Lionsgate // 2008 // 85 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Steve Power (Retired) // November 13th, 2009
You brought them into this world...They'll take you out.
The Children is a feel-good Christmas tale just perfect for a cool Saturday evening with a cup of warm cocoa, and a crackling fire -- a great time for the whole family.
A family of five heads out to their cottage for a Christmas filled with food, fun, and the laughter of the children. But when the tykes begin acting strangely, things start going wrong, and holiday cheer dies alongside the first parent. What follows is a gory bit of horror fun, as the children go native and attempt to butcher the adults in truly gruesome fashion.
There's an underlying creepiness that permeates the first act of this British-made horror flick. We've all seen The Omen and Children of the Corn, so you know what's going to happen, but director Tom Shankland does a pretty great job of turning up the suspense dial, so you never quite know when it's going to happen. Homicidal children are nothing new to the horror genre, and when The Children does start rolling at full speed, it doesn't really hold any surprises. Where the film really works is in that first act's slow burn. We see a family of pretentious knobs slowly coming unwound, as the weekend's events go from slightly less than normal to completely disturbing. The normal time spent with these adults and kids really invests you into the proceedings. So while the juicy fun doesn't hit for a while, the tension is considerably more effective because of the opening. I'd go so far as to say it's probably the best of this particular subgenre to come along in quite some time, running circles around Orphan and The Uninvited.
Lionsgate's Ghost House Undergound series provided a few nice surprises in scouring of the planet's C-grade horror offerings, and the discs have been fairly awesome as well. The Children has a nice subdued look to it. There's a lot of dull color, shadow, and gloomy skies, and the 1.85 anamorphic transfer handles it all admirably. The 5.1 surround mix is clean and clear. The best catch here is the healthy slate of extras. There are some great "making of" featurettes that cover several bases, and a few deleted scenes. A solid collection for this sort of film, and pretty entertaining to watch.
The Children works. It's effectively unnerving, juicy with the gore, and plays with conventions just enough to separate it from the pack. Worth checking out. For those of you with kids, you'll never look at the little bastards the same way again...Sammy! Get off that coffee table!
Free to go! Case dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes