My mother used to reinforce this: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Therefore, I’ll try to keep this short.
In Children of a Darker Dawn, touted (in its own press release) as something of a cross between “Lord of the Flies” and 28 Days Later, a horrible plague has struck Ireland. A sickness that starts like a flu, and evolves into insanity, before taking your life. Its a sickness that strikes adults only, leaving a population of children to fend for themselves.
COADD is a micro-budget, independent Irish horror film, and while I’m personally not sure how it measures up in Dublin, the DVD of this film comes packaged with a trailer where several unknown (to me) publications rate it as a 4-star achievement that “strikes like a punch to the gut”. While up and coming director Jason Figgis has some depth to the story he is telling, he also undermines himself with a script that makes you want to contract such a disease and kill yourself.
Young, newcomer actresses Catherine Wrigglesworth and Emily Forster dominate the screen for 70 minutes, reading from a book called “Railway Children” – which is what this film had been called to begin with. It’s a much better title, as it points to what the underlying metaphor is throughout the film. The kids spend a lot of time in abandoned homes, huddling under blankets, reading from this book – and it sort of exemplifies how they are trying to survive a desolated life, one chapter at a time. Im not familiar with the book, but if you are, you may want to add a star to the rating – I think that part of the story will shine through.
But, as I mentioned, the script is about as grating as a whining child’s voice. Every time a kid starts to speak, they’re interrupted by another kid who tells them to “Shut up,” or “Stop it,” – perhaps realistic in the world of grouped together pre-teens, but nothing you’ll want to sit thru for over an hour. 10 minutes in, you’ll sit with them in a hollowed out room, as you will 30 minutes later, and 70 minutes later, when you can add a gun for a climactic (sarcastic) resolution. Like hanging out in empty rooms listening to kids whine about their lives with barely a plot to seam the minutes together? I don’t. I can do that at home without a movie. In fact I watch films to get me as far away from that world as possible.
It’s bleak, its melancholy, and its overacted by the grown ups they show repeatedly slipping into insanity. Like a student assembly, I could barely keep my eyes open for the duration. The plot is so thin you almost don’t even know its there. And there is near nothing close to the realm of “horror satisfaction”, aside from an overwhelming feeling that everyone in this film is depressed. Unfortunately, all these elements don’t really translate into anything other than analyzations of the world they’re living in. If there was a message that was supposed to hit home, I’m still at a loss to what that is. To the young actors and actresses involved, do not despair. Almost nobody hits it out of the park their first time behind the camera. Hopefully this film will be the first in a long line of others to come in your careers, one that you will be able to look back on and smirk about. Humble beginnings.