Friday, December 30, 2016

Holiday Horror: The Children

Elaine, Jonah, and their children visit Elaine's sister Chloe and her family in their secluded home for Christmas. At first, everything seems normal. The children play and the parents drink. Casey, Elaine's eldest, pouts and sulks that she can't spend her time at parties with her friends. Paulie, Elaine's son, gets seemingly carsick on the way there and some of the children misbehave a bit. Nothing seems out of the ordinary, just normal family conflicts. Then, more of the children become sick, showing the same symptoms as Paulie. The children as a group begin to misbehave more and more until Robbie, Elaine's husband, is killed in what looks like a horrible accident. Casey realizes that the children have turned violent, but the parents refuse to believe it. Can Casey convince the adults before the children kill every adult?

I have a weakness for killer kid movies especially when they are merged with cheery holidays. The film starts out like a typical family gathering for Christmas with the same squabbles and drama that any family has. The two families couldn't be more different. Chloe and her husband Robbie live in a luxurious house and are the most overprotective people ever. Their children are homeschooled and they don't believe in vaccinations or modern medicine. Chloe gets worked up over any little thing like Elaine daring to bring a sick child and blows things out of proportion. This couple is everything I hate about parents. Elaine and Jonah, on the other hand, are pretty sensible and laid back. I found them much more relatable.

Despite their differences, both parents have many of the same problems later in the film. First, there are little to no consequences or even responses when the children start becoming more aggressive and violent. Second, as the violence escalates, they refuse to acknowledge that their children are at fault in any way, even when that violence is directed at them. I consider this to be a judgment of parenting where everyone else is at fault for children's failings or bad behavior. These parents automatically look to someone else to blame despite the proof right in front of their faces. When Elaine finally realizes what's really happening, she can't harm her child or any of the other children even though they are dangerous. This is much more understandable to me because killing or attacking their child is against pretty much the parent's entire life up to this point. It's incredibly difficult to kill this evil thing because it still wears the face of their child.

The children chosen for the film are just about the cutest you could find with giant eyes and cherubic faces. We don't see much of them acting normally, but they seem like normal children who play and occasionally get into trouble. Once under the effects of the disease, these children have the creepiest stares and manipulate the parents beautifully. The first death of an adult came as a shock accompanied with a surprising amount of blood. The children still act like children, but with deranged and dangerous tendancies. For instance, they still seem to have fun and hold curiosity for things. Instead of conventional childish interests, they have fun stealing splints off an adults broken leg while they scream in agony and are curious what a baby doll sounds like stuffed in the cut open stomach of an adult. For the adult deaths, the camera will often cut away, but the children's deaths are shown in all their bloody gory. If you are squeamish at all at children dying in film, stay well away from The Children.

My favorite character in this entire film is Casey, Elaine's pouty teenage daughter. At first, she's pretty insufferable in full teenage rebellion mode with heavy makeup, a hidden tattoo, inappropriate clothing for the very cold weather, and a plan to ditch the family reunion to party with her friends. By the midpoint, she completely changes her attitude by ditching her friends when she realizes something is wrong. Casey is the only character who will kill these feral children without hesitation because she's tried everything to stop them. As the only character who isn't a parent or infected by the disease, she isn't blinded by parental love and is able to see where the danger truly lies.

The Children is a well crafted film that sets the stage of a loving family and then completely tears it apart. The film is suspenseful and frustrating at the same time because the vicious children are unpredictable and most of the parents don't realize their children are murderers until it's too late. It's the juxtoposition of opposites that makes the story shine like the beautiful white snow next to huge amounts of blood, the cherubic children alongside their gruesome murdering, and the Hallmark picture family at the beginning compared to what remains at the end. The only flaw is in an unnecessary subplot that I feel detracts from the story. If you are into gruesome, suspenseful horror films where both children and adults meet horrible ends, this is the film for you.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

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