2023 | unrated (light R equivalent) | starring Alisha Wainwright, Zach Gilford, Amanda Crew | directed by Roxanne Benjamin | 1h 32m |
2023 Halloween Horrorfest, pt 3
Last time we saw director Roxanne Benjamin was in the Body of Brighton Rock, a killer bear movie that was barely a movie at all, much less anything resembling a horror film. There’s Something Wrong with the Children is a true-to-form genre film, a Killer Kid/Cabin in the Woods movie played pretty straight, but it’s surprisingly fun and in spots positively sings with comfortable but well-executed genre thrills.
When two couples retreat together for a weekend in the country tensions start to rise between the couple with children Ellie and Thomas (Amanda Crew and Carlos Santos) and the couple without, Margaret and Ben, (Alisha Wainwright and Zach Gilford) when our childless couple loses sight of the children only to come back different, sparking paranoia in Ben and distrust from the rest of the group.
Killer Kid movies unlike their antagonists come in all shapes and sizes. I’m more of a Village of the Damned than a Children of the Corn man myself. In recent years, these movies have been magnets for the pretentious Elevated Horror treatment with The Children and The Innocents – both very good – using the genre to talk about parental fears. That’s why There’s Something Wrong with the Children feels fresh again – it’s just an old fashioned creature feature beating with the heart of a slasher movie where murderous kids pose as innocents to make anyone suspect them of looking crazy. That task, in this case goes to Gilford’s Ben who is put in an unimaginable position.
All of these movies have a set-up before we get to the supernatural, and Something’s is not bad. Once the couples get to the cabin it’s slowly revealed that there is tension between them and the spark of that tension – an excursion into swinging that went wrong – keeps the adult dynamics of the first half interesting. That segues into the very real tension between the couple where the friendship between them is immediately cast in doubt over Ellie and Thomas’ distrust of Margaret and Ben because they don’t have kids and can’t understand. They must be reckless and selfish.
The parental drama gives way to creepy kids and mysterious caves in the woods, before giving way to a crackerjack third act where Wainwright is stalked around the house by our villains with their true form hinted at in shadow, the music juiced and the bodies flying through windows. I loved it. The problem is it almost feels like a happy, lightening strike accident because the film can’t sustain that level of fun. Soon enough it slows back down and turns toward an ending you’ve seen a thousand times, but by then I was hooked.
It’s nothing revolutionary but I enjoyed There’s Something Wrong with the Children, if only a sign of life of what Benjamin may be able to do with some money and inspiration. This movie is lightyears over Body of Brighton Rock, so that’s nice to see and based on this film’s third act she might have a fun slasher film in her yet.