THE PLOT THUS FAR

You brought them into the world. They will take you out. A family anticipates a Christmas filled with sledding, laughter and hot cocoa as they head to their vacation home in the secluded backcountry…The holiday cheer takes a fast turn for the worse after a mysterious flu-like virus sweeps through the kids. One by one the children become deadly. Amidst the suspicion, mayhem and murder, the parents fight for survival against their own twisted offspring.

WHAT WE THOUGHT

The simple scenario riffs on elements from all of the above, as gorgeous but downbeat Goth teen Hannah Tointon arrives for Christmas at her horny uncle’s country abode with her middle class parents and her irksome younger sibling. It soon becomes apparent that a mystery virus – initially represented by flu-like symptoms and vomiting – is spreading in the area and turning the kids into violent, aggressive, calculating murderers. Tointon becomes aware sooner than her distracted elders, though no one can stop all the kids from becoming infected.

Although horror movies with teenage protagonists are the norm, it was a good idea here to have our heroine be a cynical teen who grimly refers to herself as “the abortion that got away” and is the only one focused enough to accept the full horror of what’s happening : the adults remain in denial even when they’ve seen undisputed proof of the unfolding nightmare. In a movie full of deliberately unsympathetic characters, Tointon is a strong and believably awkward, angst-ridden presence in the lead and her controlled performance is superior to a couple of overwrought portrayals in the supporting cast. Crucially, Shankland nabs some really creepy shots of the children themselves and pulls off the threat : unlike some in this sub-genre, thanks to careful editing and direction, these kids are scary.

Though there are some dynamic jump scares, the movie avoids genre clichés and opts for a very effective slow burn. Shankland makes outstanding use of the wintry backdrop, staging all his horror in broad daylight and finding considerable eerie menace as he holds on Christmas card-like images of winter that afford the movie atmosphere to spare. The recurring motif of pooling blood on snow is simple but unnerving.


The DVD comes with a series of featurettes about turning The Children into infected little monsters. Plus, you get a rather lackluster micro-video that seems to be tacked on at the last moment. The most interesting featurette is the look at how the snowbound sets were constructed. So much effort put into such background detail makes you wonder why they couldn’t give the script a once over. Still, it’s worth a rental.

RELEASE DATE: 10/06/09

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