Directed by Roxanne Benjamin and written by T. J. Cimfel and David White, There’s Something Wrong with the Children combines thriller elements with drama and horror.
Creating a tension heavy and realistic first half, the movie slowly begins to unravel as it goes on. Leading to a frustrating, nonsensical, and unsatisfying latter half. An overall disappointing movie because of the poor direction it goes in.
Margaret (Alisha Wainwright), Ben (Zach Gilford), Ellie (Amanda Crew), and Thomas (Carlos Santos) are couples who have decided to spend the weekend at a cabin in the woods. Alongside Ellie and Thomas’ children, Lucy (Briella Guiza) and Spencer (David Mattle).
It’s a relaxed experience, even if there appears to be tension between Ellie and Thomas, and a lot of activities are planned. One such activity is a hike through the woods that sees the group discover an old, abandoned structure that resembles a fort. Ben, excited by the find, encourages the others to come inside and explore it, which they do.
There’s not much to see but a staircase that leads to a hole in a wall gets everyone’s attention. Especially the kids who are fascinated by the deep pit that exists on the other side. In fact, it seems to have hypnotic qualities and Spencer, in particular, has to be dragged away.
Returning to the cabin, everyone sets about relaxing for the night, but having found out what Ellie and Thomas’ issues are, Margaret decides to babysit the kids so they can have a night alone. Something Ben is more than happy to agree too as they’re well behaved and nice, even if their insistence that they be allowed to go back to the pit bothers him.
Then they disappear… causing Margaret and Ben to frantically search for them. Panicking, Ben goes back to the pit and can only watch in horror as the kids jump in. Shell-shocked, he staggers back to the cabin, wondering how to tell Margaret, Ellie, and Ben. When he sees both Lucy and Spencer there, totally fine.
Did he hallucinate? After all, he is on medication for his own mental health issues, and why do the kids seem so different?
All of this, and what initially follows, is what makes There’s Something Wrong with the Children such an enjoyable watch. While the ‘cabin in the woods’ and ‘creepy children’ setup isn’t that much of a draw, it does a lot with it to make for a more appealing experience. The characters are solid, the acting is stellar, the drama in the couples, the tension from Ben not understanding what happened, and the reality that no-one would believe him, is excellent.
All of this, surrounded by the mystery of what happened to the kids, what does the pit do, and what does the green glow that emanates from it mean, seemed like an unmissable setup.
Unfortunately, There’s Something Wrong with the Children fumbles the ball. Mainly by not actually answering any of the questions you have but adding in even more confusing elements that make the whole thing feel quite silly. This is not a ‘leave it up to your imagination’ kind of movie, it needs to give answers and it gives none. Not only that, but it also descends in slasher-style territories with several ‘hide and stalk’ sequences in a row and makes a lot of characters look extremely stupid.
There are many moments within the final half that will have viewers throwing their hands up in exasperation. From the off-screen death that has a character come back to life right at the end, only to (maybe) die again. To the ham-fisted ‘we can be a family’ angle. To the forest ranger that arrives alone having received a report of a murder and doesn’t seem to react to the woman covered in blood. Nonsense and idiocy to the point where you’re taken out of the movie completely. All resulting in an ending that is ambiguous and unsatisfying. It’s been a while since we’ve seen movie fall off a cliff in quite the way There’s Something Wrong with the Children does.
There's Something Wrong with the Children (2023)
The Final Score - 5/10