Friday, May 6, 2016


The Children Directed By Max Kalmanowicz, Starring Gale Garnett (1980).

Review By Dave Konsanke

Erok (aka Crank) here with another special guest writer Mr. Dave Kosanke from zines like Liquid Cheese, a super fun horror one and T.O.S.S. which brings you the finest in dirt on the vintage porn world! Here he waxes nostalgia-like about another USA show which I wasn't familiar with, I mean there were a shit ton of good ones. We're overexcited to have this contribution and we hope you appreciate it. Take it away Dave! Order copies of his fine magazine at this link

My teenage years in the early to mid ‘80s were largely spent in front of a television screen on Saturday nights. While others preferred to ‘drink, dope and smoke’ I was content watching cable T.V. all night long. I wasn’t frying my brain on drugs but on psychotronic emissions from the cathode ray tube!
The Saturday night ritual usually started at 5:05 p.m. central time zone when WTBS (Ted Turner’s baby) aired their weekly NWA championship wrestling show (which would later morph into WCW). When that ended promptly at 7:05 p.m. I’d flip the channel over to the USA Network. One of their key shows was Saturday Nightmares. They would air a horror film usually bookended by episodes of Ray Bradbury Theater or Alfred Hitchcock Presents (newer episodes, not the classic black and white). While I didn’t religiously follow Saturday Nightmares every week, one movie in particular made quite an impression…THE CHILDREN.

Gasp! Sat. Nightmares had no horror host behind the wheel.

My chief complaint with Saturday Nightmares (or any regular cable channel offering that wasn’t ‘premium’) was that the films were edited for ‘content.’ I recall a FRIDAY THE 13th marathon served up on the USA Network that was shorn of all of the nudity (although the violence was intact as far as I can remember). No boobs on the boobtube was a ‘no-no’ for this budding teenager! Anyhow I was fascinated with THE CHILDREN primarily because I hadn’t heard of it before. Or maybe it was because there wasn’t anything else on TV that night. Either way I was interested enough to stick it out for 2 hours (with commercials of course).

OMG, cover up those boobs I'm offended as a conservative Christian!

The small town of Ravensback has a problem. Due to a ‘pressure drop’ at their nuclear generating facility, mysterious gas seeps forth. A greenish cloud soon envelops a road whereupon a school bus innocently plows through. The children on board appear to be in the 8 to 10 year old range. They sing praises to the bus driver Fred. Now I don’t know about you, but when I growing up kids never liked the bus driver. However as we are about to learn, these aren’t ‘normal’ offspring.
Time passes and Sheriff Hart happens to notice the school bus parked on the side of the road. Strangely enough nobody is on board. Not only that but the kids belongings are still on the seats. The viewer can spy a 1979 issue of Newsweek boasting “Hollywood’s Scary Summer” on the cover as Ripley looks scared (from ALIEN of course). Anyhow the Sheriff starts combing the area, looking for those ‘darn kids.’ On his travels he ‘interrogates’ some interesting neighbors. For some reason a topless gal (lounging at the side of a swimming pool) is flanked by a muscle bound dude lifting weights?!? Later on this Guido/Disco/Pimp pulls into the town. Oddly enough, these characters make an instant impression but are soon forgotten. Hmmm.

Wait, these hugs are less fun than drugs!

Once the viewer spies these kids they appear somewhat normal…except for black fingernails (don’t worry this was in the pre-goth days). They approach concerned adults with outstretched arms. However their grasp should have a ‘caution flammable material’ sticker, because those hands are fiery death! The adults of Ravensback are soon crispy critters. The children’s aim is to apparently wipe out all of their parents and any other older folks that get in their way, including Molly, who runs the local store.
As time goes on the only two parents seemingly left alive are John & Cathy. Cathy is with child and their son is actually the only tot untainted in the area (he missed school). By the way I should mention that this kid knows where it’s at judging by the SUPERMAN, SPIDERMAN and THE MUPPETS posters on his walls!
At this point Ravensback is surrounded by darkness as night falls. The children close in on them in fashionable NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD mode. Much like Romero’s pesky zombies, these moppets bounce right back up after a bullet hit. Yes that’s right…Sheriff Hart pulls a Popeye moment (“I can only stands so much…I can’t stands no more!”) and performs the ‘shoot first’ law enforcement credo on little kids! Whole-Lee-Sheet! Yet those guns are no match for our terrible tykes. It takes a sword (well positioned on a wall) to do ‘em in. One kid has his hands lopped off, and whammo! Instant death!

EEK! Get away from me gratuitous mop-topped kid from every doomed sitcom!

Before you know it all hands are off and the broods bodies start to fill up the yards and houses. Just as morning breaks, Cathy has those pains every expecting mother knows oh-so-well. John helps out with the impromptu birth. Their baby looks healthy enough…but what about those dark colored fingernails?!?!?
At one moment in the film a news report suggests that other kids in the tristate area have also been infected. It’s another aspect of the script that isn’t answered. Are more children committing acts of murder? Who knows? In any event THE CHILDREN is played straight and exudes a morbid atmosphere. Granted a lot of credit for the ‘horror mood’ goes to composer Henry Manfredini who whips up some Psycho-esque strings that would serve him well on the original FRIDAY THE 13th (which kinda/sorta catapulted him to stardom).

UGHH, where's the nearest Hot Topic.

Watching this on the USA Network oh-so-long-ago was an unforgettable moment. I found that aforementioned ‘horror mood’ quite palpable. It’s a film that stays with you…long after you’ve changed the channel. USA had some pretty cool stuff on their regular programming during the ‘80s. Even though Saturday Nightmares didn’t have a host, at least the films they showed were a nice mix off oddball and popular. Yet the USA Network also had Commander USA’s Groovie Movies and later Rhonda Shear’s Up All Night! Both were on my radar. I would shove a blank VHS tape into the recorder and get bits of Rhonda in skimpy attire (which was basically every episode) or catch some cheesecake moment while flipping channels. These tapes would inevitably end with videos recorded off MTV’s Headbangers Ball which is how my Saturday nights would end. After that it was sleep before waking up a few hours later to deliver newspapers or make breakfast at McDonalds (my first paying jobs).

We want our own Brokeback Mountain style movie

But back to THE CHILDREN. Watching it now feels like an extended moment from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD where little Kyra Schon reaches out for her parents only to act out violently. Even her look isn’t that far removed from how the children look. As taboo trashing at it was (?) to kill kids on screen, that didn’t stop the film from playing on cable TV, much less find life on home video (it was eventually released on a 5 inch disc courtesy of Troma). It will for forever be one of my most treasured movie moments from that exalted network.


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