There's Something Wrong With the Children (2023) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

There's Something Wrong With the Children (2023) Review

Horrorific content by christina on June 14th, 2023 | Movie Review | Survival, Possession, Madness, Thriller, Killer Kid

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It's about children who accidentally got dropped into hell and emerge dark and twisted.

There's Something Wrong With the Children was directed by Roxanne Benjamin (Body at Brighton RockXX, and Southbound) and stars Zach Gilford (The Purge: Anarchy, Devil's Due, and The Last Winter), Alisha WainwrightAmanda Crew (Freaks, Tone-Deaf, and Isabelle), Carlos SantosBriella Guiza, and David Mattle.

There's Something Wrong With the Children Review

Less than a month into 2023, an early contender emerges for the most fitting movie title of the year. Whether you love or hate "There's Something Wrong with the Children," one thing is undeniable: those children are undeniably disturbed. ("A Sad Orgy Can Ruin Your Life" would have been just as accurate as a title.) This latest offering from Blumhouse, exploring the eerie realm of creepy kids, fits seamlessly into one of horror's most reliable subgenres. However, the infusion of genuinely compelling adult drama and a supernatural twist reminiscent of the Duffer Brothers' work sets it apart. Surprisingly, it is far more enjoyable than expected from a horror film released directly to streaming in January.

Like her directorial debut, "Body at Brighton Rock," Roxanne Benjamin's second feature evokes nostalgia for a time when horror movies were unabashedly entertaining. Although set in the present day and not intended as a nostalgic piece, it boasts stylistic elements that could have made it the highest-grossing horror flick of 1986. The synth-heavy score reminiscent of John Carpenter's works, the title card designed in the font reminiscent of Stephen King book covers, and an unapologetic willingness to indulge in zany fun without succumbing to the overused "self-awareness" that plagues many modern scary movies.

Margaret (Alisha Wainwright), Ben (Zach Gilford), Ellie (Amanda Crew), and Thomas (Carlos Santos) have been friends since college. However, adulthood has begun to drive a wedge between the two couples, pushing them in different directions. Ellie and Thomas have fully immersed themselves in the challenges of raising their children, Lucy (Brielle Guiza) and Spencer (David Mattle). In contrast, Margaret and Ben find contentment in a child-free, jet-setting lifestyle. While occasionally indulging in vacations with their friends' children provides a novelty, they have no desire to permanently be responsible for another human being.

Thus, everyone sees it as a win-win situation when the four friends (along with the two kids) decide to escape to the woods for a weekend getaway. The college buddies can reconnect, Margaret and Ben, can fulfill their annual "spending time with kids" quota, and everyone can enjoy some fresh air. However, when they arrive at their luxurious Airbnb cabins, something feels amiss. Ellie and Thomas display signs of tension, and their constant bickering makes the vacation almost unbearable.

Inevitably, their friends inquire about what happened, only to discover that a disastrous foursome occurred. In an attempt to spice up their sex life, Ellie and Thomas confess to a recent ill-fated experiment involving swinging with another couple. The fallout from that evening deepened the cracks in their marriage, and now they struggle to find the time to mend it. To address this, they propose a brilliant idea: Margaret and Ben can babysit the kids in their cabin for the night, allowing Ellie and Thomas some much-needed alone time.

Initially, the plan unfolds smoothly, but a minor snag arises when Ben wakes up to find the children mysteriously missing. Naturally, he discovers them in the one place they were strictly forbidden to go: an abandoned fort in the woods, housing a sinister cliff that may or may not serve as a portal to Hell. By the time Ben arrives, they have already jumped in, and he fails to stop their fatal plunge.

Understandably distraught, Ben and Michelle witness an astonishing turn of events. Just minutes after witnessing the children's seemingly inevitable demise, they find them alive and well back at the cabin. However, something has undeniably changed in these children, even.

Suppose Ben is the only one who notices. They acquire new skills and occasionally speak in tongues, and their favorite game becomes inflicting violence upon everyone in the group while conveniently pinning all the blame on Ben.

Trapped in the cabins with no means of escape, the movie transforms into a murder mystery as everyone attempts to uncover the source of the chaos caused by the children. Naturally, no one believes Ben when he insists that these adorable youngsters are plotting to ruin his life. His case isn't helped by the fact that he takes mood stabilizers for his manic depression. No one wants to trust a mentally unstable individual, leading to a bloody game of cat and mouse between four vulnerable adults and two immortal, superpowered children capable of faking their deaths at will.

While the premise may seem familiar, "There's Something Wrong with the Children" excels by meticulously executing the little details. T.J. Cimfel and David White's script operates like a finely crafted Swiss watch, setting up numerous twists without wasting a single line. Wisely, they leave the true nature of the mystical cliff in the woods ambiguous, allowing our imaginations to fill the void, akin to the mysterious briefcase in "Pulp Fiction." Whenever the plot momentarily slows, the stellar score by The Gifted delivers a powerful music cue, instantly reigniting the tension. Credit must also be given to the colorist, who deserves recognition for creating a captivating climax that unfolds in a series of sunset hues, enhancing the intensity of the creepy children's adventures.

Worth Watching?

It's regrettable that "There's Something Wrong with the Children" has been relegated to streaming, as it easily possesses the potential to become a smash hit in a different era. However, who knows? Perhaps it can grow into a cult classic, liberated from the pressures of a theatrical release. After all, if there's one lesson to be learned from this ill-fated camping trip, the responsibilities associated with adulthood may only sometimes live up to their promises.

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