Tracy Pollan in Children of the Dark (1994)

Fear Born of Ignorance

The Harrison family were pretty normal until one day 5-year-old Jamie (Lindsey Haun) and 3-year-old Sherry (Analise Ashdown) were playing outside and Jamie's skin starts to blister. When the hospital runs tests they discover that not only does Jamie have a rare disease called Xeroderma Pigmentosum which makes sun light and some unnatural light dangerous but so does Sherry. It causes Jim Harrison (Peter Horton) and his wife Kim (Tracy Pollan) to change the way they live, boarding up the windows on their home to protect their daughters from the potentially fatal sun. But it is a decision which affects them all especially Kim's son from a previous marriage who struggles with having to live in the dark when he is not affected by the disease. But sunlight is not the only danger which the family faces as the locals find their behaviour odd and start victimizing them for having to live differently.

So with "Children of the Dark" we are in "inspired by" territory as we have a drama which takes its lead from a true story but creates a drama around some of the facts. There is nothing wrong with that but it is important to keep in mind as it gives the writers licence to embellish things to create drama and switch focus from what a movie starts out as to something else. As such "Children of the Dark" starts out about this rare genetic disease Xeroderma Pigmentosum and what it means to the Harrison family who just for added drama are not well off and so Jim sells his bike to pay for the expensive medical tests.

Peter Horton in Children of the Dark (1994)

Now if you like this first half which focuses on what it means immediately to the Harrison family is interesting as we not only learn about Xeroderma Pigmentosum but we see how the family deal with it. We see how Kim's son Bobby finds it difficult to deal with the changes as the family blocks out the light. We see how Jim blames himself as with Bobby being healthy he feels the genetic issues are down to him. We also see how there is tension between Jim and Kim, brought on by the situation as well as money worries. All of which combines to create an interesting drama around an unusual situation.

But what we also get is the attitude of those on the outside as they talk about what might be going on in the Harrison household, speculating what disease they might have which puts even more pressure on the family. It comes down to fear born from ignorance and the extreme reactions of those who don't understand and don't want to. I won't go into details as to what happens other than to say an already difficult situation is made a whole lot worse due to ignorance.

Now "Children of the Dark" is a made for TV movie if you hadn't realises and as such it would be fair to say there is plenty of melodrama. But for a TV movie the performances especially from Peter Horton and Tracy Pollan impress as they bring to life the stress of the situation whilst director Michael Switzer doesn't look for happiness in the situation but goes for a constant sense of despair and darkness which makes it a much heavier movie than you might expect. Oh there are some softer moments in their but compared to many TV movies from the 90s and since it feels noticeably heavy.

What this all boils down to is that "Children of the Dark" is a fascinating made for TV movie which not only has the interesting aspect of a storyline built around Xeroderma Pigmentosum but also a look at the devastating effects of fear born of ignorance.