If you are the kind of person that needs almost everything in a film to have an explanation, then you will not like The Children. You will also not like it if you cannot stand children doing bad things, and being “punished” for doing said terrible things; the punishment I’m referring to is death, if you were confused.
The basic premise of The Children is actually fairly simple. It’s New Year’s, and family is visiting family. There are four adults, four young children and one teenager. Part-way through the film, the children come down with a mysterious virus that turns them intelligent, cunning and murderous. They essentially become killers, beginning with small “accidents” that only injure, and eventually becoming typical slasher film villains, going around with knives in hopes to kill the older characters.
I said that the virus turned the children smart, but it may just be that the adults are so brain-dead that, by comparison, any amount of intelligence exhibited by the younger crowd makes the kids seem like geniuses by comparison. If I have one main problem with The Children, it’s how the main cast doesn’t act in any way reasonable or relatable. They’re bigger zombies than the actual kids, showing no glimpse of brilliance or intelligence, and instead acting like they’re five themselves, reacting purely on emotion to guide their decisions.
I mean, yes, I can understand not wanting to murder your own children. That makes sense to me. What doesn’t make sense to me is how the characters turn on one another, overlook simple clues, and ultimately blame the teenager, Casey (Hannah Tointon), for the deaths. Moody teens are prime suspects for adult rage, right?
However, while they are “dumber than a sack of nails”, at least they do have emotion, and you almost begin to care about them. Casey is the most relatable character there, but the rest of the grown-ups have their quirks that can make you grow attached to them. They emote, and when things start growing wrong, you want to see them live, as well as take care of any imminent threat–the maniac kids.
And here is where the morality discussions can begin. Is it right to kill children? Is it right to kill your own children? These talks could go on forever in regards to this film. Yes, children do die. They have to. If they didn’t, the film would seem too supernatural, while also becoming just another slasher flick, except with more than one scary monster out there performing the murders.
The take I have on it is this: If there is someone out there, no matter the size or age, that is coming at you with a knife, you have the right to defend yourself. Some of the characters within the film agree with me on this, others do not. Guess which ones get to live at the end of the movie.
This is something else that I’d like to touch on in regards to The Children, the film’s ending and its future. It is perfect. It leaves the viewer wondering what exactly is happening, and leaves right at the perfect moment. Now, if there ends up being a “Children 2”, or any other similarly named sequel, I will be disappointed. Yes, sometimes it’s nice to get everything explained to you, but in this case, you don’t need that.
The ambiguous nature of The Children is almost the only place where any true horror comes from. Take that away, and it almost would degenerate into a typical slasher film. Not knowing exactly why the kids have decided to go on a murderous rampage is scary, especially given how cunning they end up being. Take that away from them, and no matter what the explanation given, it won’t be as fascinating. The edge-of-your-seat feeling that you get while watching a film like this will be lost, because you can just say, “oh, yeah, I know why this is happening. Boring!”
The actual murders in The Children aren’t actually that graphic, but nonetheless make you want to look away from the screen. And that’s something you’ll likely do–close your eyes or turn away–because you’ll feel disturbed by some of the things shown. Or presented. Or faked. See, there is often a cutaway right before something disturbing happens, and then we get to see the aftermath. You don’t actually see as much as your mind wants to think, something that director Tom Shankland uses wonderfully.
On paper, The Children seems like a great horror film. It starts out slow, lets tension build, and then unleashes a terror amongst the characters we’ve grown to like. That’s essentially what happens, and I’m thankful. There are slight deviations from the usual slasher formula, but the lead characters, except for Casey, are moronic, especially in comparison to the kids haunting them. Some moral questions are brought up, but are somewhat ignored by the actual film. I’ll say one thing though, there better not be a sequel for this film, as it doesn’t need one.