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“The Children” is a movie about kids going wild and murdering people, and is boring.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that little kids are creepy. There’s a lot of reasons for that: they don’t think and reason like adults; they don’t have the same morality as adults; they are tiny and easy to over look yet are very strong; they say creepy things; they see and talk to things that aren’t there; they have a hard time separating fantasy and reality; at night their eyes look weird; most of us feel an urge to protect them even when their behavior, if from an adult, would be scary or abusive. Creepy kids are a staple of horror films, and for very good reason. Family tensions and isolated homes are also staple horror fodder. “The Children” combines these elements, gives them a stir, and falls asleep.

The movie starts with a blended family of mom, teen daughter from previous relationship, husband, and their two younger children, driving up in a crappy old car to an enormous house in the middle of nowhere. They’re visiting mom’s sister and her husband and kids. Familial tension is established right away: the sisters’ families belong to very different income levels. The car they’re driving up is a cast off from Rich Sister. Their house is not as big or as nice. Etc. As they get out of the car the youngest child, a boy, wanders into the bushes and barfs. NOTE: there is a lot of barfing in this film so if that bothers you, give this one a pass. I mean, I’d recommend giving this film a miss anyway, but the barf doesn’t help at all. Once inside the house all the kids are excited and running around and screaming. The barf boy launches himself off a counter while screaming for his mummy, and when his dad (uncle? they looked a lot alike) catches him and starts rough housing with him, the kid punches him in the nose. Rich Sister asks Poor Sister if shes seen “that article about the MMR” and talks about her plans to homeschool; there’s mention of how great it is to see one of Rich Sister’s kids up and running around again (apparently she was very ill previously?).

For quite a while, as the other kids each start barfing/coughing up blood/whatever (and not telling anyone), their rowdiness and noise and roughness can be dismissed as kids being kids. Even the first death could easily be written off as an accident. The parents, however, are quick to yell angrily, to put their hands on the kids. The kids are frequently expected to parent the other kids while the parents sit back and drink… both Casey (teenager) and Leah (I think that’s her name?) (pre-teen) are expected to care for the other kids. Leah’s mom tells her that since she’s the oldest she has to act as mummy while mummy gets ready for the party… which consists of family who are already at the house. Both sets of parents think the other pair is stupid and bad at parenting, failing at life. (Both sets of parents, I’d argue, are correct.) The teen girl, Casey, has an incredibly poor quality tattoo on her stomach of a fetus… either because her parents attempted to abort her but she survived, or because they forced her to have an abortion. Her step-father is unrelentingly hostile toward her and her uncle gives her both whisky and pot at different times. The movie would have been a lot stronger if it had decisively selected her as a protagonist and swung behind her, putting focus on her. But it HAS no focus for most of the movie, a bunch of stuff just happening, the characters barely fleshed out except in the broadest strokes. We’re meant to see the murderous children as antagonists but frankly I was rooting for them.

“Child’s Play” managed to make me care about Karen, Andy, and Aunt Maggie in just a few minutes. They were very real characters who cared about each other and had lives and concerns and interests, and it was easy to get invested in them. The kids in “the Children” are a baffling smear of noise and action. They don’t have distinct personalities. Their parents are interchangeable stock asshole characters. One wants to home school her kids. One sells Chinese Medicine. They smack their kids, ignore them, trot them out to lisp out poorly pronounced Chinese phrases. I don’t care about anyone in this ovie, including Teen Casey who is essentially Misunderstood Goth-lite Teen Angster # 305. Forced to attend an unwanted, boring family gathering, she finds herself in the position of having to kill the whiny, loud, ill-behaved young children– a common teen fantasy.

They call the cops, of course, who don’t show up even after several hours and several phone calls. The radio plays only static. The woods are full of vomiting children. Is this how the world ends? If it’s full of people like this, maybe it’s time.

I will never get this time back.

I give this movie 1 star out of 5.

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December 2015

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