31 Days of Halloween, Day 4 – The kids are NOT alright. It’s KILLER KID WEEK!
Countdown to Halloween:
Killer Kid Week
The Children (aka The Children of Ravensback) (1980)
I caught this disturbing obscurity for the first time while watching USA Network’s Saturday Nightmares show as a kid in the 80s and it … well, it made an impression. A school bus drives through an orange cloud of radioactive gas and emerges on the other side with a cargo of mutant, zombie-like kids. Save their gray pallor and black fingernails, you’d never know there was anything wrong with them…until you move in for a hug.
That’s when their emo-nails dig into your back and fry you like a bucket of Popeye’s chicken. If their gift was slightly more practical than the ability to burn up parents with fingernails, I’d say theses kids are about two clicks away from X-Men territory. Once people FINALLY start asking, “Hey, where’s my kid?” -the toothy grinning little monsters start popping up for surprise reunions with worried parents. We’re treated to this scenario more than once and it always strikes me as pretty eff’d up. They don’t appear to have a motive outside of barbecuing loved ones, and what’s worse, guns don’t stop the little buggers.
When a few characters start catching on, it becomes a race against time to stop them before they wipe out an entire small New England town. Thank goodness for the happy accident of discovering that the only way to stop them is by choppin’ off their little gothed-out, Hot-Topic mitts. So if you ever wanted to see a bunch of little kids get their hands forcibly lopped off at the wrists — by the good guys — your ship has come in and … what’s WRONG with you?
This regional low-budget wonder was directed by the same man who would go on to direct the significantly nastier Luther the Geek. The script, acting and generally dreary look of the film drag it down, but it’s got surprisingly effective (if not particularly realistic) effects, and should effects ever be required to be anything BUT effective? Am I being too literal? Sometimes there’s something creepier about really low-budget effects and, for my money, the smoking corpses of barbecued parents does the job. Also to it its credit, The Children takes no prisoners all the way through to the “twist” ending, one that reasserts (once again) that you never want to see a pregnant woman in a horror movie. As far as twist endings go, they pitch it nice, slow and steady so that if you don’t see it coming, you’re watching a different movie.
Not only do I not hate The Children, despite it’s innumerable faults, I like it; partially because it had the stuff to rock my world out of alignment as a preadolecent. (The Children and the “robot lady” scene from Superman III both earn special spots on the list of things that ruined many a night’s sleep for this impressionable youth. “They’re killing THEIR PARENTS!…who are being punished for MISSING THEM!” This sensitive little boy couldn’t deal with it.) That said, it’s one sicko movie that is obviously doing something right. You’ll either laugh or walk away feeling kinda’ gross about the whole experience, but I’m pretty sure it will be awhile before you forget The Children. A similarly-themed horror movie with the same title came out in 2008 — and was reviewed two days ago — but is unrelated. After being impossible to find for a long time, The Children now pops up in many cheapo 25-movie public-domain DVD box sets. Consequently it’s usually taken from terrible prints making an ugly-looking movie, look even uglier.
**1/2 (out of four)