Kids can be pretty scary. They’re basically little adults with no moral compass. And the horror genre has traded on this idea since Patty McCormack starred in The Bad Seed. Over the years, ‘creepy kids’ has become something of its own subgenre in horror. Whether it’s Children of the Corn, Village of the Damned, or The Children, pint-sized terror seems to get under people’s skin whether they’re parents or not. Now the latest Blumhouse release, There’s Something Wrong With The Children, is available to rent on VOD platforms. While it’s been hyped a bit, only a handful of reviews are available and the consensus is lukewarm.
On a weekend getaway, childless couple Margaret and Ben are looking forward to catching up with longtime friends, Ellie and Thomas. However, past and present tensions quickly arise. Having kids has made it increasingly hard for Ellie and Thomas to have time to themselves. And Margaret and Ben may not be on the same page concerning their choice to not have their own children. When the kids disappear in the early morning and return later, they begin acting strangely. Ben soon suspects something supernatural is happening, which further divides the friends, and calls his own sanity into question.
There’s Something Wrong With The Children Cleverly Exploits the Fears of Parenthood
Despite the sheer number of ‘creepy kid‘ horror movies out there, director Roxanne Benjamin (XX, Body at Brighton Rock) finds an interesting, and timely hook, for her thriller. For much of its first third, There’s Something Wrong With The Children focuses on its characters and their relationships. Though the pacing here feels methodical, it’s a necessary prerequisite as writers TJ Cimfel and David White introduce existing tensions that contribute to the later horror. Small cracks appear between the two couples’ friendships early on – the freedom of having no children subtly presents as a wedge. Margaret and Ben may also not be on the same about remaining childless. But Margaret also harbors concerns over Ben’s mental health, hinting at some past breakdown. As for Ellie and Thomas,
By the time the middle act rolls around, There’s Something Wrong With The Children hits its stride.
By the time the middle act rolls around, There’s Something Wrong With The Children hits its stride. Countless horror movies have traded on the premise of one character knowing something is wrong only to be ignored by everyone around them. But Benjamin couches the trope within the context of Ben’s uncertainty around having children and his potentially worsening grasp on reality. Did Ben really see something supernatural happen? Or are the children simply doing the sort of jerky things kids that often define childhood? Benjamin squeezes out several tense moments from this conflict delivering enough suspense to make on wonder why this one didn’t get a theatrical release. A retro 80s-synth score courtesy of The Gifted adds to the atmosphere.
There’s Something Wrong With The Children Brims With Interesting Ideas
Where There’s Something Wrong With the Children runs into some problems is its third act. First, Benjamin isn’t fully able to maintain the suspense built over its superior middle portion. As things escalate into more traditional horror elements, the action can’t always live up to the mystery previously teased. Some viewers will be able to roll with Cimfel and White’s curveball, while others may find that it takes the thriller down an unnecessary path. As Zach Gilford’s (Midnight Mass, The Purge: Anarchy) Ben takes a backseat, audiences are also left to care for less developed characters. Nevertheless, Benjamin stages and executes a few strong shocks that should audiences to jump out of their seats.
Of course any ‘creepy kids’ horror movie ultimately hinges on the performances of its child actors both of whom make for compellingly unsettling pint-sized terrors.
Across the board, the performances are quite good with Gilford and Alisha Wainwright sharing believable chemistry. And Wainwright’s performance fills the void left when Gilford isn’t on screen. While both Amanda Crew (Final Destination 3, Freaks) and Carlos Santos are quite good in their respective roles, neither of their characters feels very developed. Of course any ‘creepy kids’ horror movie ultimately hinges on the performances of its child actors both of whom make for compellingly unsettling pint-sized terrors. Early on There’s Something Wrong With The Children raises several interesting ideas about mental illness stigma, normalizing a couple’s decision to opt of our children, and the impact of having kids on a marriage. Once the horror kicks in, however, these ideas fade into the background.
There’s Something Wrong With The Children Reminds Us That The Kids Aren’t Alright
A lot is happening in There’s Something Wrong With The Children. That is, Benjamin juggles a few different themes weaved into the thriller by Cimfel and White that contribute to a very suspenseful middle act. Yes, some of that suspense recedes by the climax, but Benjamin still delivers some decent shocks. Throw in some good performances and a distinctive throwback score and There’s Something Wrong With The Children kicks off the year 2023 on a good note for horror. At the very least, this thriller may have you reconsidering the decision to have kids.