The Children, 2008.
Directed by Tom Shankland.
Starring Eva Birthistle, Hannah Tointon, Stephen Campbell Moore and Eva Sayer.
Two families get together to celebrate Christmas and usher in the New Year, but a strange illness seems to be spreading around the children. Things soon take a horrifying turn as the illness turns the children from sweet little angels into murderous little devils, forcing the adults to fight for survival against their beloved children.
Let’s face it, we celebrate Christmas in such a grand colourful way for the benefit of children everywhere, with parents working their arses off to make the holiday a truly wonderful time for their little ones. Well, I don’t celebrate Christmas for the sake of children, mainly because A) I don’t have any children and B) I really don’t like the little sods.
So imagine my joy/horror to find the subject of today’s review, a nice slice of home-grown British horror entitled The Children, an effective little chiller that only serves to reinforce my distrust of the little beasts.
The acting from the film’s adult actors is good throughout, with Eva Birthistle and Hannah Tointon making for excellent horror heroines. Tointon especially deserves my praise for making me root for something that I dislike more than children, a bloody teenager, with her resourceful quick thinking and badass antics ensuring that I was rooting for her the whole time. Birthistle also gets praise for really nailing the film’s emotional moments as a mother forced to fight against her children, making for a genuinely sympathetic character in her reluctance to harm them.
Stephen Campbell Moore also gets credit for playing a complete arsehole to perfection. Looking like he was rejected from a Stephen Merchant lookalike contest, Moore is your classic horror movie sceptic, refusing to believe that the children, even though one look into their eyes screams “COME PLAY WITH US DANNY!”.
Also makes it bloody easy to dislike him by his CONSTANT banging on about the benefits of traditional Chinese herbal medicine over normal pharmaceuticals, which makes him sound like a walking spam e-mail, and using the crisis to essentially beat up his son and stepdaughter because he’s just so likeable that way.
Now the real stars of the film are of course the titular children and honestly they’re fantastic in this film, with them all managing to portray an impressive degree of terrifying malice in their little faces, and some arguably giving better performances than even some adult actors in other horror films. One particular highlight comes near the climax when two of the children torment Birthistle’s character, who lies wounded; it’s the homicidal intent in their eyes and the expressions they make with their faces that really instil the fear and always make the film darkly hilarious.
This film is also visually quite stunning, with director Tom Shankland making effective use of the winter environment to really capture the cold nature of the horror; one particularly impressive overhead shot which follows Birthistle as she stumbles upon a grisly scene is a stand out amongst many. It certainly goes to show why Shankland is so in demand in the world of television, with the director having carved himself a successful career as arguably one of the most visually stylish directors working in TV today, (check out series 1 of BBC One’s excellent thriller The Missing for further proof of this.)
The film is also really damn brutal with its violence with some of the parents meeting their ends with savage brutality, which cuts away just as you are given a second of horror to haunt your imagination.
I’ll also give the film this, it has balls; huge chrome plated ones, because this film does not hold back when it comes to killing the titular monsters, with them getting some of the most shocking moments. Seriously you don’t expect them to be too horrible to the kids in dealing with them, but the film says “to hell with that” and has them impaled on broken glass or shattered wood to dispose of them.
The Children is a solid little horror film that I would recommend you check out this Christmas, especially if you dislike or fear children; they make for surprisingly terrifying monsters with the film being a fairly scary and darkly humorous ride.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★