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Sunday, April 25, 2010

MORE FAMILY HORROR: The Children (2008)

My partner and I have this little private custom. If we’re eating in a restaurant and nearby children begin screaming, making messes and misbehaving, one of us says to the other, “Have I thanked you lately for not wanting to have children?” I could see getting married if that becomes possible, but I guarantee you children will never be part of the equation for us.

That attitude was reinforced when I recently saw this 2008 British film. It's a very strange and violent little flick about two yuppie couples with way too many children between them -- most of them quite young -- who gather to spend the Christmas holidays together at a large house.

The first sign that this is a bad idea is that the youngest kid comes down with a flulike virus which quickly spreads to all of the other kids. Symptoms: first the child begins puking all over the place, then he or she becomes sadistic -- which quickly escalates into homicidal. The adults and the one teenager are apparently unaffected by the illness, but they have more than enough trouble to occupy them as they struggle to cope -- and ultimately survive.

Not having been able to master birth control despite their obvious socioeconomic advantages, the adults of course find handling violence and murder too tall an order. Teenager Casey (Hannah Tointon) is the first and for awhile the only person who realizes what's happening, but the adults -- as they so often do in horror films -- mistrust and even suspect her. With the grown ups too busy trying to deny what their tykes are doing, blame it on the other couple's kids, etc., the violence just continues to escalate unopposed, and the police, though called after the first "accident," never manage to show up.

The cast is good, and director Tom Shankland presents the whole story in a disarmingly matter-of-fact matter. The violence is gory and shocking. It's a scary movie with the look and feel of a highly realistic indie drama.

I'd recommend it, though I don't know that "enjoyed" accurately captures how I felt about it. It's a powerful film.


  1. I sort of enjoyed this one ... at the end, as the adult and teen are driving away, i liked the fact that the radio stations seemed to be off the air, as if this was a world wide phenomena. I also wondered if the teen had become infected at the end, or is she just in shock.

  2. I enjoyed this one too. Although it has made me somewhat suspicious of small children. The end did you make question if the teen was indeed also infected, I suppose to give the viewer opportunity to consider the parameters of childhood and adulthood in relation to their own potential survival and the possibilty that the disease is mutating to infect regardless of the previously perceived restrictions. Either way we'd probably all be screwed. Unless we strike early and send them all to their rooms to think about what they've done.

  3. I was convinced Casey was infected at the end, too, yet I liked the ambiguity that let you come to your own conclusion about it.

    I am -- as a friend who's a mom once charitably put it when her then-small daughter wouldn't leave me alone -- "not very child-oriented." Being around small kids has me on edge even normally. Add the capacity for vicious violence and, for me, you've got major horror.

  4. There is a plus side to little people, Jack, you can teach them anything. They are little sponges. I once taught a friend's daughter to say 'I see dead people' just before she started nursery school. Much hilarity obviously ensued.

  5. Thanks for sharing that. You just made my day!

  6. Any time, Jack. Keep up the good work by the way, I love reading your blog.

  7. Thank you! The feeling is mutual!