There’s Something Wrong with the Children (2023) Review
There’s Something Wrong with the Children opens to the bombastically ominous strains of The Sisters of Mercy’s “More” playing over tinted footage of children running and a storm rolling in. After some brief, inconsequential dialogue the film’s title flashes on the screen in bright green letters. It’s a wonderfully retro note to start things off on.
Ben (Zach Gilford, The Purge: Anarchy, Midnight Mass) and Margaret (Alisha Wainwright, Shadowhunters, Death of a Telemarketer) are on vacation with their friends Ellie (Amanda Crew, Tone-Deaf, Final Destination 3), Thomas (Carlos Santos, Gentefied, Ghost Team One) and their kids Spencer (David Mattle, Life & Beth) and Lucy (Briella Guiza, The Terminal List, Ambulance).
A hike in the woods reveals the remains of a building not on the map, and exploring the building reveals a seemingly bottomless pit that the children insist has a light glowing in it. That should be their cue to pack the cars and go home, but they go back to their cabins and party instead. That leads to Margaret suggesting the kids stay there so their parents can have some badly needed alone time.
In the morning the kids have vanished. Sure he knows where they went Ben heads back to the building, arriving just in time for Lucy and Spencer to throw themselves into the pit. But when he gets back to the cabin, the kids come running up to greet him. But there’s something changed, something different about them.
Director Roxanne Benjamin (Southbound, Body at Brighton Rock) along with writers T.J. Cimfel and David White whose other collaborations include Intruders and a segment of V/H/S Viral, frontload There’s Something Wrong with the Children with the characters’ personal dramas, which include Ben being on psych meds.
While that’s a rather lazy bit of writing it provides a reason for the others, and the audience, to question what he claims to have seen as well as the changes he sees in the children. And that in turn brings out everyone else’s issues along with some poorly hidden tensions in an amusing scene full of verbal nastiness.
There’s Something Wrong with the Children is a Blumhouse film, so when that nastiness becomes physical it isn’t particularly gory. The cinematography by Yaron Levy, however gives the scenes we do get a bit of aded impact. As he did with Sick which I reviewed yesterday, he makes the most of the woodland setting. Here he also has a creepy old building to work with as well.
The score is by The Gifted, a composer/producer/songwriter duo comprised of Louis Castle and James Bairian who have contributed to everything from Bats: Human Harvest to the Scream reboot. It sounds great, especially the song they perform over the end credits. At times though it seems a bit too noticeable and prominent somewhat overshadowing the film’s slower moments.
On the downside, There’s Something Wrong with the Children leaves way to much unexplained. We never learn just where the pit leads to or what is in it. What was the praying mantis like thing whose shadow we see? Some of it made me think of Quatermass and the Pit aka Five Million Years to Earth but that’s pure speculation on my part. The film also ends very abruptly, a few seconds before it should have, robbing the climax of some of its punch. I get why they wouldn’t want to show it, but at least a sound effect would have been better than nothing.
Overall though, There’s Something Wrong with the Children is a solid addition to the creepy kid genre. It handles the character’s personal drama well and ramps up into an exciting, if flawed, final act. Between this, M3GAN and Sick, Blumhouse is off to a good start in 2023.
Paramount Home Entertainment will release There’s Something Wrong with the Children on VOD and Digital platforms on January 17th. It comes to MGM+ on March 17th.