Movies about creepy kids don’t often get to me. I find children creepy enough in real life, so making them evil in a movie is like putting a hat on a hat. That being said, THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE CHILDREN does a really good job with subverting the tropes of spooky-child-horror and paving a new path. If only it could have stuck the landing.
The film follows two couples; Margaret and Ben (Alisha Wainwright and Zach Gilford) are (mostly) content living childless lives, while Ellie and Thomas (Amanda Crew and Carlos Santos) seem to have a modern grasp on raising their two kids, Lucy and Spencer (Briella Guiza and David Mattle). The longtime friends have all vacationed together at an Airbnb in the woods, where they come across an old, creepy fort on a hike. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, their children seem to be possessed by some sort of evil, malicious entity.
The interesting thing about this film is that it comes from the perspective of the childless parents, who are skeptical about the whole parenting thing, to begin with. This angle totally works. The only thing creepier than having an evil child is someone else’s evil child. After an incredible first half of tension-building and weird things happening that lead to a really well-acted scene involving the two couples, the movie begins to descend downhill…rapidly.
It’s unfortunate. Performances here are truly great. Zach Gilford’s Ben is believable and a little tragic, taking the stereotype of a woman being told she’s crazy for thinking there’s danger afoot and successfully planting a man in the middle of that trope. Accolades are due for T.J. Cimfel and David White for their screenplay—the first half of it, at least.
Direction from Roxanne Benjamin (XX, CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA) is very good throughout. The film is beautiful to look at and well-paced. It’s just…a really bad final act. There’s a message here, and a very good message at that, that just somehow isn’t as satisfying as it should have been. The final shot is a very strong statement that I just wish had landed better. That’s too bad because it really had the makings of a one-of-a-kind experience. Instead, it leaves you feeling lackluster and a little grossed out.
THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE CHILDREN is available on VOD and will be streaming on the upcoming MGM Plus.