The Children

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner4/12/2008

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 84 mins

This atmospheric British horror has a terrifying concept and strong performances, but it's often frustrating, not least because the violence feels like it's been neutered to secure a 15 certificate.

What's it all about?
Directed by Tom Shankland, The Children takes place in the snow-covered English countryside, as two families get together for the Christmas holidays. On arrival, one of the children is violently sick and later becomes blank-faced and uncommunicative, but his parents (Eva Birthistle and Stephen Campbell Moore) dismiss his behaviour as travel sickness.

However, soon all four young children are behaving in the same way and things take a shocking turn when one of the adults dies in a violent accident and the children seem to be to blame. Only disgruntled teenager Casey (Hannah Tointon) seems to understand that something weird is going on, but the adults refuse to believe their kids have suddenly become evil and refuse to listen to her.

The Good
As anyone who's ever seen Village of the Damned will tell you, there is nothing scarier than blank-faced evil children and, to that effect, The Children scores points for its terrific, genuinely scary premise and an intriguing refusal to explain what's happening. Tointon makes a decent lead and there's strong support from Birthistle and Moore, while the kids are all alternatively cute or creepy as the script demands.

The Bad
However, the film has several problems, most notably the fact that all the violence feels like it's been neutered in pursuit of a 15 certificate – almost everything either occurs off screen or is so heavily edited that you can't tell what's happening. The result of this is that the supposedly scary scenes carry much less weight.

In addition, the film lacks imagination and fails to exploit its premise to any significant effect. It's also completely devoid of humour and you wonder what a more experienced director might have made of the same material.

Worth seeing?
With its chilling premise and tense atmosphere, The Children definitely has its moments, but you can't help feeling it could have been a lot better.

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Content updated: 18/08/2019 06:27

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