31 Days of Halloween, Day 2 – The kids are NOT alright. KILLER KID WEEK Kick-Off

Let’s make the Blog Lagoon’s first week of the
Countdown to Halloween:
Killer Kid Week 

Today’s selection:

The Children (2008)
The Children has no relationship to the 1980 movie of the same name but they would make a great double feature anyway. Both are packed with diabolical tots. But if you see only one killer kids movie this year, make it 2008’s.

Two families, with an impressive polarity of dysfunction to divide them, spend Christmas together in the hosting family’s waaay out-of-the-way, woods-hidden home. The kids are playing and getting along, the adults are throwing back wine in the kitchen, but before they know it: snowbound. Two couples. Several kids. Lots of noise.

Right off the bat we get one curly-haired cherub blowing chunks on arrival. Mom naturally mistakes this for carsickness, but her son’s behavior eludes to something else … if you’re the viewer anyway. None of the adults seem to notice the slow-burn change in their progeny. ( –which seems to send the message that you’d never guess your kid is plagued by some viral strain of single-minded-killing-machine-itis, because kids are already that obnoxious.)

All the kids are coming down with a mutant rabies flu (or something) that’s making them cough up wads of goo and go maim-crazy. Meanwhile their parents are too busy smiling condescendingly at one another and making passive-aggressive innuendo to notice anything but all the cheap-shot parental one-upsmanship happening between the grown-ups.

One by one sweet little rosy-cheeked faces go blank and icy — but the viewer sees something bubbling beneath. The parents remain clueless for awhile. (You know they’re all out to lunch when they fail to notice pasty complexions and eyes with luggage on the mugs of their precious angels.) The sexy teen daughter of the visiting family is noticing though, and from the first scratched face all the way to the final homicide, again and again her furrowed brow proves warranted.

What makes The Children work so well (in addition to being really great-looking …

)… is that these families are familiar. They’re your asshole neighbor or that bitchy PTA mom who won’t shut up about her little prodigy.  And since no one wants to believe that their child is capable of such violent acting out, parental insecurity bubbles to the surface. The home-schooling, outwardly-happy “perfect” mother shows the cracks in that fascade while her sister, the less-confident mother who wears dysfunction on her sleeve, proves to be made of more than she thought.

The other element that makes The Children one of the best of its sub-genre is that it does not pull the punches many killer-kid movies are prone to. Violence against children in movies is pretty taboo, but you wouldn’t know it from watching The Children. I had to think hard to remember the last time I saw a tyke get plowed over by a motor vehicle. (Pet Sematary, 22 years ago, in case you were wondering.) Additionally it’s well-acted and suspenseful, relying heavily on our fear of children’s unpredictability. (Did that kid have too many Cokes with his Sponge-Bob or is he about to go on a killing spree? So hard to tell.) It also benefits from its snowy remote location. And can we get some big ups with a side of lifelong therapy for the young actors who probably wrecked their respective childhoods by even appearing in this movie? I mean, it’s not hard to stare blankly …

… but these kids are really good at it:

I’m not sure whether you’d enjoy The Children more if you’re a parent or if you’re viewing as one who chooses pets over babies. But consider: whether it’s at a Target check-out or standing in line at Cedar Point, everyone has felt capable of killing some loud, mean, brat-faced nose-picker at least once in their lives. Even parents. Especially the ones that think their children are perfect little snowflakes.

*** (out of four)

~ by Number5ive on October 2, 2011.

2 Responses to “31 Days of Halloween, Day 2 – The kids are NOT alright. KILLER KID WEEK Kick-Off”

  1. Spend some time with my precious darling and this movie has a note of plausibility finer than many. Also “kids are already that obnoxious” is not just a flip line but also a truism. (And for the record, shouldn’t a teen babysitter in a movie like this find herself in a situation requiring her to shower for no good reason????)

  2. One of the many brilliant things about this film is the use of “how kids really are” sometimes. YOu forgive children a lot of horrendous behavior because they are kids and their brains aren’t fully formed. The way this was used was pitch perfect. Amazing.

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