harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

The Children review, Part II ... it ran too long for LJ *rolls eyes*

Scene 32: They chase Jenny into a large storage barn. When they find her, she's sitting on the ground giving the 'hug me' sign and calling 'daddy'. Despite warnings, he reaches for her and she grabs his hand and starts burning him. Sheriff Billy is able to yank him away.

As they retreat, the disappeared Janet re-shows and the Sheriff plugs her with two shots. She goes down.

Commentary: And this is really why THE CHILDREN was reviled when it came out, though not at all graphic (and where it is in a bit, the kid parts look like what they are - mannequin bits) the implied extreme violence against the children had a lot of people's panties (the usual suspects: religious groups, 'family' groups, etc) in a twist. None of the violence meted out is shown in detail and by our standards today, this is all pretty tame (I'd be tempted to bemoan this state of affairs, but that would make me sound old... and like a hypocrit since I'm a fan of gialli films). And, can I just say how much it sucks that the Friday the 13th musical stings are used so damned unapologetically and blatantly, again? Thanks.

She doesn't stay down for long however, shocking Billy by springing back up with plenty of life and eager to give him a big hug. They make it back to the house, where Cathy looks at her husband's hand in horror before being ordered to fetch ice water. Outside of the kitchen window, Sheriff Billy sees the children gathering in the yard surrounding the house.

Commentary: Personally, I would have run out the front door while the brats are in the back, hopped in the police car, and gotten out of there. But that's just me.

While John works on soaking and bandaging his injured hand, he sends Cathy upstairs to check their son. Billy goes to check the first floor windows.

Scene 33: Cathy tends to her son, who is a very heavy sleeper. I note the kid's posters and I want that "The Muppet Show" poster. Chris Reeve is also on the wall, as Superman. Cathy hears gunshots and she rushes to her son's window to look out into the yard. She hears another shot and one of the boys falls over, but gets right back up.

She rushes downstairs to yell at the Sheriff for trying to shoot THE CHILDREN, despite just seeing the impossibility of them not really caring. This fact should be more than enough for her to pull her head out of her ass, but no. She hits Billy in the back of the head with a vase and knocks him unconscious.

Commentary: Oh, and despite the fact that the kids were gathering in the backyard where the barn was located, Billy was able to shoot them from the front window. He's very, very good.

John runs in and checks on Billy. He then asks what Cathy thought she was doing. She complains that they've gone mad and Billy was shooting THE CHILDREN, apparently ignoring the fact she just saw them get up after being shot, unless she thinks that normal kids would do the same thing. He points out that Jenny was the one that burned the crap out of his hand. She tries to deny that Jenny could have done so, but he finally gets through to her with more yelling as he grabs up his rifle and returns to the kitchen. Cathy collapes onto some cushions in shock.

Scene 34: Meanwhile, upstairs the movie is unabashadly ripping off the TV mini-series, "Salem's Lot" by having Paul of THE CHILDREN somehow having climbed up onto the second floor roof outside of the son's bedroom window. He scratches at the pane, a la the Glick boy after he's vampirized. There it was too effing scary for a TV movie, here it is ridiculous and comical.

Also, the boy who slept through both his mother and father turning the bedroom light on his face, slept through both of them stroking his head, and slept through gunshots being fired downstairs, suddenly springs awake because of fingernails scritching on glass.

He jumps up out of bed to let Paul into his room.

Commentary: And, as I mentioned in the BTVS review for 'The Puppet Show', no one seems to believe in having screens over their windows, even when they're in the habit of leaving them open for fresh air... why are their homes never full of bugs, when I can't walk out of my front door without an army of flies or mesquitoes getting in? Despite my earlier comment that this movie isn't as bad as you've heard, it is trying its best to destroy any goodwill I may have extended it by its insistence on cribbing from better sources.

So, son starts playing around with Paul by hiding under the bed and avoiding him while Paul does his 'come give me a squeeze' gesture. He makes a seemingly fatal mistake by 'hiding' in his closet....

Scene 35: Downstairs, Cathy hears her son playing around above her head and runs (as fast as a very pregnant woman can) for the stairs. In her son's room, Paul is opening the bedroom closet door. In the living room, Billy is coming around, while at the same time upstairs, Cathy is going into her son's room.

She screams her son's name... and we see that Georgie didn't get away, even though he died utterly silently while being burned to death by Paul.

Commentary: I was shocked that they went there - no doubt adding to the 1980-outrage over the movie. They not only kill this little boy, but they show the burned body lying on the bedroom floor. I guess though that having him scream in the way that every other victim has was just too far to take things, so Georgie doesn't audibly suffer. I'll admit that I can live with this compromise just fine.

Unfortunately for Cathy, there isn't time to vent her grief, because Paul stuck around and now comes for her, too. She backs as slowly as possible down the stairs so she can continue to be menaced.

In a great stunt, John fires at Paul and knocks the boy up and over the staircase. Unfortunately, Cathy rushes to the boy's aid, even though John is yelling at her not to. Paul, of course, sits up completely unimpeded by his gunshots (which don't bleed - or leave holes in his shirt).

Commentary: I changed my mind. This movie is bad. It's enjoyable, but the later it runs the more dumb it gets.

Cathy is again threatened with burning by Paul when she backs into a corner and her husband doesn't put the gun against the brat's head and pull the trigger. Thankfully Sheriff Billy has grabbed a katana off of the wall where it was hanging decoratively (Asian weaponry was big throughout the 80's due to the slew of imported, hideously dubbed kung-fu movies from overseas. At least in the Detroit market, there was always a late night kung-fu fest playing on the UHF channels (local channels 20 and 50) on Friday nights.) Billy cuts off Paul's death hands, which somehow kills him, giving them the answer as to how to survive.

Paul's stumps don't bleed either. And his black nail polish fades away, too.

With monster-Paul down for good, Cathy collapses into Billy's arms, while she chokes out between sobs that her and John's son is dead. John takes off for his son's room.

Scene 36: In his boy's room, John collapses over his body, sobbing.

Commentary: Poor Cathy and John really get nothing but one horrible thing after the other once their beseiged in they're home with the Sheriff. I really appreciate some very strong acting here, especially by the actor playing John. I also find myself liking Billy more and more throughout the movie, so these characters can carry through the dumber moments if you'll just allow it. We see John's son on the floor again, and I'm surprised that they went there in 1980 with a little boy. Since I don't think kids should get Free Battle Exemptions for being kids, I appreciate the movie for being that bold. I just wish that it was better made in the script and production departments. I'd say that this movie could use a remake, but I just don't see that ever happening without everyone being changed to 30 year old high school students who are bitchy, hateful and sex-obsessed... and I can watch the other 95% of horror movies for that.

In another really nice touch, John lifts his son's body and places it gently back on his bed. He sits next to him and continues to sob, inconsolable.

Scene 37: Downstairs, Billy looks like he's barely holding it together, too. With him still is Cathy. She seems to just be realizing that her son is really gone.

John comes back into the living room, clearly shell shocked. But, Billy is thinking of their current situation and explains that their hands are the weakness of THE CHILDREN.

Commentary: Which is such a stupid weakness, that I find it difficult to believe that THIS is what the scripters came up with to defeat the monster. See, you want to like this movie and then it slaps you with dumb and you kind of are resentful for it. Yeah, a remake with the boldness to keep the little darlings as the mutant monsters, and a script polish or five could really turn this movie into an upsetting, thrilling horror picture....

So, Billy goes on about the vulnerable hands of weakness and cutting them off to stop the monster-kids. (And, I like Cathy, but the actress is *really* underplaying her shock and grief here. I think the actor playing John is the strongest performance because he hasn't forgotten that his son is upstairs - Cathy seems to be upset only when the script is forcing her to remember she has a burned up kid upstairs. The actor playing Billy has a lot of great moments, but he also swerves into overacting - which he's doing here with his 'cut off the hands' epiphany.)

Next comes a discussion about Jenny, waiting out in the yard. Cathy, still in shock, insists that their daughter is outside, but John is more clear headed through his anguish. He tells her bluntly that Jenny WAS their daughter. Cathy can't accept that Jenny is one of them, now, and John is getting angrier with her for it by the second. Billy steps in between them, trying to make John realize his wife is in shock.

Commentary: This is another very nicely acted moment between Billy and John, as Billy cups the side of his face and tries to suggest that maybe they can save THE CHILDREN and put them away, somewhere. I think this is mostly for Cathy's benefit, though. When they leave the house the Sheriff doesn't look like he's trying too hard to not cut of their limbs. And, I really like the feeling of this scene of Billy grieving along with his friends for their mind-breaking loss.

Cathy insists to John when he tries to make her understand that Jenny was going to kill her that she'd rather die than lose her daughter, too. While Cathy and John share their moment, Sheriff Billy starts loading up the shotgun again, while sitting next to a window which is still partly open from when he was shooting at the monster-kids, earlier. I believe it is Janet who gets to make the lunge for Billy - she misses and John hacks of her hand (in a not very good effect). She collapses with a weird vocalization.

Scene 38: The menfolk go out to confront THE CHILDREN and on the window sill, we see Janet's hacked hand lose its black fingernail polish look.

Naturally, the children have become playful all of the sudden - or shy again - because they are no longer gathered in a group in the yard. There is much wandering next to shadowy hedges with a flashlight. Wander, wander, search, search, flashlight, flashlight.

They've wandered around the back of the house, where Billy spots the unlocked cellar doors. He decides they're going to have to go down there to look for them. It's a bust. They turn their attention to the woods surrounding the house. They make their way back to a chicken coop outbuilding, but find nothing but a few hens. These monstrous brats have really vanished into the night here... alas, it isn't to wipe out the rest of the town.

Finally they spot them heading into the barn. The way they glance back, I immediately think that THE CHILDREN are setting up a trap.

Scene 39: As our heroes make it to the barn, we get the Friday the 13th sting again.

Commentary: And this time - with the shaky camera work and the way the shot is composed, even the visual reminds me of that movie. This is the first scene where I had the overpowering expectation of hearing the 'Hah-hah-hah, ch-ch-ch-ch' on the soundtrack. I was almost disappointed when it didn't materialize.

Billy and John go into the barn and up the stairway where we know THE CHILDREN are waiting....

Alas, the kids aren't that clever. They just cower near the wall, until Jenny-monster depends on the old 'hug me, hug me' gesture while calling out 'Daddy'... something he already fell for and got his hand crispied. He looks like he'll fall for it again, anyway, despite Billy's pleads to the contrary. Good thing Billy was there, since he steps in with his axe...

... As we cut to the outside of the barn!

Commentary: WHAT?! The big slaughter takes place OFF-SCREEN?! Wow, we really are emulating the 1950's monster movies! And, I'm a little bitter about it, I won't lie.

Scene 40: Outside the barn (arrrgh!), we hear lots of weird screaming (which sounds disturbingly like THE THING). One of these yells is also decidedly man-like, and I'd like to think it is John wailing in anguish as Billy hacks up Jenny - but since it is just as distorted, I don't think the filmmakers were that clever.

After a very pregnant pause, John wanders out in a daze from the barn. He looks like someone trying to decide if he's going to vomit, or not (he's definitely the strongest actor in the bunch). Moments later Billy shuffles out. He gazes at John for a moment, but in a nice acting/directing choice they don't talk. Billy goes off, leaving John breathing heavy in front of the barn.

Scene 41: Billy wanders down the driveway to his patrol car. He gets on the radio and calls for anyone who may hear him. In the meanwhile, John lies down in the driveway outside the barn panting. A musical sting lets us know things aren't over as we return to Billy in his car. Remember Janet? Yeah, well, she only had one hand cut off, so it just rendered her unconscious. Apparently after coming to, she decided to hang out in the back seat of Billy's car - which he didn't notice of course. She now reaches up from behind with her one remaining hand and grabs him around the side of the neck....

I'm sorry, Billy. I liked you.

Billy's pain filled screams bring John running with his sword. He's too late to save the Sheriff. Janet gets out of the backseat and tries to run off in that quick-shuffle THE CHILDREN have for a top speed. John makes short work of her, sobbing over the loss of Bill. With the work done, John returns to Billy's body and rubs his man-boob (Hey, I'm just reporting here - if you want to see something slashy related, that's on you!). In a very nice moment, he grieves while shifting Billy's head onto his lap and holding him. It is slightly undercut by his continuing to rub at Billy's chest and... I'm really not making this up... *clutching at his chest*... hmmm.

Commentary: Now, I was really trying to be good and not make slashy comments about the living room scene with the face-holding by the Sheriff on John, but this is....

But, no. No, this was 1980 and slashtastic undertones weren't all over the place, pushed into public consciousness by fanwank, fanfic and fanvideowork on youtube. I'm sure this is not how it looks. But, it sure would be nice if it was.

Scene 42: We fade into daylight where John has collapsed into sleep, holding Billy in his lap (it is sweet and not at all slashing). He comes to because of screams from the house. Leaping to his feet, he barrels toward his house while we linger on Billy lying dead and burned up (this has nothing to do with John's having left his heart here). Cathy isn't under attack, as he feared though - or not mostly, anyway - she's just in labor.

John rushes through the house looking for his wife.

Commentary: Unfortunately, there is a HUGE error here. As John dashes to the stairs, he calls for... JENNY...! Uh, nooooo, that was your daughter. Your wife is CATHY. I'm starting to think there were far bigger problems in the Freehold household than bicuriousity.

Scene 43: When John makes it upstairs, he finds CATHY sitting on
the bathroom floor. She tells him it's time. He helps her up one-armed and gets her to their bed.

Commentary: And I have to just give another prop to the actor playing John. I haven't noticed any scenes where he's forgotten that his wrapped up hand is hideously mangled. He's been very good about avoiding using it, always holding it out away from his body and avoiding bumping it into anything, even during action scenes.

So, CATHY is having their third, and only surviving, child at home.

Commentary: And, unsurprisingly, this is a Hollywood Birth, in that it is completely without any mess, whatsoever.

Over sounds of Cathy's labor and John's encouraging her to push, we get scenes of the death surrounding and permeating the household in the shadow of new life (ART!) as we see dead Paul and dead Billy and dismembered Janet (she's really dead this time, too) and a shot of the handless kids in the barn, including Jenny (and none of them are damaged except for their hands, despite all of the axe swinging - Billy was very precise with that axe blade).

Over a shot of the morning sun and idyllic fields, we hear John tell Cathy that she did it (ART!). He tells her that everything is okay, the baby has the usual number of fingers and toes... yadda-yadda.

Scene 44: Finally, we return to the bedroom where John has fallen asleep in a chair. Cathy is holding her bundle of joy and breast feeding.

And, would it entirely shock you to learn that the movie-Fates have not finished torturing John? Yeah, me either.

You guessed it, he notices that while he slept the baby's nails got black polish applied... oh, the surprise... oh the shocking twist....

The Good: The lead actors are relatively strong, but especially Martin Shakar who holds things together when Gil starts to over-emote and Gail is under-emoting.

The smoke and screaming of the burning victims was pretty well done - especially the way that their screams go on and on.

None of the human characters we spend any amount of time with come across as hideous, which is always much appreciated (Yes, Janet's mother sucks ass, but we're not stuck with her for long periods).

Some of the scenes do become tense, and I like that the little boy didn't a) get a death exemption just because and b) wasn't kept conveniently off-screen. Maybe our parents were scandalized by this, but I would have been like "Yes! That's gnarly!" Did we use 'gnarly' in 1980... maybe I would have been saying 'gag me with a spoon!' instead - I'm too feeble minded to remember, now.

I think it's really darkly humorous that nobody ran across any of the bodies... they're all still sitting right where they are. I especially think it's pretty funny (in a very black, morbid way) that the bitchy doctor and the bus driver are still laying out there together in the cemetery.

The Bad: Well, the minimal makeup of the children is a negative - especially with the focus on what is just fingernail polish to denote monstrousness. In a remake, I think I'd like them to maybe do something as understated but better... like having them with a constant nose bleed, maybe.

Some of the acting swerves into bad... sorry Molly (when she's relieved the kids are outside her store) and Smug Prick (all of it) and Janet's Mom (who is less like somebody zoned out on pot and more like someone who is a sociopath).

The unnecessary boob shot of Janet's mother - blatant "oh, look, tits!" in a movie always bugs the hell out of me. Mostly because it leaves me feeling a little dirty when there isn't any reason that the scene had to include toplessness (I'll accept the nude if it's a skinny dipping scene, or a romantic/sexual encounter).

The swerves into blatant dumb choices in the script really undercuts the movie badly... and my God... hands as a killing blow?!

The completely unexplained reason as to why taking in huge lungfuls of radioactive smog in no way impairs the lungs (Bus driver was able to get to the cemetery somehow). It almost works with Cathy because you could think that her fetus absorbed the toxicity in order to be changed. In fact, that is the only reason to have Cathy passing through the cloud at all. But, that doesn't work for Fred the bus driver.

Other Thoughts: Personally, I've had more than enough of the "You thought it was over, but it isn't!" twist endings. I can't remember if this was already old in 1980, but I'm sick of it. We all already know that it is never over, okay? We are not shocked, except when the good guys actually do win and there isn't an open-ended set up for a sequel, which may or may not happen. In my personal ending, John waits for Cathy to fall into an exhausted sleep, takes the baby outside and cuts off its hands. He returns to the bedroom with the axe and Cathy gets it in the head. Then he returns to Billy - c'mon, I can't ignore the vibe - lifts him into his lap, takes Billy's revolver and eats a bullet. Yes, it is bleak - but the movie has been downright cruel to the Freemonts throughout, so I think it is an appropriate ending for their story. Of course, the story is still not over, since we already heard that the same thing has been happening in the 'tri-state' area, thanks to the non-dispersing cloud, but at least this story is over.

The Score: I didn't think this movie was as bad as was advertised, thankfully, but the script has some serious dumb moments that really undercuts what they had going. I'm also distracted and pissed by the lazy music composition... this isn't just cribbing or a homage, this is the composer stealing one movie's score to use twice. The camera's focus on the fingernails also does no favors for trying to keep a horror-mood going, but I do like the rictus grins on the kids. I think this movie would have passed by largely as background noise if it wasn't for some nicely drawn out and obviously hideous deaths and the excellent acting work by Martin. I wanted to give this a little bit over average, but the script and music just makes that impossible. I have to agree the movie is below average... dammit...

2.75 out of 5

Tags: review the children

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