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Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Children (2008) Revisited Horror Christmas

The Children (2008) - REVISITED! As a virus infects the children of a couple families having Christmas together the sick children get pretty evil and begin to kill the adults. I noticed the  character's relationships a bit more this time through. The visiting family of Mother Elaine (Eva Birthistle) has a young adult daughter Casey (Hannah Tointon) and a young boy, Paulie (William Howes) who I have to say is a real Mama's boy, from an earlier relationship, Her husband Jonah (Stephen Campbell Moore) also has a child from a previous relationship a little girl named Miranda (Eva Sayer). It is obviously not the perfect nuclear family but they seem to be making it work. This is to contrast Elaine's sister Chloe (Rachel Shelley) who has a sucessful husband Robbie (Jeremy Sheffield) and two children Leah (Rafiella Brooks) and Nicky (Jake Hathaway). The dynamics between the sisters is some what interesting as sister relationships are in real life. The younger, Elaine seems a bit put off by her more successful older sister. She seems to have the perfect house and husband. They are both already retired in their forties after selling a company. They live in a large beautiful house and Chloe is portrayed as a know it all when it comes to raising children. There is the conflict between couples about permissive upbringing versus strict rules based child rearing. Robbie is a tall successful and handsome man who now spends his days investing his money and living a life of leisure. He is the cool uncle but really comes across a bit creepy when he interacts with the Casey. There is also the dynamic of how unsuccessful Jonah is, he is a schemer trying to hit it big. It is revealed that he has been scammed in the past and is not great at choosing his opportunities. He is hoping to sell some Chinese medicine scheme to Robbie but gets cut off each time. It all works to create a tension that is wonderfully under the surface of the weekend.
Then there is the fundamental disbelief the parents have when the harm starts. Of course as a parent there is no way you are going to think your child is trying to kill you. This movie co-ops the fear that behind the innocent faces there is evil waiting to strike. The underlying tension also comes to the surface also which is really well done. It makes it difficult for the parents and Casey as the adults to join together to deal with the situation. In fact the parents can never think that the children are responsible for acts of violence. Where most of the damage at first happens when adults are isolated from one another it the makes then think each other are negligent for the apparent accidents that are happening.
When I think of evil children the movie that comes to mind is "Children of the Corn". It is a more overt film with the theme being right out there from the beginning. The children killing the adults of the town is one of the first scenes and you know from the start what will happen. In The Children" The process is slower and the immediate danger is not there, but the threat grows as more of the kids get infected. The film is effective at not letting the parents catch on too quickly and even though the Casey seems onto the games of the kids. Being the younger than the parents but older than the children she is not really listened to by the adults when she knows something is wrong. In fact she is seen as not helping enough early on and then becomes distrusted as the possible killer later.
There are not too many ways this plot can go so.  What it does is builds a series of mishaps to the adults who think that negligence and accidents are to blame. Then as more evidence that it is the children comes to the fore they start to turn on each other. The children on the other hand use their relationships with their parents to do the maximum damage. It becomes a fight for the parents to deal with a threat from the most innocent beings they know.
During the film you wonder what the hell, why are the police and ambulance not responding. It in the end can be cleverly explained though.  There is also a great twist between Elaine and Jonah that I did not see coming. It really is a cold blooded change that fits one of the characters pretty well. When the last couple of survivors try to get away what will they be running to? You will have to watch it to find out. There is this one final scene that the staging of I have to say I don't really like. You come across the a situation and you are in the protected inside of a car. Do you ever leave that safety to check a scene out? I say no! but over and over again in horror film it is necessary for the tension to have someone get out of the car and investigate something.
Writers Paul Andrew Williams and Tom Shankland (who also directed) do a good job making this a believable story and the horror of parents being attacked and having to defend themselves against there children is chilling. The directing was sharp enough to build a believable survival story. There is that one thing though, when is it when the people are in a car and see what looks like a dangerous scene, one or both of them have to get out of the car to investigate? I can see early in a film but late in a movie when the characters already know there is a ton of danger. Watching this film for a second time I was impressed with the construction of the characters and the blocking of the incidents so that the reactions of the adults were somewhat believable. In the end I think I liked this film more on a second viewing. If there is one drawback I would critique it on is one of the characters totally seems to give up at one point even though fighting would not be that hard. I just hate that in a character.
Rating (6.6) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.

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