The Children (2008)
A Chilling Christmas
Christmas is over but New Year is still to go and Elaine (Eva Birthistle) and Jonah (Stephen Campbell Moore) along with their two children have headed to her sister Chloe (Rachel Shelley) and husband Richard's (Jeremy Sheffield) place in the country. It is a living hell for Elaine and Jonah's teenage daughter Casey (Hannah Tointon) to be stuck with younger children and grown ups in a remote house where there is not even any mobile reception unless you go outside and in to the snow. But one by one the children begin to fall ill and after each has been sick they turn evil towards the grown ups.
As you begin to watch "The Children" you get a sense that either director Tom Shankland is toying with us or that he is just a puppet of the horror movie system. What I am on about is during the first half hour we get served up these shots which are like being spoon-fed clues; there is the large cat flap to the house which the camera focuses upon, the stain on a pillow and there is the creepy way in which Richard stares at his niece Casey who dresses semi provocatively as she is a teenager. There is even a scene of one small child staring off in to the distance and constantly striking one of those colourful children's xylophones. You wonder whether all of this is just Shankland messing with us and we will get something very different when it all kicks off or whether or not regular is all we can expect.
In truth the answer is a mix of both as Shankland delivers a British horror which at times is nothing more than familiar but also at times different and highly effective. But the most important thing is that Shankland creates the type of atmosphere which draws you in. And it is because there is a playfulness to the build up, as if he is toying with us by making things so obvious and then giving us several false starts such as a scene where a kid acts creepy, the music begins to sound troubled only for nothing to happen. It does mean that when things kick of they still surprise us as we have been lulled in to a false sense of security.
Of course the one thing which "The Children" has automatically going for it is of course the kids, yes the adults such as Eva Birthistle and Jeremy Sheffield are solid whilst Hannah Tointon impresses as the moody but attractive Casey but it is the kids who make it. And credit to Shankland because he has made a small group of children very scary by just having them looking serious and then using clever editing to make it more sinister. There is something which is naturally unsettling about innocent children being evil and Shankland makes the most of it as well as horror movie cliches and without stating it you get a sense the children are communicating telepathically.
What this all boils down to is that "The Children" is an impressive British horror with director Tim Shankland really impressing with the way he toys with the audience using cliches and expectations to lull them in to a false sense of security before then running riot with that unsettling horror of young children turned evil.
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