For New Year's Eve this holiday, teenage Casey (Hannah Tointon) has been taken somewhat against her will to spend it at the country home of her Aunt Chloe (Rachel Shelley) and her family. Casey had planned to be at a party with her friends, but her mother Elaine (Eva Birthistle) put the kibosh on that and the girl is not shy about making it clear how unsatisfied she is with the arrangement. As everyone is greeted when they pull up at the house, Casey hangs back, not knowing that her time here will be a lot more unpleasant than she anticipated...
The idea of killer kids in horror movies was popularised back in the nineteen-fifties by the stage play and subsequent movie The Bad Seed, and every so often it would be resurrected to unease audiences about the cruelty of children and how far it could go. Of course, sometimes these efforts strayed into unintentional camp, making them difficult to take seriously as the filmmakers tried that bit too hard to put the wind up the viewer, though occasionally the more serious aspect which was deliberate would be clear. In this case, The Children wasn't the worst nor the best of them, but unfortunately it wasn't especially thought-provoking or entertaining.
Taking a leaf out of the book of cult Spanish chiller Would You Kill a Child? from the seventies, this sees the youngsters in the household turn murderous against any adults who may be in the vicinity - well, actually they took the whole premise lock, stock and barrel from the seventies film. Being set at New Year's Eve meant a wintry appearance which was rather too obviously manufactured for the project, so there was fake snow on the ground, you couldn't see anyone's breath in spite of the supposed freezing temperatures, and Casey wandered through the story in a tiny miniskirt apparently unbothered by the climate once she participated in the scenes shot outside.
Back at the plot, the cousins are acting oddly at first, but even for a film under ninety minutes writer and director Tom Shankland took far too much time dithering about with the setting up of characters that were fairly two-dimensional anyway: that abundance of supposedly naturalistic dialogue especially in the opening half was rarely convincing enough with issues and plot foreshadowing crowbarred in. What appears to be happening is indicated by Casey's stepfather Jonah (Stephen Campbell Moore) and his scientific line of work in bringing up some new infection which could (i.e. totally does) explain the events to come, but that's about your lot for explanations, probably a wise choice because there was nothing worse in shockers than getting bogged down in exposition.
At least the second half when pandemonium breaks out was more interesting, though didn't explain how such small children were able to overpower fully grown adults when it came to the violence, a credibility gap which the movie never quite got over. If it had made the kids more devious, it risked that camp quality, if it made them dumber in their malevolence, then the audience wouldn't believe what they were seeing, so Shankland tried to avoid that by rendering the actual attacks vaguely filmed with only the odd shot of gruesomeness to provide the audience with the jolts they were looking for. What it didn't address was that children were vastly more likely to be abused by the grown-ups, so having the little ones as the villains could have been some kind of statement of irony or revenge, but there was none of that to be seen as if the simple taboo-breaking on display was enough to sustain it. Here the adults are understandably reluctant to fight back, but Casey being an inbetweener has fewer qualms, again interesting, but again undeveloped. Music by Stephen Hilton.