Nightmares on Netflix: The Children

Yeah, I know. I’ve been a total slacker as of late, and what I’m going to blame it on is my angry inner bear need to hibernate. It’s cold up in Canada and after Halloween is over and I’ve gorged on buckets of candy, I want to crawl in my bed and sleep until my birthday (and even then, it’s only to get my presents). I’ve somehow managed to pull myself from the depths of my girl-cave (it might be Battlefield 3’s fault) to bring you a new and glorious edition of Nightmare on Netflix. I have to say, the Canadian version has gotten better as of late. Not only has it added amazing television series like Mad Men, Breaking Bad and the ENTIRE run of Xena: Warrior Princess, but there are tons more horror movies that are being added every week – and a lot of them are good.

Here’s a little background on Ghost House Pictures:

It was a partnership formed by Mandate Pictures and film makers Rob Tapert (Lucy Lawless’ husband) and Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spider-Man and long time friend of Lawless) with the goal to finance, develop and release films of the horror-thriller genre. They have had much success since it’s creation with movies such as Drag Me to Hell, The Grudge Series, The Messenger and 30 Days of Night. Ghost House Underground’s purpose is to highlight lesser known blockbuster horror films to the genre fans at large. Sadly, there has been a severe decline in their production. Starting in 2008, eight films were released on DVD and since then it has been chopped in half.. not once, but twice, leaving only two films to be distributed in 2011.

My review this week is one of the 2008 releases, The Children. I hope you enjoy it.

“Bye-bye Mummy.” ~Miranda

SYNOPSIS

DVD Box Art

Everyone loves Christmas! What better way to celebrate the holidays than to get together with members of your family who you don’t get a chance to see very often and catch up, right? Married couple, Elaine and Jonah (Eva Birthistle, Stephen Moore) cram into a car with their kids: Casey, the teenage ‘accident’ who wishes she was with friends, Leah, daddy’s little Princess and Paulie, the youngest child and only boy who suffers from a mental disorder that prevents him from speaking, to visit Elaine’s sister Chloe (Rachel Shelley), her husband Robbie (Jeremy Sheffield) and their children, Miranda and Nicky. The reunion is sweet, but things begin to take a turn from the worst in the days that follow. Not only do we get a glimpse of the underlying dysfunction between each couple and the relationship between the sisters, but soon the children – and seemingly for no reason at all, turn on their parents and begin to pick them off one by one.

THOUGHTS

Rachel Shelley as Chloe

You would think that the whole creepy children thing would be less scary after about a dozen movies about it.. but really, I don’t think there’s anything more terrifying. It’s that play on innocence. We don’t expect them to become so easily corrupted, to turn on us without any warning. They’re so cute and squishy and usually far too concerned with snowball fights and tree forts to ever want to plunge a knife into our chests. This particular film plays it all very well. Not all of the children are ‘infected’ at once and it’s why the parents don’t notice it right away, instead they simply write it off as them simply not knowing each other well enough to get along. And once they are all ‘infected’, they are a vicious and thoughtful team of pint-sized killers.

"Come and play, Uncle Robbie!"

Usually I’m not a fan of children in any movie. I find that they lack the acting chops to really play the character, or at least differentiate themselves from the role they’ve been hired to do. In this, the entire cast is very convincing. Shelley (who was in the L Word) is especially fantastic to watch, to see her shift seamlessly between jealous wife to overprotective mother was believable. Hannah Tointon who plays the rebellious teenage daughter, Casey, could have taken the very predictable route, but everything about the character was subtle, so much that her angst-ridden nature wasn’t irritating to watch (as it is in any teenage soap opera).

The script is well written, so much that we actually get to know the characters before they’re slaughtered (which I feel most horror movies fail to do) and there’s a lot going on before the children turn to the dark side: failing marriages and careers, jealousy, sibling rilvary, not to mention Robbie’s leering glances and insistence that Casey not call him ‘Uncle.’ What I liked best was that there was no explanation as to why the children began to act the way that they did. Like any smart zombie film, it leaves us all guessing – whether or not it is some infection that’s spreading, or if they’ve just gone bad. We don’t need to be told everything, and our imaginations will come up with something far more frightening than anything a film maker could come up with in the end.

Playtime is over.

Death scenes are gruesome and plotted out in a way to make them especially devastating. The winter setting and snow dusted exterior is used enhance the feeling of isolation and to contrast the blossoming puddles of blood as each parent meets their cruel demise.

VERDICT

A well crafted horror film that could have fallen victim to a tired cliche. I was impressed by the cast and that the writer, director seemed to have enough thought to leave us all wanting. No one knows why the children have turned, and it seems that nothing is going to stop them.

Netflix Rating: ***
My Rating: ***1/2

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