and establishing characters - which is a rarity these days. It was quiet and disturbing for the first half hour, not to mention beautifully shot. I was settling in nicely, absorbed into the character's little Christmas get-together, and pleasantly anticipating the start of the horror.
But then it really went off the rails fast. There was a sudden rapid-fire sequence of ill-conceived, unbelievable, almost "Rube-Goldbergian" death and injury scenes, followed by a bunch of hysterical characters who - if they weren't doing something downright stupid and frustrating - were instead doing something that just didn't make any sense.
I spent a good deal of the last half of the film turning to my significant other and saying "I don't get why that character just did that..." The characters motivations for even the simplest actions through the last half of the film seem so weak as to almost be alien. In fact, the evil "possessed" children were acting in a more understandable way than the apparently normal adults.
You can't excuse the way the adults in the film act by simply believing they are operating under extreme circumstances the way you can in movies like "Eden Lake". But you can explain it by shoddy, lazy writing. Most of the movies I've seen in recent weeks had okay screenplays but floundered on bad directing. This was the exact opposite - beautiful directing ruined by a really weak script.
Dangit I'd hoped this would be a good one. Oh well, onto the next...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Definitely worth the attention of horror fans, this nasty little movie
is all about a group of kids who become infected with some virus that
then makes them . . . . . . . homicidal. Before anyone can notice and
palm them off to an unsuspecting babysitter the kids are offing the
adults and terrorising those who start to realise what may be
While it's far from the best horror movie in recent years where this movie impresses is with it's fearless approach to the twisted material. Kids involved in horror movies are often cast as passive villains or innocents, they're rarely thrown in with the really nasty stuff and often removed from the main death scenes but that's not the case here. These kids are savage and treated as savage at times. It's a kill or be killed situation and you really don't mind seeing young children fended off by increasingly violent actions as they continue to show how cunning and lethal they want to be.
The cast all do pretty well. Hannah Tointon fares the best (and is also very pleasing to the eye) as the rebellious young woman who becomes the first one to actually realise the horror of the situation but all of the adults do enough to convince in their roles as middle-class parents who keep their problems and insecurities tucked away from sight. The children themselves are all excellent, carefree and distinctly normal one moment and menacing and deadly the next.
Tom Shankland does well enough, making the most of his locations and scenery, and works with writer Paul Andrew Williams (who also gave us The Cottage and London To Brighton) to bring a very effective build up of dread and terror despite the diminutive size of the "baddies". A solid horror.
See this if you like: Village Of The Damned, The Brood, The Good Son.
The premise of this movie is indeed real, primal horror. During the
holidays, a family reunion turns into a madness when children become
increasingly disturbed, due to what looks like a mysterious illness.
"Creepy kids" have been done a number of times in cinema but what separates this latest entry from many that came before it is the feeling that these kids are still kids. Certainly disturbed and not totally themselves but not entirely evil. Cruel but not zombies, mind controlled or aliens. There is still fear and fragility, which makes them a lot scarier for viewers, especially parents.
Adding to the horror is that when the parents stand up for themselves against the kids, these acts of resistance are "unsatisfying" to us, unlike other movies of the genre. That is, you do remain conflicted as a viewer instead of the typical Hollywood trash. And *that* is what horror is about.
The story is good, well-paced with a suitably tensed escalation of the menace the children represent. The characters coping with this threat (a group of adults and a teenager) are believable instead of walking clichés.
On the downside, the movie has a definite low-budget feel to it. I was surprised that Tom Shankland would direct something like this after his previous work, the polished horror/thriller Waz. A low budget plus a lot of kid actors mean that corners were cut. The film would certainly have benefited from more takes. A lot more takes, in fact. The adult actors are underwhelming and the script could have used another pass or two to make it more compelling from start to end. There are still two or three very memorable sequences in the movie, such as the one following the first body's disappearance. But overall I think Shankland will cringe at a lot of scenes here. For instance, one character spends some great deal of time with a serious injury but the result on camera is completely unbelievable.
So what we are left with is an indie movie with a lot of heart and that does a lot of things well. It is extremely courageous in its treatment. It offers something good and refreshing. And it could have been a masterpiece with slightly more budget. I'm giving this a well-deserved 6.
As a complement to this film and to see the "other side of the coin", I strongly suggest watching Lars E. Jacobson's "Baby Blues" immediately before or after "The Children".
The Children is directed by Tom Shankland who adapts the screenplay
from a Paul Andrew Williams story. It stars Eva Birthistle, Stephen
Campbell, Hannah Tointon, Eva Sayer, William Howes, Rachel Shelley and
Jeremy Sheffield. Music is by Stephen Hilton and cinematography by Nanu
A Christmas holiday at a remote country home turns into a fight for survival when the children suddenly start to turn on the adults.....
Could you kill your own kid? There's a nasty edge to Shankland's little shocker, and we are not just talking about creepy kids offing adults here. Although lifting freely from classic evil-children horrors from the past, The Children manages to remain fresh by playing on the aspect of the parents' refusal to accept that their cherubic offspring could do evil. Even when faced with blatant malevolence, the adults struggle to fight back. I mean, could you drop-kick your own child down the stairs? Added kicker in the writing is that the only character in the set-up who grasps what is going on is the troubled teenager (Tointon excellent), a nice twist for it is so often the case in horror movies that we bemoan dumb teens doing even dumber things.
With the makers unfolding the drama amongst a virginal snowy setting, there's much thought gone into crafting more than just a standard gory shocker. Shankland shows a good sense of mood and pacing, drip-feeding the unease and never getting carried away with the premise. His closeup camera-work has an unsettling quality to it, while the deaths are inventive and mercifully not over done, the editing neatly giving us the viewers the chance to fill in the blanks. Some of the adult actors irritate rather than gain our belief, and the odd "dumb" reaction to a situation rears its ugly head. But mostly this is a thoughtful and spicy Brit horror that's worth seeking out by those after more than your rank and file slasher movie. 7/10
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