Posted by: adambeauchesne | February 6, 2010

Review: The Children (2008)

Director: Tom Shankland

Writer: Tom Shankland

Starring: Eva Birthistle, Stephen Campbell Moore, Jeremy Sheffield

Rating:

Admittedly, I rented The Children with the intent of having a terrible horror movie to make fun of with some friends. The night was instead spent in relative silence, save for some jokes about how we could barely stand to look at the screen in several instances. For fans of the site, you’ll know that this movie made my Top Five list of the scariest movies. It’s a perfect blend of horror and science fiction married with excellent acting and beautiful cinematography to create an unforgettable experience. You gotta rent this one.

Two couples meet at a cabin in the woods for a Christmas getaway with their kids, one of whom arrives sick. As the weekend progresses, this mysterious illness spreads to the other kids, the main symptom being vomiting, and a brutal desire to inflict pain on their parents. Think Children of the Corn for a new generation, with slicker camera moves and a looming sense of realism. This realism is ultimately what does it for me here. While the premise is far fetched and so not based in reality, the acting and pacing of the story is done so effectively that you buy into the eventual climax.

I must also make mention of two highlights for me. First of all, the children are perfectly cast. I should say, the casting is spot on throughout, but I find that good child actors, especially in demanding roles such as these, are a great find – never mind five or six of them. The curly-haired boy who plays Paulie (William Howes) is especially frightening as he delivers the very, very few lines he has, and even more effectively manages to believably take down these adults one by one.

Secondly, the soundscape. It is a must for any genre movie such as this, to have a stellar soundtrack, that emphasizes the action without being manipulative. The first twenty minutes of the film will nearly make you want to shut it off, for what sounds like the manic screams of a first grade classroom as the kids run riot in the house. It is entirely unsettling, and prepares us for how rampant these children will eventually run. The movie also makes great use of silence, in the exactly right moments. There are a few predictable scares, but the director manages to infuse them with a sense of fun instead of that tiresome ire I feel after watching a film like Drag Me to Hell. Likewise, there is a bit too much gore for me, but it is somehow novel because of the children…you’re not sure how quickly to forgive a child for breaking his mothers ankle.

BREAKDOWN

MAKE – What makes this movie is the cinematography. I was torn between this, the sound design, and the casting. The movie is beautiful and easy to watch. It is so simple to take a premise like this and build suspense the cheap way. Instead, the director uses some artistic establishing shots that set it apart from your run-of-the-mill gore fest.

BREAK – It’s one of those movies where the final ten minutes could be chopped off. There is a twist where the intent is either to set us up for a sequel, or have us leaving the theatre scared that one of these kids might be in our backseat. But it’s so unlike the rest of the film that it seems a bit rushed and empty. Luckily, the movie does establish a better ending before this, so as long as you’re willing to forgive the bizarro “actual” ending, we’re in business.

BOTTOM LINE – If you’re into horror, this is a must-see. I’ve never been so completely drawn in by a movie in this genre before. It’s innovative in its concept and execution, and will leave you chilled to the bone and wanting more.

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