The Children (2008 film)

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The Children
Children film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tom Shankland
Produced by Allan Niblo
James Richardson
Written by Tom Shankland (screenplay)
Paul Andrew Williams (story)
Starring Eva Birthistle
Hannah Tointon
Music by Stephen Hilton
Cinematography Nanu Segal
Edited by Tim Murrell
Screen West Midlands
BBC Films
Aramid Entertainment
Barnsnape Films
Distributed by Vertigo Films (UK)
Icon Productions (Australia)
Ghost House Underground (US)
Release dates
5 December 2008 (UK)
Running time
85 min.
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Children is a 2008 British horror film directed by Tom Shankland and starring Eva Birthistle and Hannah Tointon.[1]


Casey (Hannah Tointon), a rebellious teenage girl, is travelling with her mother Elaine (Eva Birthistle), her stepfather Jonah (Stephen Campbell Moore), and her two younger half-siblings, Miranda (Eva Sayer) and Paulie (William Howes), to spend the New Year holiday at the secluded home of Elaine's sister, Chloe (Rachel Shelley). Chloe, her husband Robbie (Jeremy Sheffield), and their two young children, Nicky (Jake Hathaway) and Leah (Raffiella Brooks), welcome their visitors. Shortly after arriving, Paulie begins vomiting, which the adults believe is due to travel sickness.

As the night progresses, Nicky and Leah also begin to show symptoms of an illness. Leah's vomit has strange bacteria in it. As everyone goes to bed, the family cat, Jinxie, goes missing. Casey back at the woods, makes plans with her friends to escape and attend a party when she hears Jinxie snarl. But she is not able to locate the cat. By the next day, all of the children have become infected. At dinner, Miranda becomes violent, scratching Chloe and ruining the food. While Jonah tries to comfort Miranda upstairs, Robbie takes the rest of the children outside to play in the snow. Nicky places a garden rake in Robbie's path while he is sledging, which slices open Robbie's head on impact. The children scream, drawing the attention of Casey, Jonah, Elaine and Chloe. Elaine phones an ambulance, but Robbie quickly dies of his injuries.

The children run into the woods, and Casey is sent to find them. She finds Leah giggling with a knife in her hand. Casey notices a pool of vomit on the ground and is convinced that the illness is causing violent bizarre behavior. Meanwhile, Elaine forces the distraught Chloe into the house. She finds Robbie's body has gone from the yard. She searches for him, following a trail of blood into the children's play tent, but she is soon distracted by Paulie, apparently stuck on top of a climbing frame. While climbing up to him, she slips and breaks her leg. Casey returns and drags Elaine into a greenhouse. The children throw rocks through the glass. Hearing the chaos, Chloe rushes outside and heads toward the tent. Elaine warns Casey to stop Chloe. Casey doesn't reach her before Chloe enters the tent, where she finds Robbie disemboweled. Leah's doll is wedged into his abdominal cavity. Leah attacks the tent from outside with a knife. Casey attempts to rescue Chloe, but Chloe believes that Casey is attacking her and she flees into the house. Casey returns to the greenhouse and finds that Paulie is attacking Elaine. In the ensuing fight, Elaine kills Paulie.

Jonah helps Elaine and Casey back into the house, where Casey warns the adults about the children. Elaine is in shock and is unable to corroborate Casey's story. Jonah and Chloe blame Casey for the deaths. They leave to search for Leah and Nicky. Casey becomes suspicious that the ambulance has not yet arrived. She finds all the phones have gone missing. She ventures upstairs and encounters Miranda, who is holding a tape recorder which is plays the same snarl Casey had heard last night. Miranda then crushes the cat's carcass. Casey struggles with Miranda. Jonah returns and assumes that Casey is attempting to kill Miranda. He locks Casey in a room, and leaves with Miranda in a car. Chloe finds Leah and Nicky in the woods, and the children kill her.

Elaine locks the front door of the house to prevent the children getting in. She climbs up the stairs to release Casey. As Elaine reaches the door, Leah and Nicky sneak into the house through the cat flap and corner her. Elaine realises she cannot kill the children. Casey breaks through the door and impales Nicky with a piece of wood. Leah escapes. Casey and Elaine escape the house in another car. They find Jonah's car has crashed into a tree. Casey exits the car and finds that Jonah has been thrown through the windscreen by the impact and is slowly dying. Miranda then ambushes her but Elaine kills Miranda with the car. Casey begins vomiting. As Elaine and Casey speed away from the scene, other infected children begin to appear in the woods, together with Leah. Meanwhile, Casey begins exhibiting signs that she also is infected.


Critical response[edit]

The film opened to generally positive reviews from UK critics. The Guardian writer Phelim O'Neill said, "the violence is skilfully enough executed to make you think you see much more than you actually do and the fundamentally disturbing and creepy aspects about such random and unpredictable child-centric mayhem are always present, no matter how ludicrously intense and darkly humorous things get".[2]

As of February 2011, review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 79% approval rating based on 14 reviews.[3]

Box office[edit]

The film opened at no.10 in the UK, grossing only £98,205 at 132 cinemas. In the weeks after its release, the film dropped to no.13 and then again to no.22.


  1. ^ "Tom Shankland Talks The Children". DreadCentral. 
  2. ^ O'Neill, Phelim (5 December 2008). "Film review: The Children". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 July 2008. 4/5 stars
  3. ^ The Children at Rotten Tomatoes

External links[edit]