This is cinema’s version of contraception. Tom Shankland’s yuletide thriller pits some nasty, blood-thirsty pre-teens against their parents in an English countryside setting.
Directed by: Tom Shankland
Written by: Tom Shankland
Starring: Eva Birthistle, Stephen Campbell Moore, Hannah Tointon, Eva Sayer, William Howes
Released: 2008 / Genre: Horror / Country: UK / IMDB
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As a cinematic form of contraception, Tom Shankland’s 2008 yuletide shocker The Children leads the field. Those with simply no inclination to start a family of their own will be rejoicing that finally somebody else sees what only they thought they could see. Ensuring they find themselves on Santa’s naughty list, pre-teens run riot by systematically mutilating their parents. All the while the turkey is going cold. Poor thing – it only has one job in life and it doesn’t get a chance to fulfil it.
During New Year celebrations two sets of parents bring their families together to welcome in the next twelve months. Elaine (Eva Birthistle) and Jonah (Stephen Campbell Moore) arrive at the house of their long-time friends Chloe (Rachel Shelley) and Robbie (Jeremy Sheffield). Chloe and Robbie are an affluent couple who live in a large countryside house with a few acres of estate surrounding them. Luckily for any horror filmmaker, their secluded driveway passes through woodland that is the only way in and out of the grounds. Surely the English weather won’t curse them with snow, cutting them off from civilisation? And what’s this: the only mobile phone signal is to be found next to the firewood store on the edge of the grounds. Ouch!
Unfortunately for these four adults, the curse of the weather and the failure of technology is the least of their worries. Between them they’ve spawned five children and they are about to get a big surprise of small proportions. A little light comes in the form of teenager Casey (Hannah Tointon) who appears immune to whatever is affecting her siblings but the wintry white Christmas idyll is about to turn a deep shade of crimson no matter what. Beginning as a few childhood traumas and tantrums, things get nasty when the family pet disappears and Robbie takes a rides on the sled only to find his head carved open by a piece of gardening apparatus. Accident? I don’t think so.
Tom Shankland’s film derives from an idea first proposed by London To Brighton and Cherry Tree Lane writer-director Paul Andrew Williams. The film fails to hide the conventions that have become clichés of the genre since John Carpenter decided to make Halloween, but there’s enough skill in the direction to make The Children an entertaining if forgettable thriller. There is a sense of Hammer Horror amidst its English countryside setting and macabre events, the child actors do a commendable job of looking scary (which essentially involves a dedication to the art of not blinking), and the secluded locale and woodland surroundings provide a claustrophobic if wholly unoriginal ground-zero.
Review by Daniel Stephens – See all reviews
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