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Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Children

Well, it's a little bit early this year(by a few days...), but this week's slasher is actually holiday-themed! I wish I could say that I planned it this way, but I had no idea. Serendipity, I guess. It's a British movie about killer kids, so we'll have to see how it goes. All I want for Christmas is a SPOILER warning!

The movie begins with some chilly-looking forest scenery. A car is driving through the woods, and a little girl named Miranda is being chastised for bothering her baby brother Paulie. There's a teen girl as well, but she's just staring out at the trees as they drive past them.

The car pulls up to a sizable-looking estate, and the parents honk their horn to announce that they've arrived. Another couple come out to greet them, along with a pair of screaming little girls. I could try to figure out everyone's names at this point, but with everyone speaking at the same time, it's just noise. The teenager is the only subdued one in the entire group, choosing to hang back and just observe.

The teen's name is Casey. She gets a hug from a guy named Uncle Robbie, and he tells her to drop the "uncle" part, which seems kind of creepy. His wife is Chloe, and she's trying to get a response from little Paulie, who looks like he'd rather be anywhere else in the world at that very moment. Poor kid.

The majority of the party people head inside, and Casey's mother tries to cheer her up. Apparently, she's upset because she wanted to go to a party with her friends instead of being out in the middle of nowhere. Her brother Paulie also lingers outside, staring intently into the forest. While mother and daughter argue, he pukes up a gooey pile of yellow slime.

Okay, so now that they're in the house, let's figure out who's who. The parents of Casey, Paulie and Miranda are Elaine and Jonah. We've already been introduced to their kids, as well as Uncle Robbie. His wife is Aunt Chloe, and their kids are Leah and Nicky. And  we're all caught up...for now...

As they all hang out in the cramped kitchen, Paulie impulsively decides that it would be smart to climb up on the furniture to get his mother's attention, and he nearly nosedives onto the floor. Luckily, Jonah is there to swoop in, and Paulie gives him a nice kick as thanks. Everyone laughs, except for Casey, who looks like she's bored out of her gourd.

After some more creepy shots of the woods, we see the party get broken up into smaller groups. Elaine and Chloe are gossiping as kids surround them; Casey tries to find a quiet place to get a good signal on her phone; and the guys are off somewhere else in the house, doing God-only-knows.

Elaine tries to coax little Paulie into brushing his teeth, but he only stares blankly at himself in the mirror. Casey has found Jonah and Rob in one of the bedrooms, and she complains to them about the phone reception. Miranda decides to be a little shit, by announcing that Casey's grounded from using her phone. Apparently, she's been having some problems with Jonah, who is her stepfather.

After Miranda and Casey stare each other down, Casey's phone inexplicably rings. She turns it off, then she torments Miranda by grabbing the cat to play with, after Miranda tries to call it over. Then Leah wanders in to say good night, and the young'uns all shuffle off to bed, leaving Casey and the adults to keep on yakking the night away.

In the bedroom that the kids are all in, Paulie is still sitting alone, just absently staring at a wall, while hitting a xylophone with his bare hand. Miranda and Nicky are throwing toys around and chatting up a storm, while Leah looks like she might be coming down with whatever Paulie has. She coughs up a loogie into her hand, looks at it, then wipes it off on a pillow.

Rob and Casey take a walk outside, and he turns up the Creepy Pervert Vibe to 11. He brings her to an isolated spot behind a pile of firewood, and it's the only place where she can get a reliable phone signal. Foreshadowing? He returns to the house, while Casey calls a friend named Lisa. Sadly, Lisa doesn't answer her phone, so it was a wasted trip.

As she disconnects, Casey hears Jinxie, the family cat, make a strange sound, like it's growling. She returns the way she came, and we hear another growl after she leaves. Maybe Jinxie has a booty call!

While Chloe is throwing out about a thousand or so empty beer bottles, Rob sneaks behind her to give her a good scare. They joke about having at least 10 more kids, and Casey brushes by them to get into the house. Rob is the last one to go inside, and the camera lingers on the little cat door built into the kitchen door. Geez, I feel like the cat's almost a main character, with all these references to it. Maybe they should have called the film The Cattening.

Jonah and Elaine, alone at last, decide to engage in some serious snuggling. Rob is making sure that the house is closed up tight, while Chloe is busy making sure that the kids are all asleep. After she gives her daughter a kiss, we see the spot where Leah wiped her hand. After the camera zooms in on the spot, we see what appear to be some kind of bacteria swimming around each other at a quick speed.

The shot of the bacteria turns into a shot of a snow globe. Everybody in the house is soon asleep, and the house is eerily silent. Wait, no, one of the kids is now awake. Paulie. He just stands there, in the middle of the dark house, staring off into space.

The following morning finds everybody, adults and kids, engaged in a massive snowball fight. Well, everyone except for Paulie. He's still staying out of the group, banging away on that xylophone. Rob takes some of the kids up a hill for some sledding, while Jonah tries to talk to Paulie. He fails to get the kid to stop playing with the toy, or even to respond to him, so he eventually gives up.

While the other adults have gone inside to warm up, Casey is behind the woodpile again, calling her pal Lisa. She hears all about the fun that her friends are having, and she arranges for them to pick her up at a secret rendezvous spot. Before they hang up, Lisa teases her about perverted Uncle Robbie lusting after her. See? I knew it wasn't just me who noticed that!

The younger kids have set up a tent in the snow, and they tell Casey that no adults are allowed to enter. At about the same time, Rob notices that Jinxie is suddenly missing. The cat's collar is then shown, hanging up inside the tent. I don't think the cat will be one of the survivors of this one...

Everyone spreads out again. Rob and Casey get some of the kids into another snowball fight, while Jonah tries to distract Rob with a scheme to invest in some kind of Chinese medicine venture; Elaine and Chloe talk about how hard parenting is; and the kids are doing "something" inside the tent.

During all of this mayhem, we do get a tidbit of information that might be important to the story. Jonah tells Rob about the numerous viruses that doctors are discovering every day, many with no known cures. Gee, is anyone in the group sick lately, maybe acting funny, coughing up strange substances? Could this be something worth looking into?

...and that's when something(finally) happens.

Nicky exchanges a glance with his sister, and we see Jonah looking at a book of model portraits. The faces of the models have all been drawn over with a magic marker. Then some of the kids create a distraction, allowing Paulie to send the heavy sled careening toward the adults, who have come back outside with hot cocoa. The sled knocks Chloe to the ground, sending the hot drinks spilling all over Jonah and his business proposal.

Jonah flies into a rage, and runs up the hill to spank Paulie, even as the other adults protest that they don't like to spank the kids. Jonah yells at Casey for not watching the younger kids, and everyone heads back inside. If the kids don't begin to kill off some of these creeps, can I volunteer?

As the children sit up in the bedroom for some "quiet time", Miranda tries to tell her mother about the strange way the other kids have been behaving. Elaine assumes that she's just being dramatic, and dismisses her story with a smile and some attempt at bribery. When she walks out of the room, Miranda sees the other three kids glaring at her, and tells them to stop.

Casey finds Rob smoking a joint in the greenhouse/toolshed/whatever, and she sits with him. She takes a puff, then reveals that she secretly had a tattoo done on her stomach. When Rob questions how rebellious she's become, Casey calls herself "the abortion that got away". Then Chloe arrives, so Rob backs off.

More random shots of snow, trees, the tent, and the cat collar. If you took all of the establishing shots out of the movie, it would probably be about 45 minutes long. It's like watching a nature screensaver, except with random moments of dialogue.

The entire group sits down for a New Year dinner feast, except for Leah. She's playing with a doll beneath the table. The dinner scene has random shots of the cat being murdered spliced in at various places, possibly to make sure that we didn't doze off.

As they all begin to eat, Leah is told to get back in her seat. She just giggles and crawls away, and they catch her trying to take a large knife with her. Casey tries to secretly text her friends with her phone in her lap, but Chloe then reveals her tattoo to the rest of the family, forcing Casey to show it off. Then more scenes from CSI: Jinxie.

All of the younger children start to throw tantrums. They cry, throw food, kick their's enough to make a single guy smile from ear-to-ear. When Chloe tries to use the bribery trick to make Miranda eat some peas, Miranda gives her a scratch on the forehead in response. Miranda is pulled away from the table by Jonah, kicking and screaming the whole time. Then Paulie gets up as well, taking the tablecloth with him. Awesome.

Now everyone is up and shouting, and Jonah drags Miranda into one of the bedrooms for a "time out", while Elaine treats Chloe's scratched head. Casey and Rob take the rest of the kids outside to give the rest of the adults a break. Oh, and Chloe blames Elaine for all of the problems with the kids, because her kids were ill.

As Rob is being kept busy being dragged up the hill by Leah, while also trying to drag Paulie uphill on the sled, Casey is trying to run away to reunite with her friends. Miranda's still screaming her head off, and Leah is trying to keep Rob from noticing that Paulie is doing something with the sled...

Then a number of things happen. First, Rob is conned into going downhill on the sled by himself. Then, Nicky pulls a wagon into the path of the sled, positioned in such a way that some sharp-looking prongs are aimed right at Rob. Thirdly, Casey's forest run is impeded when she trips and falls into a pile of debris.

Rob is on the ground, covered in blood, and the screams of the children get the attention of Elaine and Chloe. Casey also hears the commotion and comes back, while Jonah has finally quieted Miranda down, and he's just sitting there, rocking her in his lap. Casey gets him, and he rushes outside to see what's going on.

Jonah brings Paulie into the kitchen to lecture him, and Paulie knocks a container filled with knives onto the floor. One of the other kids then cuts Jonah's hand with one of the knives, and all of the kids rush outside to hide in the woods. Jonah treats the cut, then he and Elaine rush outside.

They find Chloe in tears, and realize that Rob has bled to death. Not really sure what else she can do to help, Elaine announces that she's going into the woods to find the children. Being useless characters in a horror film, no one offers to go with her. What a shock.

She tries to call their names, but gets no response. Casey then rushes at her from out of the blue, and they hug. She tries to ask Casey what caused the accident, but of course Casey can't exactly tell her. When pressed for details, Casey confesses that she was running away, so that Lisa could take her to the party. As punishment, Elaine makes Casey look for the children by herself, then she heads back to the house to check on Chloe.

Alone now, Casey realizes how vulnerable she is to being attacked by a pack of monstrous brats. She starts to cry, then her phone beeps, and she gets a text from Lisa. While reading it, she sees one of the kids dart by out of the corner of her eye. Yeah, you're dead, Casey.

She walks toward the position where she saw the figure, and assumes that it was Leah. She even finds Leah's hat, followed by hearing some coughing. Casey follows the sound to a tree, where she discovers that she was being lured into an ambush. She falls, sees something terrifying, then screams.

Jonah decides to conduct his own search from the house, but Miranda finds him first. She seems to be hiding a potential weapon in her sleeve, but we don't get to see it. She even gets an opportunity to kill him, as they hug, but Miranda lets Jonah live.

Elaine convinces Chloe to re-enter the house, and they leave Rob's body where it is. Though they don't realize it, 2 of the children have snuck back to the house, perhaps to plan another attack. While keeping herself busy with housework, Elaine sees something outside that compels her to go and take a closer look: a long, gory trail of blood, that goes from the woods right into the yard. Defying any sort of logic, Elaine walks outside to examine the messy trail.

She hears Leah laughing from inside the tent, and decides that it would be really smart to go check it out without any weapons or backup. After several attempts to call her name end in silence, Elaine STILL goes ahead with this stupid idea. She nearly opens the flap of the tent, but then Paulie calls her name. She stands up straight, then runs to the jungle gym, where he's sitting at the top of the structure.

As Elaine climbs up to get him, he backs away. Too late, she realizes that it's another trap, and she falls back in such a way that one of her legs breaks, causing the bone to break through the skin. As Elaine begins to slip into a state of shock, Casey finds her, and snaps her back to reality. Wait...Casey survived? How?

Casey pulls her injured mother into that dilapidated shed, then helps to set the broken bone into a makeshift sling. Then they both hear Paulie hitting that dumb xylophone again, followed by him throwing a projectile at one of the windows, showering them with shards of glass. These kids are little shits, man.

From the house, Jonah, Chloe and Miranda hear the screams. Then we see more rocks hitting windows, as Casey and Elaine realize that it's not Paulie doing it--he's inside with them. Casey tries to attack Paulie, but Elaine is convinced that he's innocent, and protects him. She instead orders Casey to go save Chloe, who has followed Leah to an almost-certain ambush.

Too late. Chloe's in the tent, trying to speak to Leah with a calm, loving tone of voice, while Leah's got her back to her mother. Leah giggles and runs outside again, leaving Chloe to find Rob's bloody corpse under a sheet. A closer examination reveals that the baby doll was shoved into Rob's gut, which was torn open for that purpose. As Chloe stares at the mutilation, Rob suddenly gasps and opens his eyes. Then the tent is attacked from the outside, with bladed weapons.

Casey stages a rescue, but Chloe's convinced that she was part of the attack as well. They run to the house, but Chloe locks the door on poor Casey. At the same  time, Paulie's playing a hiding game on his frightened mother. As he pops up to plunge a jagged shard of glass through her body, Casey trips him up, and he gets impaled on the way down, finally killing the kid.

Jonah steps in, and holds his stepson in his arms for a moment. Then they hustle back to the house, where they try to figure out what happened. After some fights and disagreements, the consensus is that Casey thought the kids posed a threat, so she attacked them in a fit of rage. Casey tries to get her mother to clarify things, but she's still not very coherent yet, so everyone else assumes the worst about the teen.

When they're alone for a moment, Casey tries to reason with Elaine. She tells her not to trust Leah or Nicky, then shares the theory that their sudden violent attitudes might be caused by the illness that the kids all seemed to be coming down with. When her mother silences her, Casey gets up to make sure that the door to the yard is shut, at the very least.

The radio starts to lose the signal of the nearest station, and we see Miranda looking like an extra in a Romero film, with large, dark bruises underneath her eyes. Not a good sign, either of those things. Everybody should start listening to Casey!

As Jonah and Chloe search the woods, they find a hat belonging to one of the children. Chloe freaks out, and wonders out loud what awful things that Casey might have done to the children, especially after having killed her own little brother. Jonah tries to calm down Chloe, then they intensify their search.

Back at the house, Casey is on a mad dash to lock the doors and windows in every room. As she returns to her mother's side, she wonders why the police haven't arrived yet. She goes to the kitchen to look for her phone, and Miranda suddenly pops up in the living room, looking even more zombie-ish around the eyes. She approaches Elaine in a menacing way...

Casey finds her, and promptly forgets about the phone, which we see just sitting on a countertop. She pulls Miranda off of Elaine, imploring her to help in the search for the phone. Wait, did Casey get struck by a sudden onset of blindness, or just stupidity? I mean, A.) the phone was just sitting right there, and B.) she just got finished realizing that the kids were all dangerous and untrustworthy, not even a full minute ago! Come ON, movie!

Out in the woods, Chloe finds Leah. Being a dumbass in a horror movie, she immediately hugs her. While Chloe is soothing her, she comments on how pale and cold Leah's skin seems to be. Then Leah lashes out at her with what appears to be a swift assault.

While Casey is walking through the hallway, she hears a meowing sound, followed by Miranda speaking to Jinxie. She walks toward the room at the far end of the hall, where she can hear the faint sound of purring. Oh, and another quick glimpse  at Chloe reveals that what looked like an attack, was merely Leah hugging her, followed by Nick also popping up to embrace her. Oh, this ain't gonna be good...

Casey enters the room,where she finds Miranda acting out what they did earlier to poor Jinxie. At the same time, Leah gets rough while hugging her mother, and Chloe tells her to stop. One of the kids then plunges a knife through her eye. And finally, Jonah appears at the back door, and he begs Elaine to unlock the door and let him inside. After she does, they both hear Miranda screaming.

Jonah runs upstairs, just in time to stop Casey from killing the little shi--Uh, I mean, dear, innocent Miranda. When Miranda starts to run away, Casey tries to grab her, so Jonah decks his stepdaughter in the head with a toy truck. It's amazing how quickly this movie keeps fluctuating from completely stupid, to batshit awesome, almost from minute to minute. More toy-related attack scenes, please!

Miranda runs away laughing, as Jonah locks poor, wounded Casey in the room. Then Miranda prepares to attack Elaine at the bottom of the stairs, but Jonah arrives, so she has to pretend to be a good girl. In another hilarious moment of cinematic genius, Jonah swing-drags his wife back to the couch, ignoring her howls of pain. Y'know, even if this movie is crap, it's at least FUN crap.

Jonah more or less tells his wife that she's a bitch, then he leaves to find Miranda. Miranda was just waiting for him to exit the room, so that she could make her move on poor Elaine. She hugs her, then tells her mother to be nice when Leah and Nicky arrive, before removing the sticks holding Elaine's wounded leg in place. Elaine gasps in agony, while Miranda runs off to take care of her stepdad.

Jonah picks Miranda up to get her winter jacket on her, too distracted to notice that she prevents the front door from shutting as he carries her to the car. Casey takes time out from screaming and hitting the locked bedroom door, to notice that he's driving away with Miranda. Casey drops down to the floor and begins to cry.

Leah and Nicky stand over Chloe's body, watching as her bloody hand twitches for a few, final seconds. Then they look at each other, laugh, and head back to the house. There's a shot of the sun,then we see a trail of blood in the snow, slowly being covered up by more falling snowflakes.

Casey stops crying, suddenly looking very nervous and intense. She turns toward the window, seeing both Nicky and Leah just standing in the snow, watching the house. She picks up an endtable, determined to bash the door down, and make her escape. Then she hears her mother scream her name, and we see that Elaine has managed to get up on her good leg, and is trying to escape as well. When Casey looks outside a second time, the little monsters are no longer in the yard.

Elaine hears her daughter warning her not to let the kids inside the house, then she sees them standing at one of the locked doors, peering in at her. She hops, then crawls, into the kitchen, barely managing to both close and lock the door. Then she crawls painfully back to the staircase, where she drags herself up to where her daughter is trapped.

The killer kids find the kitchen door locked, but then we see a closeup of the pet door. As Elaine reaches the top of the stairs, she hears the swinging pet door give out a squeak. She whispers to Casey to quiet down, then listens for any sign that they've managed to enter the house.

They have. As Casey tries to stay quiet and look through the keyhole of the door, Elaine works at dragging herself the rest of the way into the second floor hallway, then rounds a corner to climb ANOTHER friggin; staircase. Are you kidding me? Does this maze at least give her a piece of cheese if she gets to the exit?

As Elaine continues to drag her body through the house, she accidentally kicks a toy UFO down the stairs, where it makes enough noise to wake the dead. Worried that the banging and clanging means that her mother is in peril, Casey resumes pounding on the door.

From her side of the door, Elaine tells her daughter not to worry, then she also works on breaking the door down, clubbing it with a fireplace poker. When she turns to change her position, she finds herself facing down both Leah and Nicky, who are glaring at her from the bottom of the landing.

She begs them to stay away, waving the poker in front of her in the least-threatening way ever seen in the history of horror films. Realizing that she can't bring herself to kill the brats from Hell, Elaine begs Casey to forgive her for being so weak. She allows both of the children to reach her, and we see them brandishing a small knife and a crude, spear-like stick as weapons. Then they both begin to laugh at her.

In a sudden stroke of movie-luck, Casey breaks down a jagged gap in the door, and proceeds to jam Nicky's face down onto the broken piece of wood. Leah, unfortunately, rushes back down the stairs. Casey swoops down after her, but Elaine begs her to ignore Leah, and just help her escape instead. Damn. I was really wishing that Elaine would say something like, "No, don't kill her...I want to do it!"

They limp-run out of the house, then get into the other car. As they drive away, Casey gets a wide-eyed, far-off look on her face. Oh, crap. The radio goes into some kind of "Search Mode", but all of the radio stations appear to be gone. Double crap!

They drive back through the woods, and find the other car that Jonah and Miranda took blocking their path. Elaine gets ready to painfully limp over to the other vehicle, but Casey stops her and insists that she should check it out instead. Casey begins to trudge toward the car in the snow, while her mother watches from the driver's seat.

Casey spots a dark object in the snow a few feet from the abandoned car, and discovers that it's Jonah's, half-buried corpse. She stares at it as if in a trance, which allows Miranda to ambush her from a nearby hiding place. Elaine sees what's about to happen, and just barely manages to slam Miranda's body up against a tree, pinning her there. See what I meant earlier? Mediocrity...then batshit-classic. Mediocrity...then more batshit -classic. I still don't know if I love it or hate it.

Anyway, Casey leans against a tree, then pukes. Rut-roh! First the spaced-out eyes, now the puking...Elaine better rev up that engine and get the Hell out of Dodge! She doesn't though, not even when they both spot another creepy little boy watching them. Then another. Then about half a dozen more children appear. And yet, none of them attack. Gee, Elaine, I wonder why? Maybe because your own daughter is now on their side, hmmm???

Casey runs back to the car, but Elaine has locked the doors. After a second to think about it, Elaine decides to just completely give up on life, and lets her teen daughter back into the car. As they speed back down the road, you see Casey's eyes are getting glassier and more dazed by the moment, as the disease takes over. THE END

Wow,what a rollercoaster ride between hilariously over-the-top action, and plodding script decisions. Like I said, I really don't know how to rate this one. On the one hand, it was definitely a kooky movie, with several moments that had me actually howling with shocked laughter. But on the flip side, it's a story that's literally been done many, many times before(Just off the top of my head, in the killer-kid genre, I can name The Omen films, The original The Children, The Good Son, Devil Times Five, the Children of The Corn franchise, Wicked Little Things, Mikey, and the Pet Sematary films. Trust me, as kooky as it seems, this is not a new concept. Hell, I didn't even mention Village of the Damned, Case 39, It's Alive, or The Pit.

Still, I've seen worse. This one was sometimes great, but mostly mediocre. It gets 3.5 killer trees out of 5, because it was slightly better than the usual stuff in that kind of movie. Actually, you know what? Just because it implied that the infection was slowly spreading beyond just young kids, which suggests that it would probably have eventually made the entire human race extinct, I'll bump it up to a 4. Killing the entire world through a cold virus takes balls, and I'm filled with the spirit of Christmas. Or maybe I just don't give a crap. Either way. 4 out of 5.

And what did I learn from The Children?

-Kids are monsters.

-If you give your cat a name like Jinx, don't act all shocked when it has a run of bad luck.

-Toy trucks can really hurt the human skull.

The next movie is something from the grindhouse days, called Drive-In Massacre. Sounds like an epic bad slasher! Given that Christmas is less than a week away, I may wait a week to do this, until things have quieted down a little bit. We'll see how much free time I have this week. Happy holidays!

And hey, if I can be serious for a moment...the past couple of weeks, I've been dealing with some pretty brutal family stuff. Long story short, my uncle is having a lot of health issues, and he's probably not going to make it much longer. So...thanks. For reading this, for indulging me in my unabashed love of bottom-of-the barrel horror flicks, and mostly, just for letting me try to make you guys laugh a little bit each week with my silliness. Laughing is always good, even when you don't think that you can. My Uncle Irv taught me that one, and I've managed to turn that goofy side of myself into a pretty fun venture with this blog. I miss his dirty jokes already.

So just...Thanks for reading. And let's all keep on laughing as long as we can. All right, end of sappy rant. Peace out.