The Children

The Children (2008)


The Children is available to rent or buy.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and snotty-nosed kids are full of turkey and chocolate, their hyperactivity mixed with tiredness and tantrums. Sound familiar? Well, this festive horror is far more than just another Christmas in the trenches as director Tom Shankland takes Invasion of the Body Snatchers and adds a flurry of The Village of the Damned. But when you top it off with social fears and anxieties of pandemic, the film’s impact is only amplified in our current world. However, strangely, the Children remains a British horror that few people have seen following its release in 2008.

Elaine (Eva Birthistle), Jonah (Stephen Campbell Moore), and their kids arrive at a snow-covered country house just as the sun is replaced with an icy cold starry sky. The reason for their trip is a joyous celebration of New Year with their close family as Elaine’s sister Chloe (Rachel Shelley), brother-in-law Robbie (Jeremy Sheffield), and their kids greet them with open arms. Awaiting them is a freshly prepared meal and plenty of wine and whiskey as the family festivities begin. However, it’s not long before Elaine, and Jonah’s youngest child suffers a vomiting episode, his behaviour changing from a little cherub to an erratic and reclusive munchkin. But, as this mysterious fever spreads to the other children, the festivities become ominous and deadly.


While Who Can Kill a Child hid the reason for the kid’s revolt from its audience, The Children proudly wears the reason for the bloodshed and trauma on its sleeve. Here classic themes of a deadly virus are mixed with the subversion of childhood innocence. The result plays with every parent’s worse nightmare, as an unseen force invades the security of their home. Here we see the parents turn on each other rather than accept the devilish change in their offspring. While The Children may not chart new ground, it does offer a genuinely creepy and assured horror. But the genius of Shankland’s underrated gem comes from its Christmas setting, as festive joy becomes a nightmare in the hands of our doe-eyed moppets.


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