The Children


Rating 3¼

Directed by Tom Shankland

Written by Tom Shankland, based on a story by Paul Andrew Williams

Starring Eva Birthistle (Elaine), Stephen Campbell Moore (Jonah), Rachel Shelley (Chloe), Jeremy Sheffield (Robbie), Hannah Tointon (Casey), Eva Sayer (Miranda), William Howes (Paulie), Raffiella Brooks (Leah) and Jake Hathaway (Nicky)

Chloe and Robbie have moved out to the country and are living a seemingly idyllic lifestyle in a big house with their two young children Leah and Nicky. Their friends Elaine and Jonah come to stay with them for Christmas, bringing their two young children, Miranda and Paulie, and Casey, Elaine’s older teenage daughter from a previous relationship. Casey has been grounded and barred from going to a party with her friends and makes no pretence of wanting to be there. The younger children begin to exhibit signs of strange misbehaviour and irritability, resulting in what at first seems like a tragic accident, but then escalates when they turn on the adults and the house and surrounding woodland becomes a bloodbath.


‘The Children’ is an excellent British horror film released in December 2008 for the Christmas market, although it is a decidedly different type of Christmas film to what we have become used to seeing over the years.

The two sets of adults are somewhat smug, typically liberal middle-class with bohemian leanings and instantly recognisable. These are very well observed characters. Chloe and Elaine would appear to be long time friends, but Chloe constantly makes comments that
seem to question Elaine’s capabilities as a mother. Elaine is, perhaps we are encouraged to decide, over-protective of her son Paulie, who suffers from some kind of condition that makes him have anxiety attacks. Another reason, possibly, is Casey, the older teenager daughter, who was clearly born when Elaine was quite young. The implication seems to be that Casey was a “mistake” and that abortion had been considered. There is, evidently, unspoken competition to demonstrate superior parenting, born out of a kind of arrogance of parenthood. Later on, after the carnage has begun, Chloe blames Elaine and points the finger at Casey, even though she has already been attacked by her own children.

Robbie is, possibly, a little bit too attentive of the teenage Casey, although it is never made demonstratively clear one way or the other, leaving us to make up our minds about this. Jonah is, in the words of Casey, a “knob”.

No specific reason is given why the children turn evil in the way they do, except that they seem to succumb to a virus that manifests itself in the form of a cough. What this virus might be is never explained. The change in mood and the escalating violence is cleverly staged, if a little hysterical towards the end, and when the bloodbath begins it is both believable and disturbing.

What is the film telling us? It might be suggesting that children are evil. There have probably been circumstances when many of us have thought this, even if it is not a suggestion that can be validated in any rational manner. Possibly it is a commentary about the baseless arrogance and feeling of superiority that so often seems to come with parenthood. On the other hand, it might simply be a horror gore-fest for the sake of it. In the end, whether or not there is any underlying meaning to be found here, the film is very effectively done and decidedly unsettling.

‘The Children’ has a 77% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes from thirteen reviews and if you find yourself in need of a blood-splattered horror film with a Christmas setting, this one has a lot more to recommend about it than the ‘Black Christmas’ remake.

Review posted 16 June 2009


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Elaine & Chloe are sisters in "The Children."