Children, The (Fantasia 2009)

The Children review!Reviewed by Paul McCannibal

Starring Rachel Shelley, Stephen Campbell Moore, Jeremy Sheffield

Directed by Tom Shankland

There must have been something in the air in the theatre when this screened at Fantasia because last night’s screening of The Children was a truly polarizing experience amongst myself and some of my contemporaries.

The amount of praise this film got had me questioning myself. Did the folks gushing over this flick see the same movie as me? This is being called one of the best horror films of the year by many including the reputable likes of Tony Timpone and Ryan Bruce Levey.

So temper your interpretation of this review with that knowledge …

What I saw was a competently made but utterly frustrating exercise. The narrative is classic spooky demon kid material. A pair of couples and their children head out to a stately country house for some holiday season R’n’R. The parents and kids play in the snow and enjoy some standard family bonding time with sled rides, snowball fights, and a bit of tough love and understanding in relation to a misguided teenager along for the ride.

Before long, the kids start acting weird and creepy. And not long after that it’s adults under siege by a posse of seemingly possessed little ones who are conscious of their parents’ reluctance to see them as anything but little angels. Mayhem ensues.

And here’s where things got very frustrating for me. The savagery portrayed often came in bouts of two attacks happening in different places at once, with some of the most trigger-happy editing between concurrent events you’re ever likely to see. Things blurred past so quickly that I often couldn’t tell who was on the receiving end of what. A lot of the seemingly gory bits either happened off-camera or they flashed through the frame so quickly that it seemed like the censor board hastily chopped up the print we saw. It wasn’t just the mayhem that suffered in this respect – there where a couple of points where the adult characters were hurt or wounded and wound up in a different place in the yard or the house and I couldn’t really tell how they got there. It really felt jumpy and disjointed to me.

Official Fantasia ReviewAnd then there’s the plausibility factor. These are kids. The story doesn’t give them superhuman strength or powers of telepathy or pyro or anything like that. It’s very apparent by the middle of the film that the kids are trying to kill the adults. So with the obvious strength advantage of the grown ups, why on earth didn’t they just grab these brats, wrap them up in duct-tape or throw them in the trunk, and drive the hell out of there and get them to a hospital to see what was wrong with them? There’s a part where a Mom is on the stairs with a fire poker in her hand and a couple of the delinquent monsters are creeping up on her. If I had a poker in my hand and two little tiny murderers walking towards me do you think I’d have problem keeping them at bay? Would you? Think about it. Whack! If one of the kids persists, grab it and throw it at a wall or out a window or something. Problem solved! Why couldn’t the adults do this?

The angle is that it would be very difficult for a parent to do that to their own kid no matter what the circumstances, and fair enough I suppose. But after multiple bodies have stacked up in the story, come on. It’s either time to escape or time to grab the kids and lock them up somewhere, which no one really tries to do until it’s too late to make a difference. Again, frustrating.

To be fair, there were some things about the movie I have to give credit to. The last scene was effectively eerie – I personally think there’s potential for a much better sequel in that last bit, because it’s way more ominous and ambiguously nightmarish than what led up to it. The acting was good and it was well shot in the places where the editing wasn’t such a blur.

But overall, I can’t say I enjoyed this movie. See it for yourself and keep an open mind, because others are raving about it!


2 out of 5

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  • walkerp

    I can understand where your dissatifaction is coming from and I agree with the jumpcutting problems. But I think you are missing the overall point, which is that the adults were all portrayed as self-involved, egotistical loser yuppies and deserved to die. I may be reading more into this than was there, but the pleasure of seeing these hateful people get killed by their own children (whom they refused to believe could be capable of doing such acts) overshadowed some of the questions of plausibility. Look how the first act spent so much time setting up how catty and mean they all were to each other. The only character who was semi-cool and comfortable with himself was the dad, which is why the kids so painstakingly plan to take him out first. If he had been around, they would not have been able to sow the chaos they did, dependent as it was on them having zero confidence in themselves or each other.

    So I wasn’t gushing, but I found it to be quite enjoyable overall. I do agree with you about the moment on the stairs. Why didn’t she just unlock the door and the two of them overpower the kids?

  • Tristan Sinns

    Two reviews for this film?

    All in all, I have to agree more with Andrew Kasch’s take; while The Children certainly has plausibility problems, its very real tension is really fun stuff.

    • The Woman In Black

      When it comes to our Fantasia coverage, they like us to have reviews that are linked to the screenings at the fest, especially if Paul or Andy have different opinions from our existing reviews, which is certainly the case here.

      As for the film, my opinion falls closer to Andrew’s also although not quite as high.