It's Christmas time, and teenaged Casey (Hannah Tointon) is none too pleased to be spending the holidays with her family in a secluded country cabin. But while her relatives dote on their rambunctious kids, Casey notices something strange developing amongst the little tykes. A bug one brings with them is quickly passed onto the others, rendering them distant and emotionally irritable. But what begins as a couple of temper tantrums turns deadly in a heartbeat, as the kids become extremely violent and wage a campaign of terror against the adults. Casey knows that the wee ones she once loved are long gone, but the parents aren't so eager to accept that their offspring have morphed into the spawn of Satan.
Looking to add some zest to your horror movie? Itching to herd a few more butts into the multiplex? Then make a kid the bad guy. People have been going nuts for evil youngsters from The Bad Seed to as recently as Orphan; it's so irresistible a plot twist that you wonder why Bond hasn't battled a megalomaniacal fifth-grader by now. But the downside with this easy-peasy approach is just that: it's too cheap. Unless you know what you're doing, homicidal children tend to join cults as some of the most arbitrary villains in film history. The Children is content to deem its titular characters demonic and leave it at that; they're just evil, dammit, and you're gonna buy it. The idea is to put viewers in the position of having to fend off your own kin, to see something so innocent as a child transform into a veritable monster. Maybe it's just my inherent hatred of kids, but I despised this troupe of Damiens from the start. There's little to separate their early screeching with their later rampage, save for that there's more weaponry involved in the latter. It helps little that the adults are so incredibly dense; I know it's horrible to be faced with killing a family member, but when Junior's gunning for you with a razor, it's time to swing for the fences.
Needless to say, The Children doesn't measure up to the buzz that it accrued after being released in its native United Kingdom. Its angle will bring in a sizable audience for direct-to-DVD standards, but the turn of events is extremely repetitive, with the erratic editing making certain scenes damn near incomprehensible. Kudos for sporadically effective atmosphere and a very cute lead in Tointon, but the unsavory experience The Children provides is enough evidence to call for an indefinite time-out on the creepy kid genre.