The Children (2008)
Updated: Jun 1, 2023
Before I jump into the movie The Children (2008) I want to address something that really pissed me off. Fun fact about me: I always put closed captioning on. It’s not that I’m hard of hearing but rather that I want to make sure what I heard characters say is what they actually said. I also love to see what the music and background noises are captioned as (menacing violin strike). I’ve never used the IMDB streaming app before but of course went to turn on closed captions. I appreciated that they have various sizes and styles for closed captioning but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t have it default to normal when a user turns them on rather than a microscopic font. It’s a small issue but it speaks to my need for a good user experience when I determine what apps to stream from.
Now, to the movie, The Children, directed by Tom Shankland is a British horror thriller film that came out in 2008. When watching this film I assumed that it took place before Christmas and that the planned celebrations had merely been interrupted by the murderous children. Upon research for this film I discovered it is meant to take place after Christmas and around New Years. For the purposes of when I’m posting it I am going to classify it as a Christmas and/or general holiday film due to the snowy atmosphere, and lack of clear distinction between what holiday is being celebrated.
We open to a car full of kids being driven by their mother, Elaine, played by Eva Birthistle, pulling up to a huge house in the middle of nowhere. It’s snowy and there are holiday decorations about. We learn that Elaine and her children, Paulie and Casey, are going to her sister Chloe’s house for the holidays. To keep things somewhat clear here Casey, played by Hannah Toiton, is a teenager and our main protagonist throughout the film. The two younger children, Miranda and Paulie are Casey’s half siblings. I forgot to mention that there’s another adult, the younger children’s dad in the car, Jonah. I probably forgot because he’s a slimy motherfucker. I digress though.
Chloe, Elaine’s sister, lives in this nice house with her husband Robbie, and their two kids, Nicky and Leah. All of the kids are varying ages but none seem to be over twelve except for Casey. The plot of this movie is really straightforward: the kids become infected by some virus that causes them to become ill and killers. They proceed to attempt to kill or kill the adults while simultaneously switching between acting like kids to lure them into death traps and then being stone cold killers. The adults for the most part don’t believe it until they see it and Casey, being a teen, is not affected but is aware from almost the start that something is really wrong with these kids. In the end, Casey and Elaine make it out of there and discover that there are a ton of murderous kids around whom are infected, not just the kids they had to fight off at the house. We are left with the cliffhanger that Casey may actually have gotten the virus afterall and Elaine is in a car with her driving her to civilization…aka potential outbreak material.
So rather than go into the plot I wanted to talk a lot of shit about the characters and the commendable and insane things that each of them do during this film. I’m going to go in order of death for the most part because one character’s death and how it is handled may factor into my opinion of another character.
First off we have Uncle Robbie, the father of Leah and Nicky. I hated and sometimes liked this character. He walks a really fine line between having his niece Casey’s back when the other adults are assholes and also having some inappropriate comments and actions with her. He essentially flirts with her in half of the scenes he’s in with her. It comes off like a middle aged man unable to let go of his youth who enjoys having his ego boosted when given attention by a younger woman. Unfortunately this woman is not only underaged but also his niece. I did appreciate that he seemed like a decent father and kept a level and calm head in light of some of the family drama that ensues. He dies first and it’s in a set up accident while he’s playing with the kids outside, so not really his fault and he’s what kicks off the kids killing spree so he had no way to have known something as big as murder is afoot when he bites it. His death is rather brutal but we get some cool shots of blood soaked snow. His body is later mutilated by the kids but this too does not change anything about the character himself.
Next up we have Chloe, who I absolutely hated. Her and her sister Elaine have some sort of weird sibling competition between each other and she focuses most of her time comparing herself and her life to that of her sisters. She is judgmental and one of those moms that thinks they’re the be all end all of parenting techniques. Chloe also judges her niece heavily for seemingly no reason and expects that Casey will be free child care for the adults and act like an employee most of the time. She becomes jealous of Casey and her husband Robbie flirting in the shed and instead of going in on her creepy husband she blames Casey and decides to out her at the dinner table. She absolutely loses it when Robbie dies and becomes useless for a good period after that. Later on when she finds Robbie’s body has been dragged into the tent outside and mutilated, as mentioned previously, Chloe decides that all of this is Casey’s fault and believes that she must protect her children from Casey. When searching for her children at one point she decides that this needs to be solved by Jonah in a weird misogynistic man of the house kind of way that made me hate her even more. She ends up being killed by her “precious” children who stab her through the eye in a poetic justice kind of way.
Unfortunately we now have to talk about Jonah. The biggest piece of shit adult in the entire film. He’s unlikeable from the jump by showing obvious favoritism towards his biological daughter, Miranda, and clear disdain for his stepdaughter, Casey. He too acts like Casey is an employee of theirs and that she needs to help out more despite her being a literal kid herself. He too has some weird Robbie-esque tension with Casey at the same time and comes off rather scummy. During this holiday as a guest in Robbie’s house he tries to pitch his Chinese medicine business plan to Robbie who clearly finds it rude and brushes him off for family time. It’s annoying that this white man thinks he’s the ambassador of ancient Chinese medicine and that he is the one to bring it to the forefront in modern society entirely for profit. To that I say a big fuck you. He goes on to believe Chloe that Casey is the killer and assaults her not once but twice and goes as far as to lock her into a room. He takes his murderous child Miranda, who is a suck ass little snitch, with him and leaves the house. We will visit this dumbass in a moment when we talk about Elaine. I didn’t like this character and his pretentious ways and found myself rather happy when he met his inevitable fate.
This next character I hated and then liked a lot, none other than Elaine. At the beginning she’s riding the Casey hate train and giving her a lot of grief for nothing while babying her weird son Paulie. She had Casey young and from the outside looking in it comes off as resentment. Nothing super notable happens with this character aside from her making me not like her until she’s lured onto icy monkey bars to save Paulie from falling. Only, Paulie isn’t actually stuck up there and continues to slide back away from Elaine. As she is reaching for Paulie she slips on one of the bars, falls back with one leg still stuck in the bars and her leg is brutally snapped. She passes out and is left to bleed out in the snow. Casey however comes and drags her into the outside shed/greenhouse. Casey bandages her leg and Casey warns her that this is all the kids doing and that something is seriously wrong with those devils. Elaine of course doesn’t believe her and they proceed to be attacked by Paulie. This little tike attempts to kill them and a fight ensues. Casey gets trapped under fallen debris in the shed and as Paulie is coming to kill her, very Chucky like, Elaine grabs the hood of his jacket and pulls him back. Paulie falls back onto a broken window (or door frame, but nonetheless glass) and is impaled. This is the one and only time I had joy when a young character died because he’d become evil as fuck.
Elaine is obviously in shock over this and she and Casey make their way inside where the accusations of Casey ensue from Chloe and Jonah. She is extremely remorseful and conflicted because on one hand she’s saved Casey but on the other she’s killed her son Paulie. This is the turning point for this character in my eyes where she starts to realize that Casey is right. She ends up having her splint fucked up by her daughter, Miranda, as they are on their way out of there. Knowing that the two other demons will be there shortly she makes her way upstairs to try to get Casey out of the locked room. I commend this and this made me like the character because she’d become full blown team fuck those kids. The kids of course get to her before she can free Casey, which didn’t make sense to me because he just locked the door from the outside so I have no clue why she couldn’t just have unlocked it other than that it’s a plot device. She can’t kill her niece and nephew, which I suppose is the right thing but in this situation she’s basically giving a big fuck you to Casey who’s definitely next on their hit list and trapped in a room. I’ll go over how Casey handles business when I talk about her but for now all that’s necessary to mention for Elaine is that they get out, get in a car, and get the fuck out of there. They come across the car that Jonah and Miranda took crashed into a tree. When Miranda tries to attack Casey from behind she rams her with her car. This is when she’s full blown team fuck these kids and I like that because they are the enemy in this movie and cannot to our knowledge be helped or saved. She almost doesn’t let Casey into the car as Casey begins exhibiting symptoms that the kids did upon infection, like puking. She does however and she gets them the fuck out of there.
Now, for the queen herself, budget Effy Stonem, Casey! Casey is your typical angst filled, emo/scene teenager of 2008. She doesn’t want to be on this trip because there’s a party to go to and she even sets up her friend to come pick her up on day two. Her eyeliner is thick, her outfits don’t make sense for the snowy weather, and her attitude is on point. I don’t blame her for any flack she gives these adults in her life because the women are treating her like garbage and the men are simultaneously judging her and slightly coming onto her. She at one point refers to herself as a botched abortion and that shook me. Casey catches onto something being wrong with the kids almost immediately and decides to come back rather than go to the party. She misses the events that take Robbie out and comes back to absolute mayhem, her absence used as reason she’s to blame. She isn’t having the kid’s shit and faces heat for it. As mentioned before she’s framed by Miranda and Jonah smashes her into a table and then blamed and assaulted by Jonah again and locked in a room. She has a clear desire and motivation to save her mom and the actress does an amazing job throughout but especially when she’s locked in the room helpless to save her mother on the other side. She does however break through the door, grab Nicky and impale him on a wood shard of the door. Casey only doesn't kill the youngest kid, Leah, because her mom, Elaine, tells her not to. Much of Casey’s key points are highlighted in discussion about the other characters but overall I really liked her character and found her doing things that I would have done in this situation, which is always nice in a horror movie. I really hope that at the end she’s just in shock and isn’t actually infected but based on horror movie tropes I’m inclined to believe that she is and it just affected her more slowly due to her being a teenager and not a young child.
I don’t feel the need to go into much detail about the child characters due to the fact that they have minimal lines or build up I haven’t mentioned and they’re essentially the monsters in the film. They’re more so depicted as creatures than actual characters aside from Miranda. The oldest, Miranda, is affected last of children and even seems to snap in and out of it at the end, sometimes aware that what she’s doing is wrong.
In regard to the production choices I noticed that the kids wore solely bright colors, Casey wore muted colors with a splash of color and the adults wore muted colors. This could just be a coincidence due to that being mostly the case with fashion for those age groups in particular but I felt like a smarty-pants for noticing so I’ll mention anyways. I loved the close up shots of things like the blood spreading in the snow and the birds eye view of a bloody trail to create suspense. There are a lot of quiet moments in this movie which also adds to the eerie nature of being in the middle of nowhere when something so insane pops off.
Overall it’s a fast holiday-ish themed watch. It’s nice to have a character do what you want them to do while facing a horror situation and even get out of the mess due to their actions. If you’re looking for something to watch this holiday weekend I highly recommend it.
Recommended score: 8/10