2008 Certificate: 18

Synopsis

Smashing horror film from WAZ director Tom Shankland, based on a script by London to Brighton writer Paul Andrew Williams. Seasons shriekings are guaranteed as white Christmas turns a darker hue in a bone-rattling Hammer House of Horror style story of children turning on their parents during what is supposed to be a relaxing yuletide break. You'll never complain about undercooked turkey again.

Director

  • Tom Shankland

Cast

  • Stephen Campbell Moore

  • Rachel Shelley

  • Jeremy Sheffield

  • Eva Birthistle

  • Hannah Tointon

Review

Director Tom Shankland began 2008 with the horror non-starter WAZ, ripping off Se7en to little effect.

He has more luck with The Children, plundering The Shining and The Brood, plus The Innocents, The Omen and The Exorcist, to create a camp but effective frightener for everyone who thinks Christmas sucks and kids are evil.

Two families holidaying together in a remote country pad have more to worry about than doubled-up presents when the kids start vomiting green slime and murderously turn on the grown-ups.

Before anyone can say "ungrateful little sods" the adults are locked in a mortal fight for survival with the 8-year old avengers, who are getting creative with kitchen objects and greenhouse implements.

After a slow build-up and flashes of violence (face slapping, sabotaged sleds) Shankland puts the terror into fifth gear as the pocket monsters orchestrate a haircut-too-far accident to remove the most dominant adult and set their beady eyes on the rest.

Gloriously bad taste, sensitive parents should be warned certain children also meet messy ends as bones, scalps and eyeballs fail to remain intact in a movie that was upped from 15 to 18 for home viewing.

The adult cast manage to be convincingly uncomprehending without falling into idiocy; Birthistle doing the stripped to the vest Sigourney Weaver act well, and Tointon a long way from her regular role on Hollyoaks, believably shifting from surly jailbait to warrior kid-basher.

But, The Children stands or falls on its pre-teen cast, and after auditioning hundreds of younglings Shankland has found tots with the right blend of wide-eyed adorability and blank-faced menace, decked out in primary coloured macs and wellies.

Erasing the bad memories of both WAZ and Williams' similarly plotted The Cottage, The Children could be a blackly comic warning to give kids their MMR jabs, an anti (or pro) abortion metaphor, or simply a bloody, good horror film.

Or, with the scariest moment being a Christmas dinner from Hell of kids running riot, their cackles cranked way up, maybe all involved wanted to invent a contraceptive more effective than Durex.

They've succeeded.

Rob Daniel