There's Something Wrong With the Children (2023) poster

There’s Something Wrong With the Children (2023)


USA. 2023.


Director – Roxanne Benjamin, Screenplay – T.J. Cimfel & Dave White, Producers – Paige Pemberton & Paul B. Uddo, Photography – Yaron Levy, Music – The Gifted, Visual Effects – Soapbox Films, LLC, Special Effects Supervisor – Mik Kastner, Makeup Effects – Carlos Savant, Production Design – Owl Martin Dwyer. Production Company – Blumhouse.


Alisha Wainwright (Margaret Winslow), Zach Gilford (Ben Winslow), Amanda Crew (Ellie Huerta), Carlos Santos (Thomas Huerta), Briella Guiza (Lucy Huerta), David Mattle (Spencer Huerta), Ramona Tyler (Park Ranger)


Two married couples, Ben and Margaret Winslow and Thomas and Ellie Huerta, along with the two Huerta children Lucy and Spencer, have gone away for a vacation together. While on a hike, they discover an old fort nearby. The children are drawn towards a pit inside and have to be pulled back. Ben and Margaret agree to look after the children overnight so that Thomas and Ellie can have some personal time together. In the morning, Ben is startled to find the children are not in their rooms and races back to the fort to find their bodies at the bottom of the pit. He returns and is baffled to find the children alive and running around. In trying to work out what happened, he finds that the children have somehow changed and become malicious and taunting in their games. However, the children deny everything and this is dismissed by the others as Ben’s mental health issues. In trying to have the truth told, he fights with the children but Spencer ends up being killed. Thought to be a murderer, Ben is forced to flee. As he tries to protest his innocence, Margaret finds the children turning on the other adults.

There’s Something Wrong With the Children was the second full-length film for Roxanne Benjamin. Starting out in the industry as an art department assistant on tv’s House M.D. (2004-12), Benjamin became a producer with the horror anthology V/H/S (2012) and its first two sequels. In between these and producing The Devil’s Candy (2015), she made her appearance as a director on the Siren segment of the anthology Southbound (2015), while also producing the film. She next went on to direct the Don’t Fall episode of the all-women anthology XX (2017), followed by the full-length non-genre comedy Body at Brighton Rock (2019). In between, she has steadily worked as director on tv shows like Creepshow (2019- ) and Nancy Drew (2019-23), among others. The film is produced by Blumhouse (see below).

The evil or psychopathic child story has had a long history on film going back to The Bad Seed (1956). We have had numerous efforts over the years with the likes of Devil Times Five (1974), Night Hair Child (1975), The Godsend (1980), Bloody Birthday (1981), Mikey (1992), The Good Son (1993), Daddy’s Girl (1996), Joshua (2007), Case 39 (2009), We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011), The Boy (2015) and Better Watch Out (2016). (For more detail see Films About Evil Children). The closest this resembles is the British-made The Children (2008) and the Spanish Who Can Kill a Child? (1976), both of which had children en masse inexplicably turn on adults with malevolent intent.

Roxanne Benjamin is attentive to her characters. Zach Gilford is the most likeable presence in the film. Usually in a horror film – see examples like Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973), Scared Stiff (1987), Fertile Ground (2011) – the wife is someone who has a history of mental illness and is dismissed as imagining things when she starts trying to report strange happenings. Benjamin upends the gender roles and here has it be the husband Zach Gilford who has a mental health history and is disbelieved as steadily more sinister things start occurring around him.

Briella Guiza and Zach Gilford in There's Something Wrong With the Children (2023)
Zach Gilford (r) with a sinisterly changed Briella Guiza (l)

The film gains a good deal of effect from the sinister performances of the two children – placing pills in Carlos Santos’s drink, taunting Zach Gilford with letting him know what happened – and then abruptly switching back to appear as sweetly innocent children again when the other adults come. This is none the more effective than the scene where Zach Gilford is struggling with the children and then ends up abruptly killing David Mattle – only to be branded as a murderer as Briella Guia abruptly turns and points at him as the rest of the adults enter the room.

It is not exactly specified what happened to the children. There are odd glimpses and hints – they with glowing eyes in a couple of scenes; demonstrating a chirruping language; and most disconcertingly that they reflect shadows on the wall that look insectoid. By the end of the film, it becomes apparent that they are inhabited by some type of Body Snatchers, although Roxanne Benjamin leaves what unclear.

Jason Blum and his Blumhouse production company have produced a number of other genre films including:- Hamlet (2000), Paranormal Activity (2007) and sequels, Insidious (2010) and sequels, Tooth Fairy (2010), The Bay (2012), The Lords of Salem (2012), The River (tv series, 2012), Sinister (2012) and sequel, Dark Skies (2013), Oculus (2013), The Purge (2013) and sequels, the tv mini-series Ascension (2014), Creep (2014), Jessabelle (2014), Mercy (2014), Mockingbird (2014), Not Safe for Work (2014), Ouija (2014) and sequel, 13 Sins (2014), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), Unfriended/Cybernatural (2014), Area 51 (2015), The Boy Next Door (2015), Curve (2015), The Gallows (2015), The Gift (2015), Jem and the Holograms (2015), The Lazarus Effect (2015), Martyrs (2015), Visions (2015), The Visit (2015), The Darkness (2016), Hush (2016), Incarnate (2016), The Veil (2016), Viral (2016), Amityville: The Awakening (2017), Get Out (2017), Happy Death Day (2017), The Keeping Hours (2017), Split (2017), Stephanie (2017), Bloodline (2018), Cam (2018), Delirium (2018), Halloween (2018), Seven in Heaven (2018), Truth or Dare (2018), Upgrade (2018), Black Christmas (2019), Ma (2019), Prey (2019), Don’t Let Go (2019), Sweetheart (2019), Black Box (2020), The Craft: Legacy (2020), Evil Eye (2020), Fantasy Island (2020), Freaky (2020), The Hunt (2020), The Invisible Man (2020), Nocturne (2020), You Should Have Left (2020), Black As Night (2021), The Black Phone (2021), Dashcam (2021), Firestarter (2022) M3gan (2022), Mr Harrigan’s Phone (2022), Nanny (2022), Soft & Quiet (2022), Run Sweetheart Run (2022), Sick (2022), They/Them (2022), Torn Hearts (2022) and Unhuman (2022), The Exorcist (2023) and Five Nights at Freddy’s (2023).

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