Friday, June 22, 2007

Children of the Night – review

Director: Tony Randel

Release Date: 1991

Contains spoilers

This is an odd film to say the least, it comes across like a sub-‘Salem’s Lot, and yet that is slightly unfair. It does involve a town overtaken by vampires and seems bare despite that, but unlike ‘Salem’s Lot which looked at the town as a whole this tends towards a very specific character(s) concentration. It has some really unusual lore but some of it makes less than full sense. It is also filled with logic problems, plot holes and inconsistencies… this is the thing that really makes it sub ‘Salem’s Lot. Despite all that it has a certain charm.

The film begins in the sleepy town of Allburg, USA. This is a small town, with small town people who have small town attitudes. New to town are some evangelist types who drive a lighted cross adorned van and preach by loudspeaker. During their journey through the town they manage to knock over town drunk Matty (Garrett Morris).

Elsewhere in town Karen (Karen Black) is visiting the town from nearby River Junction. She drops her daughter, Cindy (Maya McLaughlin), off with her friend Lucy (Ami Dolenz). Lucy lives with her grandmother (Shirley Spiegler Jacobs), who has a rather large collection of religious statues (I’ll get to that in a second). After Dinner Cindy and Lucy go for a bike ride. Their destination is an abandoned church with a flooded crypt.

It seems the kids have a tradition. If you are to leave Allburg you must swim the crypt. Fail to do so, you have failed to wash the dirt of the town off you and you will return. Lucy is going to college soon and thus the ritual. The kids also have a story that there was a killing in the town in the past.

As they swim we see corpses deep in the water and something seems odd. Some have something coming out of their mouths. Eventually it becomes clear that this is the trachea, and we do see lungs. The vampires in this have two forms of hibernation/daytime sleeping that I will get too soon. Lucy’s cross falls from her neck and Cindy swims to get it. The cross falls on a corpse, glows (in bad cgi) and the eyes open. Cindy is attacked.

Cutting to Sleepy Junction and Mark (Peter DeLuise) is tutoring a young girl. He is using Paradise Lost as a discussion point and the girl’s mother is less than impressed – it is not appropriate reading material for a Christian Girl. He is visited by his friend Frank (Evan MacKenzie) – a priest, who asks for help.

He takes him to Karen’s house where he pours out a confession that he is having an affair with Karen, his dead brother’s wife. His indiscretion, he believes, has cursed her. He is timing the setting of the sun and takes Mark to the bedroom, the door boarded, and shows him a peep hole. Inside Cindy is in a bath, her lungs out and Karen is in a cocoon. This is how the vampires sleep, either cocooning themselves or in water. In both situations they have their lungs out of their bodies breathing (though how they can breath under water or in cocoon fluid is not explained). This is also inconsistent with a comment later by Cindy, who complains that she tried a cigarette and it was pointless as her lungs no longer work!

The sun sets and they awaken. Frank pours leeches through a hatch in the door and Cindy eats them. Karen then feeds from her daughter. This seems to be a generic for the vampires in this, the vampires use vampire children as larders. Frank begs Mark to check on Lucy and her grandmother.

Of course, as the full story emerges, Lucy ran from the church only to find that Cindy was already at her home and that her Grandmother, Cindy and Karen had changed. Lucy managed to lock herself away and it is her, Mark and later Manny who oppose the vampires.

The film follows the exploits of the heroes in the town, as well as Frank’s temptation by Karen. The later story is the more interesting in some respects but culminates in Cindy staking her own mother and returning to town – and then helping the human’s defeat the master vampire, Czakyr (David Sawyer). Lucy is a prime target for the vampires as she is a virgin, and virgin blood is better. Seemingly they can smell it.

This is another inconsistency. When they are hid out, one can only assume that it is through the scent of virgin that Cindy finds them and yet only one other vampire detects them. There is mention of shape shifting, and we see Karen turn from demonic to seductive form. However there is no evidence of turning to animals and mist as mentioned and the chains Frank uses seem to hold Karen in place.

I was struck by how animalistic the vampires seemed to be, with the presence of Czakyr lending them more intelligence and yet Karen and Cindy seem to work at a much higher level anyway. There is a child who is not a vampire but the familiar of Czakyr. Despite his human status he is staked.

Other than that the vampires seem to be standard. They hide from the sun. Staking works fine and they run from holy objects. This does lead to the cross on the evangelists' van being used as a ram at the front of the vehicle but also another inconsistency. How could Grandma be got in her house of holy objects? How was it that the cross at the beginning seemed to only wake Czakyr rather than hurt him? How could Karen stand the prayers of Frank when Matty praying through a tannoy caused the vampires to run?

In fact religion is an issue through the film. I couldn’t work out whether it was pro or anti religion. The evangelists at the beginning are portrayed badly. Frank believes he cursed Karen by betraying his vows, and also with an earlier affair with her when his brother was alive, and yet the hero of the piece is a man who left seminary because of a woman. Virtue attracts the vampires (through the smell of virgin blood) and so if Lucy had decided to have sex she’d have been safer.

Getting to Czakyr, the story we here is that he travelled to Allburg, fleeing the eradication of his kind, and posed as a priest who interfered with children. That he then killed himself and the children and so the locals flooded the crypt where the bodies were. We later discover that he vampirised the children and kept them there as a larder whilst he hid beneath the water. Looks wise I saw a striking resemblance to Norwegian singer Mortiis!

The film is very grainy, probably a sign of age and the effects are somewhat average in places. That said there is a nice line in gore. The acting varies considerably. I did like the soundtrack, which had an Elfman vibe. However the ending was as inconsistent as other aspects of the film.

It’ll come as no surprise to think that good overcomes evil. However by killing the head vampire they free all the townsfolk. They have no memory of what happened and some wonder why they have wood stuck in their chests. Come on now, a stake will kill a human, if we accept them being turned back we can’t accept them surviving that.

As I said at the head, however, the film does have a certain charm that’s difficult to explain as it is there despite the problems. It doesn’t improve the rating, however. 3.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Anonymous said...

Hi...........this is good ok........

James said...

hmmm it was not that bad. What were the cities based on, Allburg and River Junction? Also where was it filmed? Was Allburg based on Alburgh Vt? And was River Junction based on White River Junction Vt? Because were going there on Summer Vacation so we could find the church where it was filmed...

James said...

What was the cities based on and where was it filmed? Did they get the names of Allburg and RIver Junction from Alburgh Vt and White RIver Junction? Were going to Alburgh Vt to search for that church on my vacation. Any suggestions for churches you guys know that have flooded crypts and we will look over there?

Taliesin_ttlg said...


It has a charm to it but it isn't a good film and I stand by the rating.

As to where it was filmed, honestly I have no idea.