The Children (2008)

Despite a turgid first ten minutes or so, this remake of the 1980 movie of the same name is an effective, nasty little shocker. It doesn’t have much to do with the original but it doesn’t really matter, since the original is more notable for its infamy than for its contents or narrative strengths. Here, almost as soon as the plot kicks in, so does the suspense: Set over the course of a Christmas vacation, the horror starts almost immediately, as the children slowly start to become rather odious as a result of a virus-like infection and begin preying on the adults. Writer-director Tom Shankland has weaknesses as a screenwriter (like stiff, clumsy dialogue) but overcomes them thanks to his solid directorial chops, which manage to obscure the limited budget by cranking up the suspense in lieu of gore effects. The result is an impressively tense horror show that manages to make children scary by heightening the psychological impact of their spree, and the occasional flashes of violence and gore manage to register even more thanks to their judicious, deliberate use. Overall it’s a minor gem that has drawbacks, but its strengths are enough to warrant at least one viewing for serious horror fans.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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