31 Days of Hell: Children of the Night

Andrew takes a look at the new vampire thriller from Artsploitation, Children of the Night.

"The Church of Scientology"
 "Children of the night...what music they make" declared Bram Stoker's Count Dracula at the sound of wolves howling at the moon.  Unfortunately in the latest Artsploitation release of the Argentinian vampire child thriller Children of the Night, music is not among the film's strengths.  Set in the idyllic orphanage deep within the woods of Lucile Hadzihalilovic's Innocence with the inhuman collective of Clive Barker's Nightbreed, Children of the Night is something of a poor man's Let the Right One In peppered with bouts of inspiration that are hindered by too many moments that drag the film down.  A loose extension of the Count Dracula myth, Children of the Night concerns a journalist who intends to write a story on skin disease but winds up getting more than she bargained for when she happens upon the film's secluded orphanage.  Much like Volker Schlondorff's The Tin Drum, it's a film that plays heavily on the idea of an aged mind in a child's body and the uncomfortable irony that ensues during sexual awakening.  We're seeing and hearing adults in spirit and mind standing in the shoes of youngsters and there's a particularly awkward moment where the visiting journalist is asked by one of the children if she will 'let him penetrate her'.  The surreal dynamic is where the film more or less works, until the film's writer-director Ivan Noel picks up the camera and, good God, also provides the film's completely tonally mismatched soundtrack!

Shot on high definition digital video at the unusual frame rate of 29 frames per second as opposed to the usual 24, Children of the Night occasionally looks very beautiful with the remote Argentinian countryside and other times the handheld cinematography looks downright inept.  Largely shot at night in soft focus, many scenes of action are so dimly lit you can't see anything, detracting from the staged bloodshed and mayhem ensuing.  For an ostensibly practical effects driven film, all the work is wasted by shooting it in such low light levels.  Not to mention the gross out gags aren't particularly original.  There are a few surprises near the end involving kids playing jump rope with intestines and soccer with a severed head but even that just feels like wannabe Eli Roth.  You know you're in serious trouble when you look to someone like Roth as a source of inspiration.  The closest thing to an original gross out gag in the film involves a human victim bound and chained with a garden hose valve surgically affixed to his belly button whenever the little kids feel like a swig.  Every now and again a halfway decent setup will present itself such as a crane shot lifting above the elder overseeing the orphanage as children encircle her and the close-ups of actors faces lit in amber light don't look bad.

"Wanna read a bedtime story?"
It's a shame the actors, particularly the children, believably give these characters their all only to have their efforts undermined by a filmmaker who doesn't display a lot of knowledge of the art of film production.  When it comes right down to it, Children of the Night mostly looks lousy.  Don't get me started on the film's soundtrack, which is among the most shockingly awful written for a film in recent memory.  If you thought writer-director Ivan Noel's cinematography left something to be desired, just wait until you hear his original electronic score!  In several scenes of intended dramatic tension, on comes the arcade game Dance Dance Revolution, I kid you not!  Everytime it appears on the soundtrack it whisks you right out of the film and makes you wonder whether or not Ivan Noel has ever watched a horror film in his life.  It's aggressively bad and effectively ruins entire scenes which might have worked just fine without any music at all.  More than anything else, Children of the Night neither thrills or chills with torpid pacing and not a single moment of unease or fear.  Not one!  The idea of Count Dracula's family tree lineage extending to his grandchildren is a novel one, if only someone with more talent than this embarrassing amateur could have had the chance to tackle it.


-Andrew Kotwicki

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