A couple takes a weekend trip with longtime friends and their two children, but, they suspect something supernatural when the kids behave strangely.
In the new supernatural thriller, There’s Something Wrong with the Children, Margaret (Alisha Wainwright, Raising Dion) and Ben (Zach Gilford, The Purge: Anarchy) are enjoying a weekend cabin getaway with longtime friends Ellie (Amanda Crew, Silicon Valley) and Thomas (Carlos Santos, Gentefied) and their two children Lucy (Briella Guiza) and Spencer (David Mattle). The idyllic weekend is met with tension as each couple deals with personal issues in their respective relationships. However, that tension leads to madness when a visit to a large, strange structure in the woods results in bizarre behavior from the children and their eventual disappearance.
There’s Something Wrong With The Children is a tense, paranoia-filled thriller with simmering supernatural elements that hit just the right note. Writers T.J. Cimfel & Dave White (Intruders) have crafted a smart screenplay that doesn’t hit the audience over the head with horror but allows for character development and interaction to guide the film and the audience down the road to horror.
Character Development in There’s Something Wrong with the Children
Cimfel & White also wrote very believable characters dealing with very believable problems. A sizable portion of the film is dedicated to the couples’ relationship issues, which adds a layer of tension on top of the slowly presenting horror. I would have gladly watched an entire film dedicated to their relationship woes, as they are engaging enough to stand alone on their own.
A lot of the credit for the film should also be given to the cast, who all deliver solid performances. It’s clear that they approached the film as a drama, not a horror film, which lent itself to the believability of the characters. As good as the adult cast is, the performances of Guiza and Mattle are the lynchpin for the film. They are both effectively off-putting & downright creepy, and they aptly shift from very amiable characters to children whom you truly detest and distrust. This film could have gone south had the right child actors not been cast. Luckily, that wasn’t the case here.
A Horror Veteran at the Helm
The film was directed by Roxanne Benjamin, who is no stranger to the horror genre. She directed Body at Brighton Rock and produced the horror anthology films V/H/S, V/H/S/2, and Southbound. She also wrote and directed segments of the Southbound and XX horror anthologies. Here the horror elements are subdued for the most part, but Benjamin still handles them skillfully.
There’s Something Wrong with the Children does a lot with its limited locations. With only the two cabins, the strange structure (which is a real found location, incidentally), and the woods, the film could have felt very small and claustrophobic, but Benjamin and Director of Photography Yaron Levy managed to utilize the locations very well, creating some space and letting the film breathe.
While the film is incredibly effective, it’s not without its flaws. The focus of the protagonist shifts at one point, and while this is not completely egregious, it does lessen our connection with the characters a bit. Additionally, the setup of the supernatural element devolves into a relatively slasher-esqe climax, and while it’s executed well, it stands out as a bit clichéd.
The film was produced as part of an eight-movie deal between Blumhouse and EPIX (soon to be called MGM+). If this is an indication of what we can expect out of that deal, I think MGM+ will be off to a good start. There’s Something Wrong with the Children is a well-acted and well-executed thriller with the right mix of supernatural and suspense.
There’s Something Wrong with the Children is available on VOD and digital on January 17th and will stream on MGM+ on March 17th.