Monday, May 3, 2010

Review: The Children (2008)

Director: Tom Shankland
Starring: Eva Birthistle, Hannah Tointon, Eva Sayer, Jeremy Sheffield

What a delightfully fucked up romp this was. The Children is a very bare bones movie that poses a simple but effectively terrifying question: would we be able to kill our own children?

Well, The Children surely does a bang-up job of answering that.

See, this isn't really a movie about storytelling, or about intricate characters. It's just about threatening every perception you have of reality and how our familial structures work...and then stabbing you in the eye with a goddamned pitchfork. What a screwed up movie! And it's deadly enough to strike terror into the heart of anyone who could possibly relate to another person on a human level at all. Everything about this movie is backwards. Nothing makes sense, nothing is right...it's just backwards. It's twisted, wrong and all kinds of flat out insane.

It doesn't even seem that bad at first; at first it's pretty innocuous. The families seem pretty down to Earth and they talk and act like regular families would. They're having fun and preparing for their New Years festivities. Okay. This isn't bad, right? It's all okay.

But why is the uncle flirting with his seventeen year old niece? That's the first warning sign right there, along with the little kid playing with the xylophone by the window, oblivious to everything else. It's the uncle flirting with his niece that really gets to me, though - it sums up everything about this movie. It's this angular, perverted sense of wrong. It seems to leak from every pore. It's all very secretive and dishonest in a very dirty way, and soon every character and every situation starts to seem like that.

The rest of the film's extravagances could almost be said to be some weird metaphor for just how fucked up all of our families can get at times, or at least this particular one. Really, it's just one festival of depravity after another. There are no explanations given, no big cover-ups or back story expositions. The kids just start killing people. It becomes a madhouse, and then you realize that none of the characters were ever likable in the first place - it was all a careful ruse. The gore is horrific and actually really realistic, never feeling over the top. It always looks completely real, and you really wince whenever someone gets hurt. Pins through eyes, bones protruding through skin and rakes to the face are all featured here in gruesome clarity.

This maniacal concoction of furious, screaming blood and gore is just too much. It is so barbaric and so thoroughly cold and terrifying that it literally sent chills down my back as I watched it - more than once, It made me feel frozen where I sat. I think the best thing about this is that it's a complete 180 degree reversal of the usual set-up for this kind of thing: Unlike The Shining where it's a crazy father trying to pick off his own son, it's the kids who are doing the killing this time. How are you even supposed to respond to that? How would any parent even approach this situation? It's not a question answered easily, and the movie does it anyway.

The Children is one of the rare modern horror movies that distills all the bullshit and delivers on a promise of unadulterated terror. It is simply horrifying in every way. Uncomfortable for the viewer, completely unhinged from any kind of restraint...this movie is just completely sadistic. What a sick fucking movie. See it at your own risk.