Movies From the Black Lagoon: The Children

Movies From the Black Lagoon
The Children - 1980, Rated R

I first caught this flick in the summer of 1980 and it was quite an experience.
The movie in and of itself was an okay thriller but the best part about seeing it was the venue - a slice of Grindhouse heaven called Times Square. There one could plop down $2.75 and see all manner of flicks in one of a dozen theaters, which often featured three movies, a ton of coming attractions, and the most bizarre, and vocal, audiences on the planet. On this occasion I wound up giving my last five bucks to a homeless man in a nearby seat and then watched in amazement as he exchanged the money for drugs from a dealer prowling the aisles. I was tapped out after that but it didn't stop the man from asking for more money when the effects of the drug brought on a case of the munchies. By the time our exchange was over this film had begun and it would hold my attention for the next seventy minutes except for a brief moment when I jumped two feet into the air upon feeling a furry critter brush past my ankles. Turned out it wasn't a rat but instead an over-sized cat that had been brought into the theater (alongside several of its brethren) to live out the rest of its days on a strict diet of rats, popcorn, and whatever else it could nab from the theaters floor, which included an ample bounty of spilled gummy bears, juju candy, and assorted sticky patches whose origins I'd rather not explore.
The film opens with two inspectors at a nuclear plant knocking off for the day (at the halfway point of their inspection). Sure enough their departure is followed by a gas leak, which morphs into a brownish cloud. A school bus drives straight through it and is preceded by a parent, Cathy Freemont, who passes the bus on a one lane road all the while honking and waving to her daughter. Mom's a bit of a whackadoo when it comes to safety (a fact confirmed when she is observed smoking a butt and tossing a half hearted apology at her belly, which is swollen from being in the ninth month of her pregnancy).
Sheriff Billy arrives on the scene and is perplexed at the site of a school bus parked half off the road in front of the town cemetery. He observes that the vehicle is empty and wisely posts his deputy at a roadblock while searching the area for the children, who were last heard singing "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" before passing through the toxic cloud. The sheriff stops at the first student's house he comes upon and finds that the child's swinger/slacker parents are too busy smoking weed and prancing about their pool in European swim wear to be concerned about their child. After dumping their stash in the drink Billy approaches the town doctor, a woman who accompanies him back to the bus where a search turns up nothing. The sheriff splits but the doctor enters the cemetery where she finds one dead bus driver and several pre-adolescents who now sport black fingernails, vacant stares, and the ability to incinerate an adult by touching them. The doctor doesn't live long enough to warn anybody and it takes the sheriff a good 45 minutes to figure things out despite the added help of Cathy's husband John.
John isn't much of a bargain and insists on keeping the news from Cathy though he does take time to bark at her like a dog and order to make coffee despite her delicate condition. The kids eventually come home to roost and run amuck.
One talks itself into the bedroom of the Freemont's son who then learns the hard way that nuked out zombie kids take the game of "hide and seek" way to seriously. In fact their variation could be more aptly titled hide, seek, and kill. The tots appear impervious to bullets but it turns out that they are quite susceptible to expiring after their hands are cut off. That's right folks this one ends with two adults chasing children around their backyard while trying to hack their hands off with fire axes. Add to that one freaky birth scene and you have a very unhappy ending to a mostly mediocre horror fest.
Maybe this is best seen in a Grindhouse theater but you can still enjoy the experience if you purchase the "Grindhouse Experience" DVD set, which includes 20 films, which routinely played at Times Square theaters. It's a good sampler that includes horror flicks, kung-fu action fests, and even spaghetti westerns.
The transfers aren't the best but that only adds to the experience though they should have included sticky stuff on the discs to give you a real taste of the 42nd Street culture. At least they don't include the giant cats and hungry derelicts, which harassed yours truly.
Best Line: "Bullseye Billy, you just shot a dead dog."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@pennswoods.net.