Children, The (1980)


Children, The (1980) AKA Children of Ravensback, The
Cast: Martin Shakar, Gil Rogers, Gale Garnett
Director: Max Kalmanowicz
Nutshell: Deadly leak from Nuclear plant turns cherubic tots into Atomic-Zombies!

Listen to the menacing Audio Trailer below


This is a fairly obscure little shocker from 1980 that was totally forgotten in the wave of slasher and gore films that swept the market in the post-Halloween (1978) period. The Children has much more in common with the Zombie films that were spawned in the wake of George A Romero’s fantastic Night of the Living Dead a decade before Halloween started the stalker-slasher craze.

The Children is more in line with films such as The Incredible Melting Man with which it shares several similarities. First up, the cast of both The Children and Melting Man consist of b-movie fodder at best and the production values are also identical – very low budget indeed.

The whole look and feel of the film is that of stale 70’s cheesy horror just as The Incredible Melting Man was as were the ultra cheap Planet of the Apes sequels. This ghoulish slice of the macabre is about the most politically incorrect film ever conceived given that its plot involves young tots turning into crazed killer-zombies who go around embracing their loved ones to death – literally! In the outset we are shown a cheerful bunch of pre-teens riding their typical American school-bus, singing a merry song about having the best bus driver in the world! Typical chirpy kids on their way home after a humdrum day at school. All of a sudden their bus is engulfed in a cloud of yellow smoke caused by a leak at a nearby nuclear facility and when the vehicle is discovered by the small suburban towns Sheriff, he finds it deserted with no sign of any of the kids or of the driver.

Slowly it transpires that the deadly yellow gas has somehow mutated the cherubic little kids into blood-thirsting zombies who stop at nothing in their quest to turn the entire town into a giant heap of festering, radiation-melted bodies. One by one they return home to hugely relieved parents who don’t immediately notice their new Goth look including the black fingernails and discover to their horror that the embrace of their beloved child is an embrace of death. The only way to stop them it seems is to use a sword to hack off their hands which isn’t a messy job this time as these radiated child zombies don’t bleed.

It really is quite a sight to watch the sheriff and his friend hacking away at a bunch of young children, butchering them to a bloody pulp – not exactly what the kind of film the censors are hoping to feed the public and perhaps one that would have some difficulty obtaining a censors certificate if it were to slated for a re-release on video in the current political climate.

Never has there been a film that is so outrageously violent towards children with scenes of butchery being performed on five year old tots, even if they are supposedly murderous zombie kids. The film is mildly diverting though nothing more – it hardly succeeds in creating any tension and nor is it remotely terrifying. The make up effects are impressive on the radiation rotted corpses but not so hot on the children themselves who look totally healthy and robust underneath their powdery make up and the smeared blotches of mascara below the eyes.

The background music was startlingly similar to that of the Friday the 13th films – so similar that the two were virtually indistinguishable from one another in various sequences of the film. Then when the credits rolled, it came as no surprise that Harry Manfredini – the genius behind the amazingly derivative Friday the 13th (of Psycho) series was also responsible for this score. It only proves that he was and has remained a very one dimensional background music composer who has been fortunate to carve a career on the strength of the Friday films.

On the whole this isn’t a particularly inspired horror film – and if anything it will be remembered for its dubious and highly politically incorrect plot involving zombie children being butchered to death by sword-wielding adults! Was there some subliminal psychological message somewhere between the lines? – parents getting their own back against demanding, bratty, all consuming, selfish, expensive, leeching children? This film would have a hard time getting screened anywhere on TV in currently pristinely PC Europe (overtly anyway).