The Children came out the same year as Friday the 13th, and used a lot of the same crew—but the difference in terms of production values and filmmaking competence is staggering. It’s no wonder that Troma Entertainment ended up with the rights for The Children, while Paramount bought Friday the 13th. The connection to Friday the 13th even goes deeper…. The Children uses the exact same score by Harry Manfredini as that much-loved slasher film, to save costs of course.
So is the film any good? It’s a perfectly survivable early ’80s zombie movie, that begins when all these kids get exposed to a toxic cloud of yellow smoke. They disappear, and the town is baffled about has happened to the kids when they find their school bus abandoned. However, as you may expect, they return as zombies who microwave anybody they touch alive!
The makeup effects provide the bare minimum of zombie-look, with a chunk of the small production budget obviously going onto black nail polish to mark the zombies out from regular folk.
It runs at 93 minutes of these kids terrorising the town. The gore isn’t bad for a film that obviously cost next to nothing. If you are a hardcore fan of early ’80s horror films you will undoubtable enjoy it, because it’s very silly, hardly something to take seriously. The scene where the cop throws a container full of pot into a swimming pool is hilarious, although the filmmakers admit they should’ve made it cocaine because it was the ’80s. One of the cast members was put on the film simply because he was the coke dealer to the other crew members…. that’s how the film industry works in a nutshell.
The most notable cast member is Martin Shakar, who plays a parent who teams up with Sheriff Hart (Gil Rogers) to fight the zombie kids. Shakar is most recognisable for his role as Frank Jr. in Saturday Night Fever, Tony’s (John Travolta) older priest brother who returns home to reveal he is quitting the priesthood, and encourages Tony to do something with his dancing. Everybody else are actors who you haven’t seen in anything.
Vinegar Syndrome has, as usual, pulled this from the toxic waste dump of decaying VHS tapes and given it a makeover. The transfer is 2K from a mixture of the original camera negative and the best surviving film prints when the negative wasn’t up to snuff, so the quality dips slightly at times. The film’s director, Max Kalmanowicz, supplies a new commentary track—he would only make one more feature before moving into mostly sound-mixing work. Most of the remaining extras come from the old Troma DVD release, including an audio commentary with producer/co-writer Carlton J. Albright and archival interviews. A lost featurette is included, plus another featurette comparing the locations then and now that seems new. I think the interview with Stan Richardson, who made a musical of The Children (which looks terrible) is also new and not on the Troma disc, but I could be wrong.