There’s Something Wrong with the Children (2023) Review!!

Synopsis – A family takes a weekend trip with longtime friends and their two young children, but, they suspect something supernatural when the kids behave strangely after disappearing into the woods overnight.

My Take – For a while now films centered around creepy kids having been a sub-genre in themselves. A simple conceit that got well established with flicks like Village of the Damned (1960), The Omen (1976), Children of the Corn (1984), Pet Sematary (1989), The Good Son (1993) among others, and then went on to over-saturate the market with so many familiar stories that they just stopped being scary or exciting anymore.

Though this latest Blumhouse production, right from its exciting trailer, promised to deliver a somewhat newer angle to explore the trope, unfortunately by the time it reaches the end of its 92 minute run time it finds itself jumbled up in tropes galore.

Sure, the film directed by Roxanne Benjamin (Southbound, Body at Brighton Rock) and written by T.J. Cimfel and Dave White (Intruders) has spine-chilling aspects and starts off with an intriguing concept that had the potential to make it one of the most interesting horror works in recent times, with some Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) inspiration thrown in, but despite being stylishly directed, with a perfectly off-putting electronic soundtrack, the film takes all of those elements and weaves them into a lame tale with an execution that fails the buildup.

The biggest issue that the film has is that the supposed creepy children are just not scary. They’re supposed to be unsettling yet they mostly just come across as silly. Mostly though, this is a film that has no tricks up its sleeves. There isn’t a single scene horror fans won’t see coming because it’s largely predictable even if it does have its occasional glimmers of potential sprinkled along the way.

The story follows Margaret (Alisha Wainwright) and Ben (Zach Gilford), who are enjoying a weekend cabin getaway with their longtime friends Ellie (Amanda Crew) and Thomas (Carlos Santos) and their two children, Lucy (Briella Guiza) and Spencer (David Mattle). Their idyllic weekend is met with tension as each couple have been dealing with personal issues in their respective relationships. And despite going through obvious marital problems, Ellie and Thomas insist on repeating how their children are the best thing that ever happened to them, while Margo and Ben chose to be childless, stating they are more focuses on their careers.

With the underlying issue being that Ben has suffered from mental health issues before. But they are at a good place by now, and due to the pressure of their friends and the fact they get along with both kids, they start to wonder if they should have some of their own. However, that tension soon turns into madness when the children start acting bizarre since their return from the prior day’s hike into an abandoned structure the group discovered deep in the woods, an otherwise unremarkable ruin containing what appears to be a bottomless pit, but with obvious supernatural ramifications.

The plot takes a while to get rolling and take us to the true essence of the story, slowly breaking the rhythm of the film half way through, with a promise to lead us into something that is much more interesting. That is, until it is not. Making the film an unfortunate misfire that suffers from a lack of any emotional investment and originality that ultimately leaves you feeling bored more often than scared. Despite being a horror film, the screenplay is more interested in marital communication and parental fears than devious little ones, which gives the film an unusual air of hostility.

Something that is more concerned with trying to present the themes it chooses to bring up without offering any valuable insight on the characters it pushes to the forefront. While director Roxanne Benjamin tries to inspire a fear factor in the picture, but formula eventually wins in the end, gradually limiting the dramatic potential of the film. She tries her best to add some visual flair from the director’s chair but it sadly isn’t enough to save it from absolute mundaneness. The themes of parenthood and the mental toll it has on people is handled poorly and lacks any real depth that can be applied to create a meaningful narrative.

The film attempts to play psychological games, with the film establishing confusion within Ben to a point where nothing that happens in the story can be trusted. And the tale grows darker as it goes, looking to put the dazed man in the middle of a waking nightmare with Lucy and Spencer, who seem to enjoy tormenting him, forcing him to react strangely, even violently, in front of his fellow adults. But the whole thing settles into survival mode for the last act, becoming like every other genre picture in the marketplace, greatly diminishing the film’s fear factor.

Performance wise, Zach Gilford, with his extreme likability, becomes the only character the viewer can attach themselves to. Alisha Wainwright is also a bright spot here, and gets slightly less annoying as the film goes on, but it’s too little too late. Amanda Crew and Carlos Santos make for one of the worst on-screen couple in existence. Briella Guiza and David Mattle have creepy energy to burn, but are wasted by the material. On the whole, ‘There’s Something Wrong with the Children’ is an underwhelming and derivative horror that wastes its complete set up and potential.

Directed – 

Starring – Zach Gilford, Amanda Crew, Alisha Wainwright

Rated – NR

Run Time – 92 minutes

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