Creepy kid movies are a special kind of fun for me. It’s one of those sub-genres that is more fun to watch because, not having children, it is pretty unlikely to happen to me. Regardless, I was excited about There’s Something Wrong With The Children based on the title alone. Doubling, or maybe tripling down, it’s also set at a remote cabin just a quick hike away from a creepy fort built around a hole in the ground that appears to lead to an endless abyss. What more could I need?
Ben (Zach Gilford) and his wife Margaret (Alisah Wainwright) have joined their friends Ellie (Amanda Crew) and Thomas (Carlos Santos) along with their children for a getaway at a pair of remote cabins in the woods. Ben, an outdoor enthusiast, leads the group on a hike where they discover the ruins of a decrepit stone building surrounding a bottomless pit. Not quite a cave, not quite a well, this pit immediately enthralls the children who refer to it as “the place that shines”, and they have to be yanked away from it as they almost intentionally topple in.
Naturally they wander back at their first opportunity to sneak away, and while physically they appear to return, they are far more ominous than they were before.
On its face, There’s Something Wrong With The Children is a pretty straightforward changeling myth story. The kids get replaced or taken over by something menacing and start being jerks until they ultimately become little murderers. Done right, you can guarantee a good time with a story like this–and it is done right. But where this film really shines is where it plays into our deeper anxieties. All good horror is really an examination less of what literally scares us and more what existentially scares us. Ben and Margaret, the couple who don’t have children, are repeatedly given the “I didn’t know true love or have a purpose until I had kids” spiel that most childless adults have heard so many times. Of course, when the children run off during their watch, they are also told they are much too irresponsible to even watch them temporarily. On the other hand, Ellie and Thomas are giving us a peek at the anxiety of being parents: the constant worry, the exhaustion, and the ever persistent concerns of “what if my kid is a weirdo”? Or worse “what if my kid is a monster?”.
Coming in at a quick 92 minutes there’s not a lot of fat to trim. And while I appreciate brevity, there are some parts that could have used a bit more explanation. I’m not one of those viewers who needs to know everything, but I could have used just a bit more. There was also a bit of a tone issue. The opening music, by The Gifted who you may have heard in Ready or Not and Southbound, really set me up for a good old fashioned, fast paced heavy metal horror movie, but there was just no real rock and roll vibe in the actual film, and it was not exactly fast paced either.
What really works for me is the cast and the relationship building. Without devoting too much time to delving into everyone’s past, we learn quickly who each person is and how they all relate to each other. Small frictions are quickly built to be played upon later in a masterful way. The acting is great and everyone is well cast, including the young actors (Briella Guiza and David Mattle) which can often be difficult. They are equal parts adorable and sinister in a very unsettling way. Once the action kicks in, things get brutal both physically and emotionally. And there’s just enough blood to make up for the fact that it might actually make you feel something.
This is the second outing in the proposed 8 film partnership between Blumhouse and EPIX and, as it will ultimately land on the new streaming service MGM+ in March, I’m concerned that it won’t get as many eyes as it deserves. You can check it out on digital and On Demand on January 17th, 2023, and on MGM+ on March 17th, 2023.
The Kids Aren’t Alright in ‘There’s Something Wrong With The Children’