THE CHILDREN (1980) Reviews and overview

 

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‘… Pray you never meet them!’

The Children is a 1980 American horror film about a nuclear plant leak that turns a bus-load of children into murderous atomic zombies. Also known as The Children of Ravensback

Co-produced and directed by Max Kalmanowicz from a screenplay by co-producer Carlton J. Albright (Luther the Geek) and Edward Terry. Harry Manfredini provided the score, which he subsequently tweaked for his seminal Friday the 13th soundtrack.

The Albright Films movie production stars Martin Shakar (Blood Bath; The Dark Secret of Harvest Home), Gil Rogers (Luther the Geek) and Gale Garnett (Mad Monster Party?; Friday’s Curse [TV episode]), Shannon Bolin and Tracy Griswold.

Plot:

Jim and Slim, a couple of workers at a nuclear plant in the fictional New England town of Ravensback, decide to call it a day and head for a bar. Unfortunately, a large buildup of pressure leaks from one of the pipes, forming a yellow toxic cloud that drifts across the ground.

Meanwhile, a school bus is taking children home. Suddenly the bus passes through the toxic cloud…

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Reviews [click links to read more]:

The Children pretty much mixes up what went down in Village of the Damned with a dash of Night of the Living Dead‘s killer zombie child, but this low-budget offering at least offers up an amusing twist to the standard formula.” The Bloody Pit of Horror

“The disgusting idea that adults must go out with machetes and cut off the kids’ hands gives this a perverse twist. Producer Max Kalmanowicz directs it like a monster flick of the ’50s.” John Stanley, Creature Features

“Wisely, our filmmakers realized that such an audacious idea deserved not seriousness but camp. The first 20 minutes seem serious, but it gets funnier as it goes, especially in the final third when it purposefully copies Psycho and Jaws in the score.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

Buy: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Amazon.ca

“After the first couple of meltdown hug effects, the rest of the killings take place off-camera. The kids themselves are often awkward on-screen, some unable to resist the urge to stare straight at the camera. And crucially, they’re just not all that scary – black fingernails, pasty faces and a stiff-legged gait are all they’ve got really…” The EOFFTV Review

” …quite frankly, it looks like it was being made up while it was written. Oh, it has its moments before it’s all over, but I didn’t find it anywhere near as scary as it wanted to be. And the protracted final twist after the rest of the movie is over both obvious and tiresome.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“A cheap but fun take on the killer kids genre, with the producer’s children cast as some of the zombie kids.” Brian Albright, Regional Horror Films, 1958 – 1990

Buy: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.ca

“So if 8-year-old kids with cheap 99-cent Halloween makeup and black fingernails are your thing, then check out The Children and maybe it will give you a creep or two. If you’re more about the modern times though, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the 2008 UK non-remake of the same name.” Dirty Horror

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“Like Crash! or some other low budget horror movies, it’s essentially a moebius strip film, where the same two scenes more or less repeat in succession for the bulk of the running time.” Horror Movie a Day

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“Inane direction, a cast of misfits (that look like they never could have come from the same “small town”), and cheap production values do this one in. Harry Manfredini’s creepy pre-Friday the 13th (1980) score is somewhat effective, but repeated scenes of children mutilating parents (and vice-versa) that once seemed scary now come across as lame, repellent shocks.” The Terror Trap

Choice dialogue:

Sanford Butler-Jones: “Apparently you’re new here… I’m Sanford Butler-Jones!”

Sheriff: “I’ve never seen anything like it. They were burnt. But mutilated. It, it, was horrible!”

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Cast and characters:

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 La Mothe … Doctor Joyce Gould (as Michelle LeMothe)
Edward Terry … Hank
Peter Maloney … Frank
Jessie Abrams … Clarkie Freemont

Filming locations:

Aston Magna House, Great Barrington, Massachusetts (The Shore family home)

Muddy Brook Cemetery, Stony Brook Road, Great Barrington, Massachusetts (cemetery where the bus is found)
Olde Egremont Country Store, 223 Egremont Plain Road, Egremont, Massachusetts (Country store seen in the film)
53 W Main St, Canaan, Connecticut (The Collin’s Diner – Sheriff Hart agrees to pick up waitress – scene cut from the original film but restored in the 2019 re-release)
Maple Ave & Water Farm Rd, Sheffield, Massachusetts (bus passes intersection early in film and roadblock is set up later)

Technical details:

93 minutes
Audio: Dolby
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1

Release:

The film was given a limited release theatrically in the United States by World Northal in 1980. It was subsequently released in the USA on VHS by Vestron Video. The film was released on DVD in a 25th Anniversary edition by Troma Entertainment in 2005 and then posted free-to-view online in 2012.

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Buy DVD: Amazon.com

Trailer:

YouTube reviews: