September 26, 2015

The Children (1980)

On some of the other movie posters, the tagline has been changed to read "Thank God they're someone else's." I got some chuckles on that one, since I have that thought pretty much daily, primarily at the grocery store. 

I was only 7 years old when this movie was released, but I don't recall it filtering into my local video rental arena until I was maybe 10 or 12. And, by then, my love of all things horror was full-blown. There were no restrictions on rental age in Waco, TX, in the 80s so I rented whatever the hell I wanted and, aside from the occasional admonishing look I received from the store owner, nobody gave me any guff about it. I walked out with The Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the entire collections of Dario Argento and Wes Craven, and all the uber-classics like Rosemary's Baby and The Omen. You name it, I rented it. Oh, sure, there was a Kids and Family section in the store, but who would ever want to rent anything from that?! "Booo-ring," said 10-year-old Jennifer, known as Jenni at the time. I recall seeing the cover of this film (pictured below) and thinking to myself, "Hey, it's a horror movie, but it's got kids in it. Finally, they're making horror films for kids, featuring kids. It's a revolution!" Oh, how wrong I was...

I found this movie yesterday on by way of randomly looking for something to watch while I cleaned my kitchen, but you can also find the film in it's entirety on YouTube. Strangely, the digital version is still beat up as hell. Tons of little scratches and hiccups on the film. But, I like that. It adds to the ambiance, and it's not a distraction. It just reminds you that this may have made it's way through a gazillion drive-thru movie theaters before Troma got their hands on it and re-released it. Kinda cool.


After the obligatory opening shot of a leak at the local nuclear power plant (doesn't every tiny mid-western town have one??) the movie starts it's journey as any 80s-era horror film does, with a handsome young rapscallion following his wiener to the girl everybody wants. Said rapscallion and girl are pictured above. And since the girl is a little bit slutty, you know she's not going to last long. And she doesn't. Hey buddy, I don't make the rules.

We also find "the children" for whom the film was named riding in a school bus, singing that old "Hail to the Bus Driver" song. As they barrel down a random back road, their bus passes through a cloud of toxic nuclear smoke. Oh, yes, this premise is ripe with possibilities my friends.

Of course, now the kids are deadly mutates with murder on their minds. They are seemingly physically unchanged, with the exception being that their fingernails are black. They can still speak and walk, no zombie growls or mutant murmurings. And, hey, they still wear clean, fashionable clothing too. Knee highs and jumpers, anyone? So vogue.

But, unfortunately, if they get their little mitts on you, this happens...

No amount of aloe vera is going to fix that.

As you can imagine, wacky adventures result. Lots of poor, unsuspecting parents get fried when their li'l rugrat wants to give them a hug. I'm sure I would've fallen for it too! (My kid is super cute, though, so who can blame me?)

After a while, and completely by accident, one of our two main heroes (I forget which one - it was either the town sheriff or the crazed dad) figures out that you have to cut off their hands to take away their mutated sizzler power.

Sadly, this also kills them. But it does make their fingernails revert back to normal. This is never addressed in the film, but it seems like if their fingernails go back to normal then you will have no proof whatsoever that anything was wrong with the kid. It's what I like to call The Werewolf Conundrum. But, that's neither here nor there. Just cut their hands off and be done with it already!

The sheriff survives. And so does a pregnant lady and her husband (the crazed dad, mentioned above). The pregnant lady does smoke in one scene, and her too-young-for-school kid is char-grilled by her mutated kid. But the pervading opinion in the film seems to be, "That's okay. She'll have a normal baby soon." She goes into labor after all the mutated kids are toast (yes, every single one of the children's gets his or her hands cut off and subsequently dies). She has the baby at home and, when it's born, she and her husband are all smiles. Like, seriously, your other two children just died an hour ago! But, wait, that's not the ending. When the newborn little babe is suckling on it's smoker mom's teat, the camera whips in for a close up and we see... the baby has black fingernails! Dah-dum-duuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmm.

Final Thought: Only in the early 80s, or maybe 70s, would you be able to make and screen this film. It features pointless nudity, a woman smoking while pregnant, the mutilation of children, the deaths of children, toking a joint in front of the sheriff, etc. I wonder if any of the kid actors were even allowed to watch this movie. Hell, it was the 80s, so probably yeah... After all, I watched it when I was 10! And you should watch it too. It's ridiculous, but really entertaining.

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