The Children (1980)

The Children (1980) The Background:

I don’t care who you are or how many horror movies you’ve seen, there’s something undeniably creepy about demonic kids. Not the little monsters you see every week at the grocery store, or pretty much anywhere else in public. I’m talking about the ones who pass through a thick cloud of nuclear waste, turn into zombie-like creatures and wander around town looking for a hug…..a hug that fries the recipient like a hamster in a microwave.

Well, viewer beware, because that’s exactly what you have to look forward to in Max Kalmanowicz’s, The Children. If you’ve never seen this horror movie relic from the 1980’s, it’s got all the fun of the evil children movies that came before and since, without the deep plot points and character development. But go ahead and damn me to an eternity of radioactive hugs if this one isn’t an entertaining watch.

Re-released on DVD by Troma Entertainment in 2005, The Children seems to have somewhat of a cult following on the internet. And I can see why. This film is scored by Harry Manfredini, who did the music for Friday the 13th that same year (there are actually quite a few similarities between the two soundtracks). Gil Rogers also gives a stand-up performance as Sheriff Billy Hart, and at times his role holds the entire movie together.

The Breakdown:

The Children 1980

The Children 1980

When employee negligence leads to a major leak at a nuclear power plant in Ravensback, Massachusetts, no one seems to notice the thick cloud of toxic gas creeping into the small town. But when a school bus filled with all of the town’s children passes through the cloud, the bus driver and kids seem to all but disappear.

Sheriff Billy Hart (Gil Rogers) stumbles upon the abandoned bus and the haphazard search for those missing begins. The sheriff goes door to door finding nothing but parents who, for the most part, seem to not really give a damn that their kids aren’t home from school yet or that the bus was found with the engine still running and no passengers.

The search looks grim until, one by one, the children start showing up. Except something is wrong—in a big way. These pale-faced little monsters now have black fingernails and walk around like zombies looking for a hug from their parents (or whoever happens to find them and try to help). Which would be fine and dandy if their hugs didn’t burn you to death. I mean the melt-your-skin-right-off kind of burning. Not really worth the hug, in this writer’s opinion.

When the townsfolk of Ravensback realize that the once sweet and innocent children are now little killing machines, they band together and fight back. One of the more memorable scenes even has the sheriff sitting in an upstairs window with a shotgun picking off the kids one by one. Except for the fact that bullets don’t do jack.

The Conclusion:

The Children 1980 In addition to being a creepy little film, The Children is a movie with something to say. Behind all of the flesh-burning death scenes, I think there is a strong message: “Pay closer attention to how you treat the world that your kids have to grow up in.” At least that’s what I took away from it. Don’t be a bad ancestor.

For all of its flaws, this is a much better film than I expected it to be. If you can get past the cheesy acting, the dated special effects and a plot that never really explains itself, you can have a lot of fun with this one. And for all you seasoned horror veterans out there, let me say this: I’ve seen quite a few scary movies over the years and it takes a lot to impress me. But there are a few scenes in this film that are downright terrifying, even if only on an atmospheric level.

The 1980’s had a lot of great horror movies, and The Children is no exception. If you haven’t watched this movie yet — rent it, buy it, or borrow it (or watch it below). Whatever you have to do. But make sure to add this baby to your list…..and watch out for those radioactive hugs!

Watch The Children (1980) below:

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Written by: Joe Tallman