There's Something Wrong with the Children
there's something wrong with the children | roxanne benjamin | t.j. cimfel | david white | alisha wainwright | amanda crew | carlos santos | zach gilford | possession | possessed | mystery | lovecraftian | united states | monster | briella guiza | david mattle | creature
Film: There’s Something Wrong with the Children
Director: Roxanne Benjamin
Writers: T.J. Cimfel and David White
Starring: Alisha Wainwright, Amanda Crew and Carlos Santos
This is a movie that I heard about through other podcasts. It is one of the earlier releases for 2023 so people were checking it out. I put it on a list that I would get to if I had the chance. This ended up working well though for February. We have a woman director in Roxanne Benjamin so it counts for Women Appreciation. Our star is Alisha Wainwright, who is a Black woman, which is why it was originally selected. I like creepy kid or children in peril movies so that intrigued me as well.
Synopsis: a family takes a weekend trip with longtime friends and their two young children. They suspect something supernatural when the kids behave strangely after disappearing into the woods overnight.
This synopsis is a bit misleading, but I’ll get back to that. We do have the two couples as it said. Margaret Winslow (Wainwright) is with Ben (Zach Gilford) and their joined by Ellie (Amanda Crew) and Thomas (Carlos Santos). They have the two children, Lucy (Briella Guiza) and Spencer (David Mattle). They’re all staying in two cabins. From our opening sequence, there is tension between Ellie and Thomas.
We will learn later that it stems from a swinging event that didn’t go as planned. There is mistrust between them. Margaret and Ben do what they can to smooth things over. This involves everyone going on a hike into the woods. They come upon a large structure. They explore it and within they find a hole in a wall. When they explore inside, they find a pit. It is deep and they aren’t sure how deep. Lucy and Spencer look into the void and become entranced. They make a statement about how bright it is, but none of the adults seem to notice.
This couple also does something else to help. They allow the two kids to stay the night in their cabin to give their parents alone time. The next morning when they’re making breakfast, our couple notices the children are gone. Ben goes back to the structure where he finds them jump into the pit. This disorients him as he doesn’t know how to tell their parents. The problem is when he returns back, the kids come running out of their parents’ cabin.
Ben and Margert decide not to tell them what Ben thought he saw. There is an underlying issue there. Relationships become strained when things are revealed and Ben doesn’t trust the children. They isolate him and say things that upset him. Not being a parent, he doesn’t handle it well. When one of the kids is harmed in Ben’s care, the tension ramps up even more.
That should be enough to recap the story and introduce the characters. Where I want to start is with the set up. I love the idea of taking these two families and isolating them in the woods. We have a small cast of characters that I’ve named plus a park ranger that shows up. The tension ramps up there as something happens to one of the children and it takes a long time for help to arrive. As a new parent this terrifies me. I live in the city so the response time is fast. It is relayed that around an hour for them to get there. When they’re exploring this structure, that was one of the things that I thought of as well. I thought this adds to the atmosphere.
Then from there, another element is the four adults. What I like about them is that they feel like old friends. I gather that Margaret and Ellie were college or even high school friends. They’ve been through a lot and know so much about each other. When things get tense, you know things to say that will hurt the other person. I like it to add to things here since I have friends like this. I’ve also seen them blow up and use these memories in hurtful ways, me included. They also share things they probably shouldn’t and share them with their significant other. Another aspect is that Ellie and Thomas got married and had children right after college. They’ve been parents for a while. Margaret is on the fence if she wants children. Ben seems like he might, but deferred to her so he's on board with not. It doesn’t seem like they actually talked about it though. Another issue is when things get bad involving the children, Ellie and Thomas cut deep with the others since they don’t know what it is like.
Where I then want to go over to the entity in this one. The children get entranced with this hole in the structure they find. They see lights at the end. From here, I’d say that we go a bit Lovecraftian. The surface level you could say it is similar to Stephen King with IT. It is almost like the dead lights. The children want to go back and they start to act weird. What I like though is that they’re being secretive with it. They isolate someone and then gaslight them. When the parents snap, it makes their parents question the adults. There is something with dead bugs here and the entity seems insect like. I would like to know a bit more about it, but I think what we get is good enough to be honest.
I think that’s enough for the story. Let me then go to the acting. I think that the cast is solid. No one is great, but they feel real enough which works. Wainwright is good as our lead. Crew is solid as her friend. They do feel like old friends. Santos is decent. What I like about him is that he’s the ‘rock’. He is a good dad and having issues with Ellie. He also butts heads with Ben when he scolds his children. Gilford also works. My issue with him is that they introduce a mental illness angle. It feels like they needed to add more and it wasn’t needed. Other than that, Guiza and Mattle are solid as the children as well. They play up those annoying aspects well and I appreciated it for how it works in the confines of the story. The only other person is Ramona Tyler as the park ranger. She worked there.
All that is left then would be with the filmmaking. The cinematography is good. The setting works. I like the isolated feel there and being in the middle of the woods. The structure they find is interesting as well. I’d like to know more about that to be honest or what it was hiding. There aren’t a lot in the way of effects. What we get are fine. I’m assuming there is CGI, but they do well to hide it. There is blood and that looked real so I give credit there. Other than that, the soundtrack fit for what was needed without necessarily to stand out.
In conclusion, this movie is fine. I think we get good aspects to it. This is a changeling type story that has definite Lovecraftian vibes. Placing in this in a cabin in the woods is good. I like the isolation and the tension that comes with it. The acting is solid across the board. This is well-made. It just is lacking going to the upper echelon. It doesn’t go far enough for me to go higher than what I am. That’s not to say though that this is bad. It just becomes a bit generic when it needed more.
My Rating: 6.5 out of 10