Michael Weldon of “Psychotronic Magazine” praised this movie’s awfulness to me almost 30 years ago, and I only caught up with it this week.
The Children concerns the ghastly events that occur after a school bus drives through a noxious cloud of gas…which is exactly how Richard Matheson got The Incredible Shrinking Man going, so it’s not a bad start. There are only a few kids on the bus, luckily (I’m surprised the filmmakers got any parents to trust them with their kids — but then, half the kids in this film have the same last name as the producer). I’m going to have to provide some spoilers here because the movie is so bad and so poorly paced that no one will watch it through without a damn good reason. These kids, though normal looking, become radioactive zombies with an impulse to approach any adults with arms outstretched, begging for hugsies!
Their hugs, unfortunately, cook faster than a microwave, making parents smoke up and their skin peel off! Gale Garnett, a one-hit wonder with her Grammy-winning folk-rock smash “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine”, costars as the main hysterical Mom (“Don’t shoot them!! They’re just children!!!”). To be fair, Garnett went on to act in more dignified roles, including a brief role in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. But the spoiler that made me anticipate The Children for 28 freaking years was this: The local lawmen discover that bullet wounds do not stop the kids or even slow them down! The only way to defeat their lethal hugs is to sever their hands!
Some may find my ghoulish joy in this film difficult to comprehend, but keep in mind children are very poor actors, especially when they are just normal kids recruited to be in dad’s low-budget amateur production (I’m looking at you, Laura Steckler!). Few directors have the heart to push a kid for a believable performance in gruesome circumstances, so such horrible goings-on are good for nothing if not for laughs.
For this type of horribly guilty pleasure, The Children gets a strong recommendation, but not my strongest — that is reserved for Beware! Children at Play, which is totally unwatchable except for the last ten minutes, which is an unending orgy of kid-killing featuring some of the worst pre-adolescent thespians ever to have a death scene.
Beware! Children at Play and The Children are both available as “instant watch” streams from Netflix. Unfortunately, there’s no current Region 1 release of The Children, though you may be able to find the out-of-print 2005 “25th Anniversary” edition.
Trailer for “The Children”:
The Blood Orgy at the end of “Beware! Children At Play”:
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