I don’t trust children on a good day. They’re small and loud and run around screaming, and they often smell like they have pumpkin pie filling in their pants. So, if I was in a killer children movie, I’d probably fine, since I would be the first one to start picking them off with a weed-whacker like little screamy mushrooms. But, most of the heroes in these movies have a hard time dealing with a new order in which they have to defend themselves against kiddies. As the title of one of the best killer children movies asks: “Who can kill a child?” Answer: me.
The Children is pretty damned effective, even if you’ve seen a dozen of these movies or don’t much like children. A recent British film, it works because it keeps the action centralized around a country estate and makes the children victims of an unknown virus that seems to be both hurting them and turning them into mean little buggers. Admittedly, the “mystery virus” is getting to be a bit like what “nuclear waste” once was in movies: a handy device to turn characters into monsters without much explanation. Here, as elsewhere, it borders on the zombie film pretty closely.
It’s effective because the idea of a close family member who is both very ill and very dangerous makes for fine melodrama and horror is very close to melodrama. The heroes have to fight off their sick children, and of course, they don’t do a good job at it. The film begins somewhat tense and slowly tightens the noose around them until everything is fucked. My only complaint would be that some of the kills are a bit silly; but, how do you have little kids killing adults without it being silly? Otherwise, The Children maintains a good level of unease throughout and features some vicious violence. What else do you want from a horror movie?