New to video-on-demand platforms in the UK and US is the horror movie, There’s Something Wrong with the Children. The film – from director Roxanne Benjamin – stars Alisha Wainwright, Zach Gilford, Briella Guiza, and David Mattle, and follows the story of two families that become terrorised by children.
In the movie, Ben and Margaret are friends with Thomas and Ellie, as well as their two children, Lucy and Spencer. While enjoying some downtime, the two couples take the kids for a walk in the woods, where they stumble upon the ruins of an abandoned building.
Upon exploring the ruins, the group come across a deep, dark hole in the ground. It is at this point they decide to turn back, but not before Lucy and Spencer stare into the hole, and for a brief moment become somewhat transfixed.
Later that night, Ben and Margaret agree to babysit Lucy and Spencer, so their parents can have some alone time. However, what should be a simple sleepover turns into a worrying situation, when Ben and Margaret wake the next morning to discover the children missing.
Panicking, Ben heads into the woods in search of Spencer and Lucy, only to find them amongst the ruins, staring back into the hole. Concerned that they might fall in, he asks the children to step back from the edge, but they ignore him and instead throw themselves into the abyss, falling to their deaths in the process.
Distraught at what he has just witnessed, Ben returns home to inform the children’s parents about what happened. But as he arrives home, he discovers both children are alive and well, although they now appear to be behaving rather oddly.
Did Ben imagine what he saw, or did the children really die amongst the ruins? And if he was mistaken and nothing happened to Spencer and Lucy, why are they suddenly acting rather strange?
With an intriguing premise, a provocative title, and a thoroughly good soundtrack, There’s Something Wrong with the Children is a horror movie which has a lot of potential. It has many of the right elements in play (spooky kids, possible possession); it certainly welcomes audiences in with its title (this is a big draw in itself); and from the outside it looks like it is going to be grade ‘A’ stuff.
However, despite getting a number of things right, and not being a bad picture, the film doesn’t quite hit the heights it is aiming for. There’s Something Wrong with the Children has all the correct tools in its toolbox, but it doesn’t quite know how best to use them.
The movie is fine in places, but a bit plodding at times. It has dashes of blood and darkness here and there, but never goes full-on.
The film also suffers from a particularly pesky problem, in that this is a horror movie which is neither scary, nor chilling. Once again, the potential is there, but it fails to seize every opportunity to terrify, and this is quite frustrating.
After a slow(ish) start, things pick up once the children begin acting strange, and this is where the film starts to lean into the promise of its title. Spencer and Lucy display unusual behaviour, Ben seems to be the only one to notice, and this creates room for some well-placed paranoia and a smidge of tension.
None of this is particularly original, but it does feels as if the movie is finally getting to the good stuff. It takes around 30-minutes to get to this point, but when the spookiness starts to kick in, it is all welcomed with open arms.
But unfortunately, all of this set-up quickly falls apart, and it falls apart for two reasons. Firstly, the young actors aren’t quite strong enough to sell their devilish transformations, and secondly, the film doesn’t seem to know how to push the horror.
The younger cast members try their best, but they struggle to convince. As for the underwhelming attempts at horror, it all feels like something that wouldn’t look out of place in an old episode of teen TV show, Are You Afraid of the Dark?.
The sight of some bugs in a packet of crisps, doesn’t cut the mustard. The same can be said for a few whispers between the children, that are supposed to be unsettling, but all come across as a bit cringy.
Unfortunately, the longer all this goes on, the more it becomes clear this is about as good as the material is going to get. Sure, it is watchable, and there are some decent moments here and there, but this is simply not clicking in the way it could (and should).
On a more positive note, the soundtrack adds a bit more weight to the production, and the film doesn’t outstay its welcome. As mentioned above, it is all fine to watch, and I genuinely believe the whole thing was made with good intentions, but it isn’t anything amazing.
If I see a horror film with a title such as ‘There’s Something Wrong with the Children’, I want to be terrified, or at the very least unnerved. But if the best the movie can do is keep me occasionally entertained, but never fully invested, then it’s not quite delivering like it should, and this is an issue.
There’s Something Wrong with the Children could have been so much more, yet it falls short. Not a mess, but certainly a missed opportunity.
Thank you for taking the time to read this review on It’s A Stampede!. For more reviews, check out the recommended reads below.
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