Anyone for Hugs? – Rediscovering ‘The Children’ (US 1980 – 93 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - August 18, 2014
Anyone for Hugs? – Rediscovering ‘The Children’ (US 1980 – 93 mins)

A low budget quickie that’s fairly entertaining; the moody chiller ‘The Children’, gets off to an intriguing start and almost manages to hold up to it’s promising premise. It delivers some decent shocks and, while it’s not up there with the excellent Spanish gem ‘Who Can Kill a Child?’ (’76), I think it’s one of the better in the long line of ‘killer-kid’ flicks.

In the small town of Ravensback, when their school bus passes through a toxic cloud (caused by a leak at a chemical plant), all the children on board are turned into zombie-like creatures with black fingernails. Anyone who now comes into bodily contact with them is immediately killed, the effects of being set on fire and melting. The local sheriff and his deputy are among the townsfolk who begin investigating, although it eventually turns to some resilient parents to fight back, when they are forced to retreat to their isolated farmhouse.

The first part of the film is quite eerie, with the abandoned school bus and its missing occupants providing an initial mystery premise. The movie soon goes into pretty standard fare though, once the zombie element comes to light, with the children parading about with their arms out-stretched, monster-like, as they slowly return home to their unsuspecting, and soon-to-be-dead, parents. There is the usual array of oddball characters, including shifty-looking farm hands and a topless sunbather who is seemingly not bothered about her lovers missing child.

The cast are mostly unknowns, with only Gil Rogers, as Sheriff Billy Hart, and singer Gale Garnett, as the heavily pregnant Cathy, the most prominent. Rogers had previously appeared in ‘The Panic in Needle Park’ (’71), and the Kirk Douglas crime picture ‘Eddie Macon’s Run’ (’83). New Zealand-born Garnett had a supporting role in the same years ‘Tribute’ (’80), starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick, and later ‘Mr. & Mrs. Bridge’ (’90), with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

Director Max Kalmanowicz only made one other feature; the 1984 fantasy ‘Dreams Come True’, and has since made a career as a sound mixer. The standard screenplay was by Carlton J. Albright, whose own children appear as two of the infected kids.

The scenes where the adults begin fighting back result in a few moments of shock, as parents are forced to dispatch of the kids, including chopping off their hands, which seems to render the children powerless! There is a final sting in the tail after the so-called happy ending arrives, and although you can see it coming a mile off, it still brings a wry smile to the face, even suggesting a sequel.

I think ‘The Children’ is a decent diversion with plenty of atmosphere and some unsettling graveyard scenes. While it’s no masterpiece, it’s a good entry in the ‘evil kid’ genre, and does make for a creepy late-night flick. Even at 93 minutes, it moves along quicker than the zombie children do.

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