61 Days of Halloween: The Children (1980)

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

The Children may be the best way to introduce oneself to Troma Entertainment, this is a film that I first came upon at Monster-Mania Con and chose it as my first full-fledged introduction to the indie film giant. One could hardly hope for a better introduction to their work than this film, having seen The Toxic Avenger since and Tromeo and Juliet previously this is the truth: this film is basically funny only when it intends to be and can be very effective.

This is a film whose print was lost for all intents and purposes for about two decades. Even the remastered version presented on this DVD is missing a second or two from one scene creating a grindhouse-like artificial jump cut. However, this Cameron J. Albright scripted and produced project does have its redeeming qualities not belying the tongue-in-cheek intro to the film hosted by Troma president Lloyd Kaufman.

The film takes a very typical 1980s model for a terror tale, a disaster at a nuclear power plant, and makes it simple and accessible. This very time-specific fear is counterbalanced by the exploitation of a parent’s worst nightmare: finding their children are missing. Even though the parental figures displayed in this film are typically aloof and unaffected it does feed on the audience’s fear. The sum of fears is simple and the concept is simple: once exposed to the radiation they become mindless destroyers seeking to burn all they touch. Having children, the epitome of innocence to most, turn bad is of course commonplace in horror, but this film turns the simple gesture of a hug into something that should be feared and loathed. One of the most effective moments in the film is a very quickly taken hug by an unaffected child. It is one of the most frightening moments of the film because we already expect the worst.

The make-up effects, which are crucial to this particular tale, are quite good and likely were an influence on the later films cited in the introduction. Even with the phases of burning being introduced with dissolves most of the times and not cuts the shock of the first incident is still rather good and it is another case of how going into a film as a virtually blank slate can be a very good thing indeed.

What’s also refreshing, in essentially what ends up being a zombie film, is that our heroes aren’t too slow on the uptake and only waste a few rounds of ammo before figuring out how to best dispose of these creatures.

There is some very good POV camerawork building the suspense in the first inspection of the empty bus. The acting is not nearly as forced and as hackneyed as one might expect from a Troma picture and some performances and scenes even stand out as being decent and well-done, the bottom line is it’s never painful which even some good horror films are guilty of.

The first impression this film leaves is much stronger than it leaves after a second viewing so Netflix might be the best option for those uninitiated to the Troma style. Fans will certainly want to purchase it. However, it is still well worth your time and I most definitely wanted to and did see it twice. It comes recommended so a score is practically irrelevant, but if pressed it’s an 8/10.

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