July 23rd, 2009 14:01:00
Elaine, her husband Jonah and their three children head off into the English countryside for a relaxing winter weekend with Elaine's older sister Chloe and her family - a perfect family who live in a perfect house with perfect home-schooled children. But just as they arrive, Elaine and Jonah’s youngest son Paulie starts to feel ill, vomiting and exhibiting flu-like symptoms. The health-conscious Chloe is not impressed that her sister would bring a sick child to their home, exposing her own children to a virus. But as the competitive relationship between the two sisters is set in motion, the children are slowly becoming sick one by one - with a mania that is initially dismissed as tantrums and typically childish bad behaviour. In an age where neglect has replaced abuse, where parents are used to blocking out their kids' hysterical screams to carry on conversations, what do these kids have to do to get attention? Well, let's just say their parents won't like the answer.
There have been two tot terror movies in this festival alone: Paul Solet's GRACE and Jaume Collet-Serra's sleeper hit ORPHAN, each a unique contribution to the subgenre in their own right. Where THE CHILDREN differs is in its expert blending of realistic, multi-dimensional characters and punishing violence. The violence is all the more shocking in that it is either perpetrated by or directed at young children - whose deaths in American films are customarily offscreen. Not so here!
But despite the obvious appeal for gorehounds and child-haters, one of the strongest elements in THE CHILDREN is the thorough and intense character development. The older, wealthier sister Chloe sits in judgement of her younger sibling Elaine, constantly pointing out what she perceives to be bad parenting tactics, and consequently, the younger sister shrinks in confidence as the film progresses - which is precisely when she needs to be standing her ground in order to survive. But despite Chloe's assertions that her family is the most important thing to her, it’s clear from the beginning that her loyalties can shift at the first sign of inconvenience. Even their mother has not been invited to this little weekend in the country, because, "well, you know what she's like..."
The family dynamics among the two individual groups are no less challenging: The older sister's dodgy husband shows signs of lechery, inappropriately eyeing his teenage niece; Elaine's teenage daughter is from an earlier marriage and has a troubled relationship both with her stepfather Jonah as well as her two favoured half-siblings; Jonah feels he has to prove his masculinity with violence, which has always been frowned upon - until this fateful weekend, when the question "who can kill a child?" is a given a decisive answer.
Once the children 'turn', they manipulate these fragile family dynamics to their own ends, orchestrating a much larger bloodbath than their own little hands could have carried out. The adults play right into their hands. The only child who is suspect is the teenage daughter, who has a history of manipulative and disobedient behaviour, who acts older than her years, and acts as a symbol of a broken family unit - which is an affront to the image these two 'perfect' families are desperately trying to hold in place.
With a degree of tension and a nasty edge that recalls the classics of 70s cinema (the IT’S ALIVE trilogy (1974-1987), THE OMEN (1976), WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (1976), THE BROOD (1979), SHOCK (1977), and DEVIL TIMES FIVE (1974)), THE CHILDREN verifies that the fear of children never really went away – and the cuter they are, the more deadly....
- Kier-La Janisse
THE CHILDREN plays Friday July 24th at 10:15pm in the Hall Theatre, and again Monday July 27th at 7:30pm in the Salle JA de Seve.
Full info, including description, images, trailer, website and more at the film page HERE.