The Children (1980 film)

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The Children
Directed byMax Kalmanowicz
Produced byMax Kalmanowicz
Carlton J. Albright
Written byCarlton J. Albright
Edward Terry
StarringMartin Shakar
Gil Rogers
Gale Garnett
Music byHarry Manfredini
CinematographyBarry Abrams
Distributed byWorld-Northal (original)
Troma Entertainment (current)
Release date
  • June 13, 1980 (1980-06-13)
Running time
93 min
CountryUnited States

The Children (a.k.a. The Children of Ravensback) is a 1980 low-budget horror film, written and produced by Carlton J. Albright. The movie is about five children in a small town who, thanks to a yellow toxic cloud, are transformed into bloodless zombies with black fingernails who microwave every living thing they put their hands on. The surviving adults of the town must attempt to put a stop to them.

The film is currently being distributed by Troma Entertainment.


Jim and Slim, a couple of workers at a chemical plant in the fictional New England town of Ravensback, decide to call it a day and head for the bar. Unfortunately, a large buildup of pressure leaks from one of the pipes that starts to form a yellow toxic cloud that drifts across the ground. Meanwhile, a school bus is taking children home. After dropping one child off, five children left on the bus: Paul MacKenize, Jenny Freemont, Ellen Chandler, Tommy Button, and Janet Shore. Suddenly the bus passes through the yellow cloud.

After Billy Hart, the local sheriff, finds the idling bus abandoned near a cemetery and the children's possessions still on it, he radios his deputy Harry Timmons and Molly, an older woman who works at the local general store and acts as the part-time police dispatcher. Paul's sister Suzie is seemingly a slutty blonde who's only interested in Harry and tries to seduce him. Billy orders Harry to set up a roadblock at the intersection of the main highway and the lone road leading into town, recruiting a couple of armed locals, believing that the children were possibly kidnapped.

Meanwhile, Dr. Joyce Gould, Tommy's mother's female lover, who's hostile towards the sheriff for no reason, goes with him to investigate. She hops on the school bus, where she finds Tommy's things on board. She sees Tommy in the cemetery and runs toward him, but falls over on the bus driver's badly burnt corpse. Soon after, Tommy approaches her to give her a hug. When they embrace, Joyce suddenly screams as yellow steam comes from his hands and burns her alive, before he finally releases her corroded body and trudges on.

Later, Ellen sneaks through the woods near a road where John Freemont, father of Jenny, is working on his car, which has broken down. Sheriff Hart gives him a lift home while Ellen watches them unnoticed. She decides to go home where she encounters her mother, Rita, who runs to the door to Ellen's outstretched arms. She is incinerated as Ellen hugs her. Her father, Bob, then comes to the door and is shocked at the spectacle. Ellen goes to hug him, but he backs away from her into the house while she follows. Paul MacKenize comes home and similarly kills his sister. Paul's father, Cyrus, is then killed after discovering Paul with her body.

While John and Billy on the road, they encounter Janet Shore standing in the middle of road who is dazed like the other zombified children, pale-faced and apparently stunned as they put her in the car to drive her home. It turns out that Janet has not yet fully transformed into a radioactive zombie, but she gradually changes into one during the ride (as evidenced by her fingernails shown turning black). After they stopped, she attacks Sheriff Hart who is able to dodge her while she flees the vicinity.

Eventually, the zombified Ellen, Tommy, and Paul meet and walk together. They are then spotted by Deputy Harry who radios the station, but is soon killed. The three children converge in front of the general store where an overjoyed (and misguided) Molly comes outside to hug them, but is also roasted to death as her screaming is heard on a police radio dispatcher by John and Billy.

Meanwhile, John and Billy are checking other homes in the town finding the occupants dead in much the same way. They go to John's home to meet his pregnant wife, Cathy and his younger son, Clarkie. They are relieved that Cathy and Clarkie are unharmed. John begins to give orders, but does not divulge any information to Cathy or Clarkie.

The five wandering zombies approach John's house once they spot the people inside. Jenny (Cathy and John's daughter) appears and attempts to hug Cathy, but John runs out of the house in a panic and pulls her away in time. Meanwhile, Paul climbs to the upper level of the house and is let through the window by Clarkie (who does not realize what Paul is). They play a quiet game of tag after Clarkie hides in his closet as Paul kills him in a typical form.

Billy shoots the zombies with his pistol, but the bullets have no effect on them. Cathy, who's still not aware of the children's zombified state, knocks Billy out with a glass object in order to stop him from shooting them. She then finds Clarkie's roasted body and tells John, who runs upstairs and tearfully puts the child's body back to bed.

Paul then attacks the adults, while Billy instinctively picks up a replica katana and chops off both Paul's hands as he howls in pain, which kills Paul as the fingernails on his severed hands reverts back to normal. Ellen then breaks through one of the windows with one hand, which is immediately severed by Billy causes her to apparently die. Billy and John then go outside with the sword in hand to find the rest of the zombies. The remaining three zombies, Tommy, Janet, and Jenny, converge at the upper level of John's barn where they are found by John and Billy who, despite Jenny's pleas to John, are promptly dismembered and killed.

While an exhausted John collapses to the ground near the barn while Billy wearily goes to his car to radio for help, Ellen suddenly rises from the back seat, grabs Billy by the neck with her remaining hand, and roasts him to death. John hears Billy's screaming and approaches with his sword to finish her off. He then flings his sword in disgust and collapses into a deep sleep next to Billy's corpse.

The next morning, Cathy yells to a still-sleeping John that "it's time". He wakes up and runs frantically into the house to help her deliver their third child. As they are delivering the baby, the camera pans over all of the dead bodies, including Sheriff Hart's (but not Clarkie's). All five of the zombified children are laying peacefully and hacked up. After the baby is delivered, John is aghast and wide-eyed as he notices that his newborn child has black fingernails while being breastfed.



The Children was given a limited release theatrically in the United States by World Northal in 1980.[citation needed] It was originally released on VHS by Vestron Video in the 1980s. It was later released on VHS by Rhino Home Video on April 11, 1991.[1] The film was released for the first time on DVD in a 25th Anniversary edition by Troma Entertainment November 8, 2005.[2] It was later released by Videoasia as a part of its five-disk "Grindhouse Experience 20 Film Set" on July 24, 2007.[3]


Upon its theatrical release in 1980 The Children received generally negative reviews. The Los Angeles Times called it a "despicable movie" that "reeks of a nasty, ill-defined dislike of humankind."[4] The Orlando Sentinel deemed the actors "the ugliest bunch of folks we've seen assembled on any screen at any one time."[5] The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette criticized the writing, directing, acting and special effects; the latter slammed for burned bodies looking "exactly like a leftover pepperoni pizza, complete with black olives and anchovies."[6]

Horror film review website Terror Trap awarded the film one and a half out of four stars. Although they called Manfredini's score for the film "somewhat effective", they criticized the film's direction, cast, and low production values.[7] Jonathan Stryker from gave the film a slightly positive review, calling it "a predictable, by-the-numbers but somewhat entertaining yarn".[8]


  1. ^ " The Children [VHS]: Martin Shakar, Gil Rogers, Gale Garnett, Shannon Bolin, Tracy Griswold, Joy Glaccum, Jeptha Evans, Clara Evans, Sarah Albright, Nathanael Albright, Julie Carrier, Michelle La Mothe, Barry Abrams, Max Kalmanowicz, Nikki Wessling, Carlton J. Albright, Edward Terry: Movi". Amazon. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  2. ^ "The Children (DVD)". Retrieved 2011-04-19.
  3. ^ "The Children (1980) - Max Kalmanowicz". AllMovie. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  4. ^ Gross, Linda (1980-09-30). "Despicable Nature of 'The Children'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
  5. ^ Johnson, Dean (1980-09-05). "Child's Play: 'The Children' showcase of bad direction, acting". The Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
  6. ^ Uricchio, Marylynn (1980-08-23). "'Children' lacks an adult plot". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
  7. ^ "The Children (1980)". Terror Terror Trap. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  8. ^ Stryker, Johnathan. "Film Review: The Children (1980)". Johnathan Stryker. Retrieved 3 April 2018.

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