Monday, June 14, 2010

The Not So Shining Children

I wasn’t a huge fan of The Children when I first saw the movie although I thought it was a pretty solid and original horror film in light of all the remakes and all sequels. However, after I saw it again and I found myself not liking it as much as I initially did and I also noticed that there are a lot of “Kubrickian” techniques that Shankland uses to make the audience scared or uneasy. I thought for a while what these elements were and why they didn’t work in The Children but worked in The Shining and I think I have found out why. Before I even get into why they didn’t work, or should I say why some of them didn’t work, I want to talk a little about what those elements were in the film.

In The Children, there are a couple of shots, accompanied by the score that were very reminiscent of The Shining. There were several shots of the children standing in one position as the camera slowly zooms in on them, while the score gets progressively tenser and tenser… but then it abruptly stops with no scares whatsoever. Much like in The Shining when the camera slowly gets closer and closer to Jack staring out of the window, loosing his mind, then cuts to a title card of ‘Tuesday’ with no jump-scare whatsoever. The technique was used several times within The Children to show that the kids are evil as opposed to going insane or possessed by evil spirits.

I also think that The Children is trying to create a sense of isolation as did The Shining and both stories take place during the winter time so the fact that everything is cold and barren plays into the way the film should feel. The Children had two different tones that I recognized: the cold and bitter tone of the outside and the stale worn out tone of the inside of the house.

The problem with using the technique of zooming in on somebody while the music intensifies is this movie is that it doesn’t fit with the rest of the film. The rest of the film is loud, abrupt and the action sequences are edited and shot quickly… so these slow tracking shots just seem weird and out of place. Whereas in The Shining, the whole movie is a slow-burn movie that progresses to a climax, much like the soundtrack and the way Jack descends into insanity. But, this technique doesn’t always fail; in fact it succeeds at the end of the film when we realize that Casey is infected. It’s the fact that the shots don’t fit well with the rest of the movie and to me; all they amounted to was more noise. Sometimes they even seemed as though they were visual non-sequiturs.

The tone and the ‘color’ of the film also didn’t quite fit with the rest of the film, if that makes any sense. Every color is so dry and stale, which is fine but because the rest of the movie is all over the place and so loud… it seems as though the tone doesn’t fit with how the movie is loudly progressing forward. I think it’s hard for me to explain this specific problem because it’s how I literally felt towards the film. Movies like The Shining or even The Thing are slow burn movies that have a very rich atmosphere to them because it starts up very slow and progresses to a huge climax.

The Children is not a bad film at all. Compared to most horror movies, it’s pretty original and it had its freaky moments but there are certain elements that fail at delivering a certain emotion because they don’t fit with other film elements. I’m not sure if The Shining was an inspiration to this film or not but it’s an element that I noticed right away. If The Shining wasn’t an inspiration or if the director wasn’t trying to homage Kubrick, then these shots and atmospheres would still seem weird in the rest of the movie.


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