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Film / The Children

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Be very afraid.

The Children is a 2008 British horror film written and directed by Tom Shankland.

Whilst on holiday with relatives for New Year's Eve, parents Jonah, Elaine, Chloe and Robbie notice that their young children are beginning to act oddly after they become ill with an unknown virus. The children then begin to exhibit violent behavior that quickly escalates to murder.

The Children provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Ax-Crazy: Infected children exhibit this behavior, although it's mixed with cold calculation.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: The ending shows a group of infected children surrounding the van, with a lingering shot of Casey, who may or may not be infected.
  • Cliffhanger: Elaine and the possibly now-infected Casey, driving away from the house together.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Why is the ambulance going to take so long to reach them after Robbie’s fatal sledding accident and Elaine's leg is fractured? Because the Hate Plague is everywhere and kids are murdering adults all over the place.
  • Creepy Child / Enfant Terrible: All of the children, but Leah especially.
  • Creepy Doll: Leah's baby doll, made even worse when she stuffs it inside Robbie's stomach.
  • Daddy's Girl: Miranda, although it doesn't work out too well for Jonah, her dad.
  • Death of a Child: Of the four younger children only one (Leah) is still alive at the end.
  • Delicate and Sickly: Leah is implied to be this, as her mother Chloe tells Elaine (her maternal aunt) that she's nearly got Leah off the inhaler. Later, when Elaine voices her thoughts of the kids catching some kind of bug from Paulie, Chloe complains that Elaine brought her kids when they're already sick, as Leah is known to be very susceptible to illness.
  • Downer Ending: Nearly all of the main characters are dead, except Casey, Elaine and Leah. The illness that the children have is now more widespread, the emergency services are no use, more children are infected, and Casey is showing possible signs of infection...
  • The End of the World as We Know It: More than likely. It appears that the illness is widespread and probably incurable.
  • Extremely Protective Child: Casey ultimately reveals how much she cares for Elaine when she attempts to fight off the kids attacking them both.
  • Eye Scream: Chloe's death involves a coloured pencil in the eye.
  • Final Girl: Casey and Elaine.
  • Foreshadowing: Leah giving herself eye shadow with a coloured pencil.
    • Earlier, whilst everyone else plays in the snow, she happily jabs a stick into a snowman’s eye.
    • Nicky plays with an action figure by sliding it down a slope made out of books and having it stopped in front of a spinning toy with sticks poking out of it.
    • Whilst Casey is speaking to her friend Lisa on the phone, Lisa mentions that she has to cheer up her five-year old brother Danny, who’s feeling ill.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: Before the infected children start their killing spree, we see close ups of them coughing (one closeup of Nicky coughing a bit of blood on his spinning toy gun and wiping it off) or vomiting, and puddles of greenish-yellow vomit (with specks of red, which is implied to be blood) on the snow (Paulie's vomit from earlier is seen closeup, Casey lands in a puddle at one point, with yellow vomit covered all over her hand), the floor of their tent and in one noticeable example, the black smear on Leah's pillow which reveals a nasty microscopic view of black bacteria swarming and multiplying inside the vomit.
  • Hate Plague: One that infects children exclusively (symptoms include: vomiting, becoming irritable, skin becoming pale and having strange flickering visions), turning them into pint-sized homicidal maniacs. At least one teenager (Casey) is presumably infected
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: New Year's Eve.
  • Idiot Ball: Chloe and Robbie. Their actions end up costing them dearly.
  • A House Divided: The entire family turns against Casey and then against Elaine, with the implication that they blame Elaine for being a teen mother and not raising her properly.
  • Jerkass: Jonah, who runs off with his youngest daughter while abandoning his wife and step daughter. YMMV however. Considering the events of the movie solely from his point of view, this can also be a case of Jerk Ass Has A Point.
  • Oh, Crap!: Elaine realizes in the final scene of the film what has happened: once the children start to get sick, they become violent and murder every adult around. Elaine's hesitation before letting Casey back into her car speaks volumes.
  • Pervert Dad: Robbie is extremely inappropriate around his niece-by-marriage, Casey, who is an underage teenager, encouraging her to show him her tattoo (representing herself as "the abortion that got away") and smoking with her in the shed.
  • Poor Communication Kills: None of the characters explain their motivations or reasoning to anyone else. They simply do something and expect everyone else to go along, then bring up looks of shock and horror when someone foils their agenda — both good and bad characters. Elaine finally figures it out after she is cornered on a stairwell, about to be dug into by two of the kids.
  • The Scapegoat: Casey is blamed by every single person - even her mother Elaine isn't immune - for the murders rather than blaming the (little) kids.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Jonah. He isn't successful, courtesy of Miranda.
  • Twisted Christmas: The film opens on 30th December (but still has a Christmas-y feel), and ends on New Year's Eve the next day. Everybody except Elaine and Casey dies, with the implication that Casey is infected.
  • Wicked Stepfather: Jonah blames Casey and abandons her; he even more or less forgives Miranda for torturing Elaine.
  • The Worf Effect: Robbie, the seemingly strongest dad, gets killed first by being pushed down a hill into a spike by his infected kids.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Elaine would have been much more equipped to fight off the kids attacking Casey if she hadn't brutally compound-fractured her leg.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: None of the adults. Casey, however...
  • The Voice: Casey's friend, Lisa. We hear her voice in the phonecall Casey makes to her. We even see her text on Casey's phone ('where r u?'), but we never see her physically. Judging from her mentioning her little brother feeling sick (possibly the same virus as Casey's half-siblings and maternal cousins), she could be in just as much danger as Casey and her mother is.
  • The Unreveal: We never find out the exact origin/cause of the virus or even get concrete confirmation that it's real. The film deliberately leaves things ambiguous (dropping a few hints), leaving a lot to the viewer's interpretation, like for example:
    • Jonah mentions to Robbie that he works in TCM (which involves importing medicinal ingredients from China) and says something about viruses spreading around.
    • It could be linked to a possibly supernatural force in the woods, as seen from the visions the children have foreshadowing the parents' deaths; and the vast amount of infected (or possessed) children around the forest area in the end.
    • Each child seems to gradually become less phased by what's happening over the course of the film. At first, they are visibly scared and even appear to accidentally cause their destruction. Then, once Paulie dies, the surviving kids steadily become more outwardly malicious, almost as if their impressionable minds became fascinated with the violence around them.