With Snow on the Ground Casey Surely Was Freezing in that Miniskirt, Though

One of my nieces, just before Christmas, posted a link to an article about how housecats are really none-too-stable predators and, if they were large enough, would probably kill us.  But we knew that already, didn’t we?  It’s part of their charm, like they’re little vampires.

Suppose, however, it wasn’t cats, but children.  One’s own children, perhaps, who at first seem to precipitate accidents — a misdirected sled sliding down a hill — but which escalate into causing real harm.  Or maybe just mischief, but which somehow turns lethal.

And suppose they’re doing this intentionally, intending to kill us.

If we were parents, could we believe the truth?  Or would we fight to believe, as the woundings and deaths pile up, that it has to be somebody else’s fault?

This is the premise of the British film THE CHILDREN (see “10 Films to Peruse for Your Christmas Holiday Watching Pleasure,” December 13):  “A family anticipates a Christmas filled with sledding, laughter and hot cocoa as they head to their vacation home in the secluded backcountry.  The holiday cheer takes a turn for the worse after a mysterious flu-like virus sweeps through the kids, and one by one the children become deadly.  TheChildrenNow, amidst suspicion, mayhem and murder, the parents must fight for survival against their own twisted offspring.”  And, oh yes, while police are called after the first actual death, the roads are hard to get through due to snow, so don’t expect them to arrive any too soon.

And remember, imagine that they’re your children — or maybe some of them nieces or nephews.  One flaw is that it is an extended family and there was some confusion, at least for me, keeping straight who’s related, and how, to whom.  Also, as a film of this sort probably must, it starts a bit on the slow side.

Nevertheless it becomes intense with, I think, the character of Casey as the key.  She’s the one teenage daughter, neatly caught between the two generations, who didn’t want to be there in the first place.  Rebellious, yes, but also the one who can be objective — who is first to figure out what’s going on — who through this begins to re-bond with her mom.  And it’s she who I found myself following.

Will she be able to keep her mom alive?  Will she survive?  There are loose ends aplenty — are those neighboring families’ children we see briefly at the end?  Is this ending up something like Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS?  But the focus by now is squarely on Casey and Mom, and. . . .

Well, the film’s not perfect, but for a different kind of night-after-Christmas horror — no demon Santas in this one — it makes for a delightfully creepy, subversive holiday package.

(While as for the piece on cats, press here.)

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