Thursday 9 March 2023

There's Something Wrong With The Children (2023)

I will admit to going into There’s Something Wrong With The Children with some trepidation. Although I had enjoyed previous films directed by Roxanne Benjamin, trust me when I tell you that she is someone that horror fans should be always looking out for, I wasn’t as familiar with the work of writers T. J. Cimfel and David White. It also didn’t help that the trailer made me think it was just an unofficial remake of The Children. And as for Amanda Crew (aka disobedient younger sister in Final Destination 3) now settling into movie roles that cast her as an onscreen mother, that will just never stop feeling odd to me while she still looks about 20.

Anyway, no need to worry, There’s Something Wrong With The Children is REALLY good. It’s an interesting and fun horror movie, but it also has an underlying message about the pressure that can be put on couples to have children, presenting a pretty compelling case for respecting the decision of those who choose not to have children.

Crew and Carlos Santos are the parents, Ellie and Thomas, spending some time away from the rest of the world with their kids, Lucy (Briella Guiza) and Spencer (David Mattle), and two close, and childless, friends, Margaret (Alisha Wainwright) and Ben (Zach Gilford). Ellie and Thomas obviously need a bit more time to themselves, which leads to Margaret and Ben babysitting for a night, but that doesn’t work out as planned. The kids head off into nearby woods alone and, when they reappear, something has changed. Spending some time messing around with Ben, who is taking medication for ongoing health issues, the kids eventually become more and more overt with their taunting and aggressive behaviour.

While it isn’t the most visually interesting horror movie, and the script allows viewers to stay a step or two ahead of the main characters, what you get here is a brilliant central idea that everyone involved fully commits to. This isn’t your typical “bad seed” movie, although that is the easiest label to put on it, because it sets things up in the first act with that clear and obvious divide between the parents and those without children. While focused on the horror, and on being entertaining, this is also a film that highlights the ridiculousness of a society that, for example, automatically assumes that those without parenting experience know nothing about the behaviour of children. It also pits the maternal/paternal instinct against one of self-preservation.

Benjamin helps herself a lot by assembling the right cast, setting aside the notion that Crew will forever look too young to play a parent (that’s just on me) and that Santos feels a bit underused. Wainwright and Gilford are involved in most of the best scenes, and both do good work, but young Guiza and Mattle have enormous fun being malicious little brats who start to behave more like animals as they establish their new power over adults they want to terrorize. 

I really liked this. It’s both a straightforward horror movie, albeit one with some added weirdness driving the plot, and a deliciously sly commentary on the way society seems to value the views of parents over the views of anyone else in so many different scenarios. I would be happy to hear that someone was currently working on a sequel script entitled “There’s Something Wrong With The Parents”, as long as Benjamin was back in the director’s chair for it.


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