The Children (1980)
the children | max kalmanowicz | carlton j. albright | edward terry | martin shakar | gil rogers | gale garnett | zombie | zombies | infection | sci-fi | sci fi | united states | shannon bolin | tracy griswold | joy glaccum | jeptha evans | clara evans | sarah albright
Film: The Children
Director: Max Kalmanowicz
Writer: Carlton J. Albright and Edward Terry
Starring: Martin Shakar, Gil Rogers and Gale Garnett
This is an interesting horror film. It all starts with a couple of guys that we get the impression are ready to leave work and not taking it too seriously. The official synopsis is a nuclear-plant leak turns a bus-load of children into murderous atomic zombies with black fingernails.
The first time I saw this film was when I was growing up. My mother took my sister and me to one of the video rental stores in my hometown and she picked this film out. She had seen it at the drive-in and she still really likes it to this day. I hadn’t seen it since then and decided to give it a rewatch.
For me, the scariest part of this film is that it plays on the parental connection with their children. They really aren’t zombies in this film. They are infected and like the synopsis says, they have black fingernails. That is how you know who is infected and who isn’t. These children burn anyone that they touch. Their main goal is to hug you where it will burn up the victim which looks to be chemical burns. Now I really like this idea of the nuclear cloud cause the changes. I even like how the children act once they are infected. They first target their own parents and they tend to only go after someone when they are alone. This definitely adds to the fear of the film, especially with parents not wanting to harm their own children and others not wanting to harm children in general. They are supposed to be innocent and that is something to play on for sure.
The problem I have with all of this though is that I don’t really understand how the hugs of the children would cause this to happen. I think the film is just banking on you not thinking too much about it and just buying in. I can normally do this, but it just doesn’t really seem to make a lot of sense.
Another issue with the film is the pacing of it as well. We get long stretches of nothing happening. There are a lot of deaths that happen off screen as well. I get why that was done, as this film would get a bit repetitive. The film did get a little bit stagnant for me a couple of times where I got bored. The ending of the film was pretty anticlimactic and there is a little twist at the end that I saw coming a mile away. It is also odd that our main character, John Freemont (Martin Shakar), has a katana in his house. It almost seems like it was there since it is super sharp and the only way to kill the children is to cut off their hands.
The acting in this film was also pretty flat. Shakar definitely embodies this. His wife is pregnant, Cathy (Gale Garnett). Shakar teams up with the local sheriff Billy Hart (Gil Rogers) in trying to figure out everything that is happening. I get this is a small town, but would the sheriff really team up with some random citizen to handle all of this? The only thing I will give is that the children all look very creepy in this film and portray their roles very well. Also do have to say that Joy Glaccum was quite cute as well.
The effects were something else that was hit or miss. I thought that when the bodies were being burned by the hugs, it comes off looking very fake. You can clearly see the actors have make-up on and more is added as they cut away from the deaths. Now I will say though when someone dies from this, I thought the end result look good. As I stated above, it looks like chemical burns and the final product did make cringe a bit. I do have to give some credit here.
Something I did find interesting about is this film’s score. It was actually pretty much the same score from Friday the 13th which came out the same year. It is hard for me to give too much credit for this score, but I do think it actually fits this film too. It does help to give it more of an eerie feel for sure.
Now with that said, this film does have some good aspects while also having some issues for me. I don’t mind the concept of how this all starts. Nuclear leak at a power plant causing a cloud that turns these children. It never establishes as to why it is only the children that change, since there was also a bus driver that went through it too. On top of that, it never states why they burn people when they touch them. I do think playing on the concept of the innocence of children as well as their parents not able to kill their own young. There definitely are some pacing issues. I don’t mind the ending, but the twist at the very end I thought was not needed and actually doesn’t make sense. The acting was quite flat. The effects were hit or miss. The score was taken directly from another film, but it oddly fits this one as well. I will give some credit there. Overall I do think that this film is very average and not a whole lot here.
My Rating: 5 out of 10