The Children (2008 film)

The Children is a 2008 British horror thriller film set around the New Year holiday[1] directed by Tom Shankland, based on a story by Paul Andrew Williams and starring Eva Birthistle and Hannah Tointon.[2] The film premiered on December 5, 2008.

The Children
Children film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTom Shankland
Produced byAllan Niblo
James Richardson
Screenplay byTom Shankland
Story byPaul Andrew Williams
StarringEva Birthistle
Hannah Tointon
Stephen Campbell Moore
Music byStephen Hilton
CinematographyNanu Segal
Edited byTim Murrell
Screen West Midlands
BBC Films
Aramid Entertainment
Barnsnape Films
Distributed byVertigo Films (UK)
Icon Productions (Australia)
Ghost House Underground (US)
Release date
  • 5 December 2008 (2008-12-05) (UK)
Running time
85 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


Casey, a rebellious teenage girl, is travelling with her mother Elaine, her stepfather Jonah, and her two younger half-siblings, Miranda and Paulie, to spend the New Year holiday at the secluded home of Elaine's sister, Chloe. Chloe, her husband Robbie, and their two young children, Nicky and Leah, welcome their visitors. Shortly after arriving, Paulie steps near some bushes and begins vomiting, which the adults believe is due to travel sickness or just some random bug as is usual for kids to catch.

As the night progresses, Nicky and Leah also begin to show symptoms of an illness. Leah's vomit is shown magnified, where strange bacteria is proliferating exponentially. As everyone goes to bed, the family cat, Jinxie, goes missing. Casey, back at the woods, on the phone with a friend makes plans to escape later and attend a party, when she's startled by Jinxie snarling. However, she is not able to locate the cat, as snippets of the kids are seen playing in the bedroom, some of their play foreshadowing violence. By the next day, all of the children have become seemingly pale and infected. Casey has made contact with her friend who is to come pick her up at 2 p.m. The children and men are playing in the snow, and one of the children has Jinxie's collar in the play tent. At one point Jonah is discussing viruses with Robbie, and Miranda is whining because she feels poorly. Paulie shoves a sled downhill that hits Chloe, grazing her. Jonah is angry enough to spank Paulie. Robbie goes to smoke a blunt in the greenhouse, and Casey joins him, asking if she can have some. He sees her tattoo and asks about it. It is a fetus, the umbilical cord connected to her belly button, as represents "the abortion that got away" Casey herself. Chloe steps in and interrupts them. At dinner, Chloe mentions the tattoo and Elaine is upset. Miranda suddenly has a violent burst, scratching Chloe and ruining the food. While Jonah tries to comfort Miranda (his little "princess") upstairs, Robbie takes the rest of the children outside to play in the snow. As Robbie is sledding downhill, Nicky places a garden rake in the sled's path, which slices open Robbie's head on impact. The children scream, drawing the attention of Casey, Jonah, Elaine, and Chloe, as Robbie bleeds out in the snow. Elaine phones an ambulance, but Robbie quickly dies from his injuries.

Paulie attacks Jonah with a knife, slicing his arm, then runs off before luring Elaine to a climbing frame and breaking her leg. Casey rescues her and they seek refuge in the greenhouse which is attacked by the kids with rocks, the resulting glass shards raining down dangerously upon them. Paulie crawls inside and attempts to stab them but is fended off by Casey who convinces Elaine something is wrong with the kids. Meanwhile, Chloe finds Robbie's body has been dragged into the children's play tent where it has been mutilated, a baby doll shoved within his cut-open stomach; she is then attacked by Leah and is saved by Casey. Chloe panics, blaming Casey for what is happening before fleeing into the house while Casey returns to the greenhouse and saves Elaine who in turn saves Casey by shoving off an attacking Paulie, who falls backward onto a protruding shard of glass, killing him. Jonah finds Paulie dead and attempts to hide him from Chloe. The group enter the house where Chloe accuses Casey and Elaine of going insane when Casey says Elaine killed Paulie only in order to save her. Jonah and Chloe abandon them in anger and leave to find Chloe's missing kids. Casey starts barricading the house and Jonah and Chloe are separated in the woods, where Chloe is soon attacked by her kids and stabbed in the eye with a crayon, killing her. Casey finds Miranda beating the dead cat in the bedroom and attacks her; Jonah is tricked by Miranda into believing that Casey attacked them, so he slams Casey into a wall and hits her in the head with a toy, locking Casey in the bedroom before dragging Elaine back to the couch and telling her she deserved it, then going to another room calling for Miranda. Miranda removes the splint Casey had put on Elaine's broken leg, before running to Jonah. In the house, as Elaine attempts to drag herself upstairs to free Casey, Leah and Nicky seemingly enter through the pet door. Elaine is at the bedroom where Casey is locked in as the children come up the stairs, Nicky holding his mother's earring that he pulled free from her ear. Elaine is attacked by Leah and Nicky but is unable to hurt them due to them being just kids, so relents to them as they pounce upon her with a knife.

Casey, fearing for her mother, breaks a panel of the bedroom door and kills Nicky, saving Elaine while Leah flees into the woods. Casey and Elaine flee the house and down the road find Jonah dead by Chloe's crashed car, Miranda mysteriously absent. As Casey investigates Jonah's body, Miranda suddenly attacks her. Elaine rams her with the car, killing Miranda and saving Casey. As they compose themselves, they suddenly notice various infected kids, including Leah, emerge from the woods all around. As Elaine had just noticed Casey vomiting in the woods, she's unsure whether to let Casey back in the car. Ultimately, as the children encroach upon them, she's unable to leave Casey behind and they drive off. As Elaine panics, Casey's demeanor changes and starts staring into space like the infected children did and the film ends leaving the audience wondering if the now wry smiling Casey has become infected too.



The film was shot in Cookhill Priory, a former Cistercian nunnery, and in the nearby villages of Cookhill and Alcester in the English counties of Worcestershire and Warwickshire, respectively.[3]

Box officeEdit

The film opened at 10th place in the UK, grossing only £98,205 at 132 cinemas. In the weeks after its release, the film dropped to 13th place and then again to 22nd place.

Critical responseEdit

The film opened to generally positive reviews from UK critics. The Guardian writer Phelim O'Neill said, "the violence is skilfully enough executed to make you think you see much more than you actually do and the fundamentally disturbing and creepy aspects about such random and unpredictable child-centric mayhem are always present, no matter how ludicrously intense and darkly humorous things get".[4] Time Out gave the film four out of five stars and said "This taboo-shattering movie taps in to primal fears about the unknow-ability of children, its blood-stained virgin snow and insidious terror recalling cruel fairy tales and ‘demon child’ movies such as The Omen."[5]

In the United States reviewers were equally positive. Bloody Disgusting said "The Children has it all and is guaranteed to please even the hardest to satisfy horror fan."[6] IGN said of the film "The Children is a flawlessly mounted horror film that knows exactly how to scare its audience."[7]

On Rotten Tomatoes it has an approval rating of 76% based on reviews from 17 critics. The site's consensus praises it as "Unsettling and spine-chilling low-budget British horror, with effective and disturbing scares".[8]


Director Tom Shankland won the Special Mention Award at the Fantasia International Film Festival in 2009 for his professional approach to the children actors in the film.[9]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Tom Shankland Talks The Children". DreadCentral.
  3. ^ "The Children: Filming & Production". IMDb. Retrieved 1 May 2021.
  4. ^ O'Neill, Phelim (5 December 2008). "Film review: The Children". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 July 2008.     
  5. ^ Floyd, Nigel (2 December 2008). "The Children". Time Out. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  6. ^ Miska, Brad (6 October 2009). "The Children (The Day)". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  7. ^ Shaffer, R.L. (6 October 2009). "The Children DVD Review". IGN. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  8. ^ "The Children (2008)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  9. ^ "The Children: Awards". IMDb. Retrieved 1 May 2021.

External linksEdit