I had a "killer kids" double feature at my house! It wasn't something I'd planned on actually, I had had "The Children" on my Netflix queue for quite awhile, and then I added Home Movie on there as soon as I saw the preview. Since my other entries are still on the "very long wait" list these two arrived at about the same day.
Home Movie centers around a series of clips recorded from a video camera a la Blair Witch, Cloverfield, Diary of the Dead, etc. Unlike those films though, the clips feel more "natural" as there's an actual valid reason for what you're seeing (ie, a dad obsessed with recording all the highlights of his family's life.) The film centers around a small family, mom, dad and two kids. The dad, a Lutheran Minister, who we find out was abused as a child, is constantly (and sometimes annoyingly) acting like a kid himself to try and recapture his lost youth. He wants everything to be "right" and his family to always smile and have fun while the camera's rolling.
His wife, a psychologist, by contrast, seems to treat everything as part of her job, even to the point where when her children exhibit increasingly anti-social (and later, even downright hostile) behavior, she keeps referring to their actions in terms of symptoms and various medical jargon.
Then there's the kids... twins, a boy and girl. It's evident from early on there's something slightly "off" about them (although how far this was when they movie starts is not clear.) The children are virtually silent throughout most of the film, only talking in front of their parents in an, odd, gibberish sounding code. Their quirks start out minor: even though they're about ten or so (and they each have their own cots), they still sleep in the same bed, during what starts out as friendly baseball game, the son tosses a rock at his father instead of ball, then they escalate to doing rather nasty things to animals...
As the film progress, we see titles indicating what holiday it is, the movie starts at Halloween and continues on to Easter. The wife wants to use psychology to try and treat the children while the father starts to believe there's something evil is in the house, and the kids need an exorcism.
While not exactly "jump out of your seat" scary, there are a lot of creepy moments in the movie, especially when the parents stumble onto one of the kids latest acts. A neat technique often used in the movie is someone will hold the camera, glance at something, turn away, and turn back a split second later only to find the kids have moved, for example, they'll be lying, apparently asleep in bed, and then, abruptly they're standing next to it. There are also a few points where the movie itself is suddenly manipulated: we see footage "rewind" itself with an accompanying video "squeal" sound, and then camera pulls back to reveal that someone else is watching on the TV the portion of the tape we just saw.
Like I said, to me, the "home footage" is more than just a gimmick in the movie, and I found myself immersed in the story. Unlike other films mentioned, with similar "documentary" style filming, I didn't find myself constantly thinking, "Okay, I think I would have put down the camera by now..."
The Children (2008)
No, this is NOT the 80s film that Andrew reviewed on this site, although it does share the same title. This is a European film from Ghost House Underground, a subdivision of Lionsgate films.
It's Christmas time and one family goes to visit a relatives house out in the woods to celebrate. We have two couples, each with two younger kids. Along for the trip is a reluctant teenager who, of course, would rather be elsewhere than at a family get together. Things seem okay at first, except one child is slightly car sick and throws up shortly after they stop...
As with Home Movie, things begin rather slowly with the children's odd behavior escalating. Starting with what could easily have been an innocent accident with a sled hitting someone causing coffee (hot chocolate?) to be spilled all over one of the dads, some tantrums, a few screaming freak outs by one of the girls, and so forth. Then after one of the adults die (again, in a way that seems accidental) things really get bad.
The teenager is the first to fully realize that the kids are seriously messed up, and tries to warn her mother and, later, everyone else. Although they do have a "no one believes her despite all that's going on" set up here, they do make this more believable than most films (after all, who would you believe went crazy and tried to kill someone: your own child, or your anti-social teenaged niece?)
When the film kicks into high gear, it's pretty suspenseful, especially the "attack" scene in which mom and daughter have barricaded themselves in the greenhouse on the yard, when suddenly rocks come flying into the window, and little brother, slipping in through hole in the wall, goes on the offensive.
What makes this scene work is that mom is injured and, still in disbelief about the situation, ends up more a hindrance than a help, even as her baby boy starts wielding a small knife at her.
The film does have some flaws: there are few plot oversights I have trouble buying. For example, with all the snow and ice on the ground, the police (with an ambulance) are unable to make it to the house (course, if I had a dead body on the lawn, I'd ask if they have freaking helicopter they could send...), there's also several "suspense" scenes where I thought the film over did the "POV shot that moves SLOWLY towards the object... another step... another step... another steeep....." technique. For all "follow the trail" scenes that could have used some editing, there's a couple that flash by too quickly. In one scene a child shoves an adult and disappears so quickly, I didn't know at first what had happened (thought the adult just slipped.) It was only after watching the special features that I realized, "Oh, wait, the kid pushed her! Oh, okay."
As sick as it might be the say this, I really enjoyed this film. I mean, it was pretty suspenseful, and I thought the children did a terrific job in their roles. That all being said, I'm not sure I can recommend this movie to anyone who's a parent. In addition to finding just the idea behind the plot disturbing, there are several graphic scenes that depict various people (including some of the kids) being killed.
But if this sounds like your thing, I recommend both of these films. (That sounds terrible, doesn't it?)