Children of the Night (2023) Review
Children of the Night is a first for Charlie Steeds’ company Dark Temple Motion Pictures. Where their previous films such as Freeze and The Barge People have all been Steeds’ own productions, this time they served as producers for the debut feature from writer/director William Stead. Regular readers know I’m a fan of Steed’s films, so of course I was curious to see if his talents extended to producing other filmmakers’ work.
During World War II a German attack on an English position leaves two survivors, Jim (Harry Giubileo, Last Train to Christmas, This Is Christmas) and Robert (Jay O’Connell, Vampire Virus, The Haunting of the Tower of London) wandering the French countryside trying to reach Normandy.
Sheltering overnight in a church they narrowly escape detection by a group of German soldiers one of whom was attacked by a yellow eyed creature he claims was a nosferatu. The next morning they meet Louis (Ivan du Pontavice, Rupture, L’interdit) who brings them back to the farmhouse he shares with his father Francois (Johnny Vivash, Book of Monsters, The Time Surgeon).
Stead packs a lot into Children of the Night’s first half hour although at times it’s a rocky start due to the film’s low budget. Not showing the attack on the trench would have raised complaints from viewers, but the thirty seconds of CGI planes and tanks are so awful that they probably should have been left out anyway. Similarly, the external shots never convinced me they were of anything but the present-day Normandy countryside.
He’s more successful with shots that take place under the cover of darkness, such as the discovery of a partially eaten body. Or with interiors, like the scene of a German soldier finding the two Englishmen hiding in the barn. As with many low budget period pieces, the less Children of the Night has to show, the more convincing it is.
The second act switches gears and focuses on the attraction between Louis and Jim as well as the hostility of Francois towards the intrusion on his home. It’s obvious that everything is not as it seems and that everyone has something they’re keeping hidden. Of course, we know the biggest secret, that the Nazis aren’t the worst things in the area, vampires are prowling the countryside as well.
When we finally get to see the creatures they actually look more like human/bat hybrids than the Nosferatu Max Schreck and Klaus Kinski played. The creatures are well designed, but work better when they’re kept in the shadows and we can’t see just how rubbery their masks are. Whoever made them should have consulted with the mask makers from Alien Planet, but it’s still better than CGI.
Children of the Night is a decent small scale film that mixes several ideas and genres with a good bit of success. The problems usually arise when the budget comes up against the realities of staging battle scenes. A little extra cash for better CGI at the start and a few more Germans at the end would have made a noticeable difference in the finished product.
While it obviously has its issues, for a first feature Children of the Night delivers more than many other films I’ve seen lately. It’s a promising debut for Stead who will hopefully have a bigger budget for his next film. Between that and whatever he learns from the two films he’s editing for Steeds, it will be interesting to see what he’s capable of.
Children of the Night is currently available on Tubi where the service is available. You can check Dark Temple’s Facebook page for announcements of availability elsewhere. And if you’re looking for more films like this one, FilmTagger can offer you some suggestions.