GREAT tagline: "You brought them into this world. They'll take you out."
I'm continuing my month-long series of blog posts, Countdown to Halloween, discussing Halloween-appropriate and Christmas crossover entertainments. Another horror film set at Christmas time is 2008's The Children written and directed by Tom Shankland.
What could be happier than spending the holidays together with the family?
The story begins in the days between Christmas and New Year's with sisters Chloe and Elaine bringing their husbands and children to a country house (in the UK) in order to celebrate with everyone together. The house is filled with the excitement and activity of the four young children and four adults--with the single exception of teenager Casey. She's not happy to be trapped in the middle of nowhere for the New Year's holiday. Casey would rather be at a party with her friends.
Like every teenager you've ever met, Casey spends her time rolling her eyes back and testing her boundaries.
The family enjoys opening belated Christmas gifts, playing in the snow outside with a snowball fight, building a snowman and sled riding. The children are also running around the home, screaming and shrieking, demanding their parents' full attention, probably eating too much sugar, being tattle tales and working the adults' last nerves. As the parents pour themselves another drink, they question why Casey isn't doing a better job looking after the younger ones.
What kind of virus or contagion is growing inside each of the children?
The happiness of the season eventually spirals out of control as one by one the children complain of not feeling well. The parents assume the children have eaten too much or have come down with a bug, and all of the children's crankiness, irritability and tantrums are dismissed. A tragic sledding "accident" results in the death of Chloe's husband when he crashes into a sharp garden tool a child places in his path. Elaine's son pleads with her to rescue him from the top of a piece of climbing playground equipment--from which she is pushed and falls. She ends up with compound fracture of her leg, leaving her immobile and ...uhm...vulnerable.
The little one lures his mother on top of the climbing equipment crying "Help me, Mommy!"
The adults refuse to see the deadly children for the threat that they've become.
Casey seems to be the only one aware that the children have a sickness. Overwhelmed with the mounting tragedies, the parents feel guilty and blame themselves for the accidents. Each of them continues to offer the children sympathy, compassion and protection, unwilling to acknowledge their malicious and deadly behavior. Teenager Casey is the only one who defends herself from the children who are now obviously attacking the adults.
Let us in!
They've come for Elaine!
A mother to two of these sick babes, Elaine resists harming the children in order to defend herself. Eventually she and Casey, the only remaining adults alive, make it to the car and drive away from the house--Elaine finally acknowledging the danger all around her. I won't reveal how it ends--but there are several surprises.
The first time I saw this movie I was laughing, however the tone of this horror film is serious. I was laughing with the film--not at the film. You've got to have a sense of humor if you enjoy a movie set at Christmas time with children as the evil enemy. The holidays are a time people celebrate the innocence of youth while this dark story turns those feelings upside down.
Chloe is played by actress Rachel Shelly who I recognize from TV's The L Word. She played Helena Peabody on the Showtime series that ran from 2004-09.
Horror film fans may appreciate the rebellious Casey, a teenage girl and the only voice of reason as chaos erupts. She's the only one to connect the sickness to the children's behavior and the only one willing to defend herself against the murderous attacks. The first night of the family gathering, we see the parents proudly playing a game of one-upsmanship as Chloe announces they're considering home schooling while Elaine's husband declares he's teaching their daughter Mandarin Chinese. Chloe even offers to help Elaine's child with a reward from a Good Behavior chart. Part of the fun of this movie is seeing these pompous parents picked off one by one by their kids. Is Casey the true innocent in this story? You'll need to see the end to decide for yourself. Merry Halloween!
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