“Hey you kids! Get off my lawn, and stay the hell out of my gardening tools!”
A couple nights back, Lady Pain and I settled down with Tom Shankland’s 2008 English infant apocalypse The Children (not to be confused with the 1980s flick of the same name), and got ourselves a creepy, effective little nailbiter for our troubles.
There’ve been plenty of “bad seed” and devil-baby movies in the past, but this one’s not what you’re used to. A handful of ostensibly normal wee ones begin to use the skills they often employ to manipulate adults in daily life to deadly effect, tormenting their parents in a way far more distressing than anything you’re likely to see in a typical slasher.
It’s not that the methods of dispatch are particularly upsetting, but the assured way that they play on adults’ feelings for them is what makes this one so effective. The commentary on “enlightened” parenting (we don’t hit children here), though a tad heavy handed, is also a perfect example of the way the New Horror uses violence and arresting imagery to address larger real world issues. The camera work and its use of nature shots in the dead of winter are particularly effective here.
Sure, Shankland explains the children’s violent streaks away with some mysterious illness that’s infecting the tykes, but this is the only cop out of the movie, and probably instrumental in keeping this production safe from the censor’s ax. It no doubt also helped dampen the protest against the scenes where the adults start fighting back against their deadly offspring. The long buildup to the final showdown may limit The Children‘s rewatchability, but this one’s definitely worth your time.