With an endless supply of horror movies dripping from the four corners of the world, it’s refreshing to spend a night cowering behind the sofa with one of our own. Tom Shankland (Waz) writes and directs The Children, a creepy horror tale based on a story by Paul Andrew Williams (The Cottage), and starring a familiar line up of British TV stars including Stephen Campbell Moore (Ashes To Ashes) and Hannah Tointon (Hollyoaks).
Two families gather for New Year festivities out in the sticks, but what starts out as a relaxing vacation turns into a vicious fight for survival as the children are taken ill and develop a taste for murder. The bizarre illness causes the children to lash out at their parents in destructive ways, and the families are forced to turn on each other in order to stay alive.
The first act reels the viewer in with subtle hints of impending doom. The parents aren’t particularly likeable though, which is a shame, because it’s hard to care for a group of characters whose only concern is the contents of the drinks cabinet. It soon becomes clear that something’s not right with those pesky kids, but only troubled teen Casey is capable of working things out, and as you would expect in a film of this nature, it’s not as if anyone is going to believe her anyway. Especially considering the sexual tension building between uncle and niece.
The performances are wobbly from time to time, but what the children lack in range they make up for in cold blank stares, sinister silence and all round creepiness. Scary children are a hallmark of classic horror and the little brats here are a worthy addition to the creepy collective. Once the film gathers pace it rarely lets up. Some of the death scenes are incredibly inventive and the film as a whole is very well staged. There’s a hint of Final Destination in the first elaborate death scene but we're also treated to a welcome dose of tension, torture and titillating terror as the children stalk and slash with colourful creation.
Shankland’s The Children is the latest in a long line of horror movies that fully endorses the bleak, grisly, misery induced ending made popular by Eden Lake, The Strangers and [REC]. I for one am getting tired of horror movies ending on a downer, I’d like to see a little more payback Laurie Strode-style, thank you very much. Having said that, I did find myself punching the air when some of the children got their comeuppance. Which just goes to show how affecting Tom Shankland’s latest horror movie really is.
The Children isn’t without fault and the lack of closure will put many viewers off. As will the unsatisfactory story at its heart, the occasional acting blip and an over familiar use of horror convention. That seems harsh though. Despite the occasional blemish, The Children is a disturbing, inventive and highly enjoyable thriller from England, and how often do we get to say that? AW