It's fair to say that Shankland has managed to do the exact opposite and made this a strong thriller and at times horror. It's surprising how good it actually is. Here's what I thought.
That's really all you need to know about the plot, the rest develops in the film, and it develops well. As I said already it's really surprising that the film doesn't turn out to be overly cheesy and embarrassingly funny. There have been so many films that have turned out that way after introducing the idea of killer children, even ones which remake others which have been successful, see The Omen as the case and point, but The Children is definitely not one of them.
The Children handles the build up of fear and tension superbly well. It builds the frights well and the set-ups don't stand out too much and detract from the flow of the film.
Saying that though there are a couple of standard shock scenes that are a bit overly edited to be effective scares, and it just feels like the moment appears from absolutely nowhere, not feeling that scary at all. There isn't a build up and not even a hint, the harsh cutting just means they appear out of nowhere.
That's something that I did find a problem at a few points in the film, there were a number of heavily edited scenes. One prime example saw someone sitting next to a body, there was a cut away and then a cut back, and miraculously the body was all wrapped up. This type of thing happens a few times, and as I said before, in two instances actually damagers the scenes themselves.
The reactions of the parents are interesting as well as they take sides with their own children and push back against the others and their parents and begin to cause them to fight amongst themselves. However this is never really explored, it's dipped into a number of times, but never really pushed as the focus is kept on the children and their ever increasing reign of violence.
The story plays out well, if a little typically, but the differences from the average horror are enough to make the film interesting, and the tension and scares are strong. It's a creepy and frightening film that doesn't slow down for the story too much.
Along with all this tension and scare building The Children has a good ending, in fact a great ending that's satisfying and delivers a nice double surprise with a misdirection throughout that was quite well done. The whole idea and ending does feel rather light on explanation or back story though, and while it works for the film there is a feeling that we could have had more.
Credit where credit is due though, Tom Shankland managed to give us just enough to make the story interesting and work, and give a satisfying surprise ending too.
Oh, and before I move on let me just mention the wonderfully shot silent opening. I really enjoyed that, although I have to say it doesn't really fit with the rest of the film. Not to worry though, as soon as the children start playing up you're not looking back, you're only going forward with the story.
The Blu-ray picture is good, although not the best I've seen but there is some good detail and the picture looks natural throughout. As I hinted at, it isn't the best quality Blu-ray I've seen but it is a decent enough transfer.
Dolby Digital 5.1
There seems to be a lot of over dubbing early on in the film which does feel a bit odd and doesn't sound or look right. I hate over dubbing, especially when it's done badly, here it's all synched correctly but just feel wrong. However that does soon disappear and you're being pulled along with the story. The rear speakers don't really do much except for the odd forest scenes with some atmospheric noises from round about.
Deleted Scenes, Six Featurettes
There aren't many deleted scenes, and for the most part you can see why they are deleted, they are either too slow or just don't feel right, mainly in terms of the dialogue. The last scene is an extended ending and although it does look a little too long compared to the original, it does deliver more in terms of expanding the scope of the events.
Killing Kids - The Making of The Children
This is a good featurette that gives a little more than the standard featurettes. The backing track is a little loud for some of it and drowns out what I was trying to hear from the cast and crew, but it does give us a lot from behind the scenes and plenty of Tom Shankland and other crew talking us through scenes and set-ups. We get to hear from Production Designers, Special Effects, Producers, Actors and the Director himself.
There's not too much in this featurette, just a little about the finding of the location and a surprise visit from the real owners of the house.
Paul Hyett Talks Prosthetics
This is a good sit down with Paul Hyett, the man in charage of special effects as he talks through just about every single effects scene in the film, discussing how they were conceived and what was involved as we skip to shots of the make-up being applied and the final shots from the film itself. It's a rather interesting little featurette.
Show Set Design Featurette
A look at how the production teams made snow appear all across the sets without any snow falling. Interesting behind the scenes look at what goes into making sets look real.
Tom Shanklands Lair
Very interesting look inside Tom Shankland's office where he works, seeing the things he likes to have around him when working and what allows him to work effectively. I found this rather fascinating and a great insight into what a writer/director needs around them for the film.
Working With The Children
A featurette with some of the cast talking about how it was to work with the children, oh and of course the children themselves.
The Children is a pretty good horror film that has some surprises. There are a few faltering moments with acting and some heavy editing that does spoil some scenes, but the main idea is interesting without having to be over explained, and it manages to create genuinely creepy children.
Still it seems a little light and does travel some more stock moments. I would have liked perhaps a little more background and understanding around what was happening along with a little more weight to the events as well as depth and emotional ties to the parents.
Some of the features are good on the DVD, but where was the audio commentary?