A busload of children has disappeared from the quiet New England town of Ravensback, and Sheriff Billy Hart is on the case. A short while later, he manages to track down the kids, but unfortunately they seem to have been transformed into murderous zombies by a cloud of radioactive gas. How can he stop the killer tykes before they destroy the town?
Martin Shakar ... John Freemont
Gil Rogers ... Sheriff Billy Hart
Gale Garnett ... Cathy Freemont
Shannon Bolin ... Molly
Tracy Griswold ... Deputy Harry Timmons
Joy Glaccum ... Suzie MacKenzie
Jeptha Evans ... Paul MacKenzie
Clara Evans ... Jenny Freemont
Sarah Albright ... Ellen Chandler
Nathanael Albright ... Tommy Button
Julie Carrier ... Janet Shore
Michelle Le Mothe ... Dr. Joyce Gould
Edward Terry ... Hank
Peter Maloney ... Frank
Director: Max Kalmanowicz
Codecs: XVid / MP3
No, it's not a movie about a Marilyn Manson concert, but an instant campy horror classic called "The Children", a movie that contains a single wacky idea so absurd and outrageous that you are almost entertained for the entire length of the feature. Created for the drive-in/exploitation circuit, "The Children" remains engaging enough until somewhere near its conclusion, where the director seemingly loses the movie's feeble sense of logic and goes strictly for laughs.
Due to the non-efforts of a couple of plant workers, a cloud of yellow radioactive gas escapes from a nuclear power plant and floats across a roadway, engulfing a school bus with about six kids on it. The gas has somehow changed the children of the small town into evil zombies with black fingernails, and whoever is unfortunate enough to be touched by the children is in for a nasty surprise: their hands yield the ability to flash-fry their victims alive in about sixty seconds, leaving behind a corpse that looks like it's been on the barbecue for a few hours. Eventually, the solution is discovered: gunshots do not affect the zombie children, but if their hands are cut off, they're done for.
The sheriff of Ravensback, who would win all sorts of least-competent awards in the field of law enforcement, begins a half-hearted attempt to locate the kids, but unfortunately nobody connects the missing children with the fact that a trail of charred corpses is being left behind. In fact, most of the adults in this movie are incompetent at being anything, especially good parents. Along with the lamebrain sheriff, there is a young policeman who is messing around with somebody's jailbait daughter. Gale Garnett, who had a 60s-era pop radio hit with "We'll Sing In The Sunshine", stars here as one of the unsuspecting parents who becomes the default heroine of our story, but even she lapses into some unmotherly behavior by smoking a cigarette while she's pregnant (approximately eleven months pregnant by the look of it), apologizing to her unborn child as she puffs. Her husband is a mostly unsympathetic creep who yells at her when she's in moments of panic and refuses to give her vital information, such as "don't let the kids touch you or you'll get burned up real good." The sheriff deputizes two alcoholic rednecks when he needs a roadblock set up, interrupting their sale of poached game birds to the local general store operator, Molly. One of the children belongs to a lesbian couple made up of a bitchy "doctor" with a bad attitude and a freaked-out blind lady who is mostly stoned on painkillers all the time. Ditto for the "ultra-mod" couple who smoke grass by the pool, are into nude sunbathing, and don't really know or care where their darling daughter is. They're visited by a gay caricature of a guy who listens to disco music booming on his car stereo (and has a prehistoric cellular phone!).
In fact, the whole subtext of "The Children" could be read as a neo-conservative parable where non-traditional families are shown as gross caricatures who deserve to be fried to a crisp by their children. The problem with that theory is that everyone who isn't on the "liberal" side of the equation is portrayed as a yokel and a fool.
Whatever it is, it's bizarre and tasteless fun. Filmmakers could never get away with something like this in today's climate, especially since the entire concept of this film is that kids have been turned into monsters, and the only way to get rid of them is to hack them to pieces.
This is one of those movies that is like an idiot step-child--it's totally moronic but still strangely hard to dislike. When so many horror movies are so transparently and unimaginatively exploitative, it's refreshing to see a movie so ludicrous and completely off-the-wall that god only knows WHAT it's trying to exploit. Is it trying to prey on every parent's fear that their lovable moppets will turn into radioactive zombies? Is it trying to make an environmental statement about how nuclear waste will turn children's fingernails black and make them kill every adult they touch? Is it trying to impress the gorehounds with its incredible special effects (i.e. dry ice and black fingernail polish)? Someone ought to put this movie, "The Carrier" (1987), and "The Pit" (1982)all on a single DVD compilation and call it "WHAT THE HELL?!..." or something like that. I'd definitely buy it.
One of the all-time great godawful killer kid horror flicks that's a most sidesplitting slapdash crudbag anti-classic of its kind. Six unbearably adorable little brats in a school bus are turned into lethal shambling zombies with pasty faces, blank dead-eyed stares, and particularly maleficent black fingernails (!) after the bus passes through a foul, greenish radiation cloud caused by a leak at a nearby nuclear power plant. The terrible tykes proceed to literally hug to death their lazy, divorced, weed puffing, grossly negligent, thoughtless, narcissistic and decidedly less than model parents; their deadly toxic touch roasts human flesh within a matter of seconds! Concerned, earnest, but utterly feckless sheriff Gil Rogers (who gives a hilariously histrionic performance) futilely tries to round up the assorted boozy, dissolute, good-for-nothing deadbeat local yokel residents of the dreary town of Ravensback into a posse. So Rogers, assisted by token clean-cut dad Martin Shakar (John Travolta's priest brother in "Saturday Night Fever") and his similarly pure pregnant wife Gale Garnett (who had an unforgettable one hit wonder back in the 60's with the perky feel good pop classic "We'll Sing in the Sunshine"), has to fend off the murderous mutant moppets himself before the evil rug rats turn all the townspeople into smoking'n'steaming crispy slabs of overcooked Gainesburger meat!
This singularly screwy howler possesses all the right wrong stuff to qualify as a so-wretched-it's-weirdly-wondrous high camp hoot and a half: clueless, fumble-fingered direction by Max Kalmanowicz, a preposterously dumb plot, some welcome gratuitous nudity by Rita Montone (the skeevy streetwalker Joe Spinell savagely strangles in "Maniac") as a self-absorbed actress, choice cruddy dialogue (feisty shotgun-wielding old lady to the sheriff: "Anyone tries to come in here and I'll blow their a** to kingdom come!"), a blaring, droning, grating mondo redundant score by future "Friday the 13th" series composer Harry Manfredini, uproariously bungled kiddie attack scenes, pathetic acting, shoddy make-up f/x, surprisingly adept cinematography by Barry Adams (who later shot both "Friday the 13th" and "A Stranger Is Watching" for Sean S. Cunningham), an incredibly unscary and absurdly protracted siege situation, clumsily sincere stabs at social commentary (dig those poignant points about about the reckless disregard for the proper maintenance of nuclear power plants and the sad disintegration of the modern-day family unit), a riotously lame surprise shock ending (WARNING: Major *SPOILER* ahead - Garnett gives birth to a baby with -- gasp! -- deadly black fingernails!), and, perhaps the film's funniest messed-up flourish, an almost painfully risible variation on the moldy old "ya gotta shoot 'em in the head to make 'em dead" zombie potboiler shtick: the only way to successfully snuff the children is to cut off their hands! A topflight tasteless turkey that's best savored by hardcore fans of delectably dreadful celluloid swill.
* On opening weekend of this movie, a drive-in in Tucson, Arizona had a 6-mile backup.
* The noise made when the possessed children are killed is created from the sound of cats in heat.
* Shannon Bolin's last film.
* Writer/producer Carlton J. Albright's kids, Sarah Albright and Nathanael Albright, are cast in this movie as Ellen and Tommy, respectively.