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Two Thrillers from Alliance

The Children (October 19/09)

Though it gets off to a relatively bumpy start, The Children ultimately establishes itself as a suspenseful, downright thrilling exercise in horror that benefits substantially from filmmaker Tom Shankland's endlessly inventive visual sensibilities. The movie follows two couples as they converge on a remote country house with their respective broods to celebrate the New Year; chaos ensues as the children fall victim to a mysterious virus that essentially transforms them into vicious (and surprisingly cunning) murderers, with the remainder of the proceedings detailing the surviving adults' attempts at escaping from the increasingly perilous situation alive. There's little doubt that the promising setup is initially threatened by the proliferation of characters, as the convoluted nature of their relationships with one another proves a hindrance to one's efforts at wholeheartedly embracing the picture. It does, however, become increasingly easy to overlook such concerns as the storyline unfolds and horrific things begin to occur, with the progressively suspenseful environment perpetuated by Shankland's atmospheric directorial choices - as the filmmaker does a superb of job of infusing the proceedings with a number of impressively sinister shots and interludes (ie a fantastic overhead shot of a snowy crime scene, several Shining-inspired visual allusions, etc). The suspense-filled buildup ultimately gives way to a thoroughly enthralling third act that's capped off with a note-perfect conclusion, thus cementing The Children's place as a creepy and flat-out indelible horror-movie effort.

out of

The Silence (January 14/10)

Made for Australian television, The Silence follows grizzled cop Richard Treloar (Richard Roxburgh) as he stumbles upon an unsolved crime dating back to the 1960s while working as a curator for a local police museum - with the bulk of the film subsequently detailing the various complications that ensue as Richard becomes increasingly consumed with solving the decades-old case. Director Cate Shortland - working from a script by Alice Addison and Mary Walsh - has infused The Silence with a jittery visual sensibility that admittedly proves effective at establishing (and sustaining) an atmosphere of authenticity, with Roxburgh's compelling central performance ensuring that the meandering nature of the storyline is essentially not quite as problematic as one might've feared. There reaches a point, however, at which Addison and Walsh's difficulties getting inside Richard's head become impossible to overlook, as it's subsequently almost impossible to work up any real enthusiasm for the character's ongoing efforts at solving the crime (ie why does he care so much). By the time the reveal of Richard's motives finally does arrive at the 75 minute mark, The Silence has irreversibly established itself as an egregiously slow-paced piece of work that works neither as a character study nor as a police procedural - which is a shame, certainly, given its plethora of positive attributes (ie Antony Partos' appropriately moody score, Emily Barclay's scene-stealing turn as Richard's sassy assistant, etc).

out of

About the DVDs: The Children and The Silence arrive on home video courtesy of Alliance Films, and although the latter comes up empty in terms of bonus features, the former comes armed with featurettes, deleted scenes, and more.
© David Nusair