THE CHILDREN, from director Tom Shankland (THE KILLING GENE), is an under-appreciated horror flick that shows just how frightening children can be. The film, which came out in 2008 in the UK, followed by a 2009 release in the US, is now celebrating its 10th year anniversary and with that it’s getting the much needed exposure that this film deserves. The movie stars Eva Birthistle (BROOKLYN), Stephen Campbell Moore (SEASON OF THE WITCH), Jeremy Sheffield (CREEP), Rachel Shelley (THE L-WORD), and Hannah Tointon (HOLLYOAKS).
I’m ashamed to say that it wasn’t until last week that I first heard about THE CHILDREN. I was on Twitter and a writer that I follow mentioned how good this film was. As I did some research, I found that this movie had gone, for the most part, completely under the radar, at least for me. However, with the horror movie subscription service Shudder, I was able to finally experience this movie in all it’s bloody glory, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint.
To give you a little background on the film, it centers around two families who have come together during the Christmas holiday to celebrate the New Year at an isolated home in the country. Upon arrival, one of the children gets sick, not enough to really worry the parents, but enough that it is noticeable. Soon, the infection spreads from one child to the next, transforming them into bloodthirsty predators hellbent on killing the ones that brought them into this world.
I’ll be honest, children scare the ever loving shit out of me. The process in which our bodies change to prepare for pregnancy as well as the primary role for having a kid that you hope doesn’t turn into a raging psychopath is A LOT of pressure. I know there are many things to love about having children, and I respect anyone’s right to either have or not have kids, but for me, children scare me. This is probably why I enjoy horror movies that surround kids doing creepy shit. What I enjoyed even more about this movie was that the kids weren’t possessed by a demonic force nor where they turned into zombies, instead it was a plague that inflicted them and though there was little change in their physical appearance, their outwardly behavior completely shifted into dangerous territories.
THE CHILDREN is one of those films that has definitely stood the test of time. Sure, in the ten year span since it was released technology has changed, cell phones have gotten better, but luckilythere wasn’t a lot within the movie that needed to change with the times. It’s because of this that THE CHILDREN can stand tall in the ever-changing landscape of technology and CGI. This film didn’t need to rely on those effects to make it what it is, instead it focuses on the storyline, the atmosphere and the character development between the parents and the children. For me personally, I wish we had more films like this because it shows how realistic horror can be and how it doesn’t necessarily need to be about supernatural entities or monsters. Sickness can be just as terrifying as the fictional creature living under your bed.
I also want to point out the use of practical effects. In a world where so many of our films rely on CGI, it’s always a pleasure to see a director stick with the more practical effects. If CGI is done wrong, it can look terrible (coughcoughSuperman’sMustachecoughcough) whereas if practical effects are executed properly, they can be incredibly believable. In THE CHILDREN, director Tom Shankland chose the later and it worked in his benefit. There are moments in this film that are extremely uncomfortable to view and other moments that are quite shocking and unexpected. With horror films we are told that there are certain rules to follow: don’t kill animals, don’t kill children, etc. and in THE CHILDREN, Shankland decides to throw some of those rules out the window, which makes for a movie that will stick with you long after it ends.
THE CHILDREN has a longevity to it that not many horror films can boast. It’s clear that a ten year gap hasn’t done anything to stop people from seeing the movie and now that it’s streaming on Shudder, it’s more accessible to horror fans than ever before. When I originally posted on social media that I was watching this movie, a lot of horror fans chimed in about how much they really enjoyed this flick. Don’t let the ten year gap fool you, this film definitely stands the test of time in both story, performances, and practical effects. If you are a fan of films like THE GOOD SON but want something that’ll make you suspend reality a bit more, than THE CHILDREN is right up your alley. For those of you who have kids, be careful next time they’re sick, you never know what plague they may have contracted…