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The Children April 28, 2010

Posted by gwyoung in Film Reviews, Movies.
Tags: ,

Title: The Children

Director: Tom Shankland

Release: Vertigo Films, 2008

Genre: Horror

RIYD: The Shining, The Ring

Synopsis: A family holiday goes horribly wrong when the children become obsessed with violence and gore.

A lot of people (myself included) check out horror flicks to get a few thrills from things that pop out, a few scares from some disturbing images, and maybe a few laughs from the cheesy comical relief in the “daylight” segments where the intensity dies down temporarily. If you’re one of those people, then let this be a warning for you: The Children is absolutely terrifying. This art house horror film completely strays from the traditional scary movie format: there are almost zero moments of relief and the tension continues to build exponentially all the way up until the final menacing shot. Every aspect of the film works toward this relentless intensity: the camera angles provide the heightened suspense, the score (reminiscent of that from The Shining, perhaps one of the scariest movies ever made) makes it impossible to relax, the crisp audio quality places the viewer right in the scene, and the believable acting makes the disturbing tale seem all too real.

The premise is pretty unremarkable: a family gathers to celebrate the holidays together, the children become evil and start to kill their parents, etc. As such, you can expect the film to capitalize a lot on the overused “demonic child” motif perfectly exemplified by movies like The Ring, The Omen, and The Exorcist, but the cliché is so well done that you forget about all those other portrayals and focus on the fact that these children are actually evil (as opposed to just creepy or possessed). In fact, the whole plot seems like it’s been done way too many times before, but The Children just goes to show that any old story can be transformed into something new and powerful with incredible attention to detail in the other aspects of film-making. One interesting twist on the plot, though, is that the strange behavior of the children is not due to supernatural circumstances but rather because of a virus that makes them lose control of themselves and become obsessed with violence. Though this has also been done before (see 28 Days Later), it really hits home when you realize that this scenario is entirely possible in the real world.

Nothing in the film lends itself to the paranormal: even the depictions of the grotesque “accidents” that befall the adults seem entirely plausible and the family’s reactions to each death are guaranteed to make you feel sick to your stomach. The characters often find themselves in impossible situations, such as being forced to decide whether or not to kill their own children in self-defense, and they react appropriately. Not just your average horror film protagonists, the adults are intelligent and complex characters: they suffer through all the stages of grief (especially denial) before they wise up to the situation and begin to take action. The representation of dealing with loss, trauma, and tragedy is startlingly accurate and forces the viewer to imagine his or herself in the same situation, making the reactions to the terrible events onscreen even more visceral. This is a powerful film in a genre full of fluff and cheap thrills, and as such it takes its place near the top of my list of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen.



1. Daniel - May 5, 2010

Greg, this sounds terrifying.


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