Two brothers (Tyj Felix-Honeyman and Zarton Felix-Honeyman) struggle to survive in Scott Belyea’s post-apocalyptic short film Children of the Dark. Scavenging what they can and constantly on the move, the two try to stay out of the predatory gaze of the humanoid monsters that roam and infect the land while simultaneously looking out for their missing mother. When the younger of the two wanders off one evening after something he thinks is his mother, the horrible reality of their plight comes alive.
It would be easy to dismissively describe this as just another zombie apocalypse film, except the film utilizes a few variations here and there to keep away from such a simple characterization. For one, the “zombies,” designated as c.h.u.d.s (cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers) in the end credits, have a mix of traits that make them more than just “zombie.” They seem to have the slow-shuffle down, and they feast on human flesh, but they also appear to be afraid of bright light and don’t have that blood-lust crazed demeanor about them.
Additionally, while the film’s scavenging scenes during the day reminded me of the more recent I Am Legend adaptation, what with the landscape and the absence of other people, the short doesn’t just ape familiar tropes from other films of a similar genre set. Instead, it focuses less on the stereotypical aspects of the tale and more on the routine actions of the brothers as they survive another day. In this instance, we may’ve just caught them on their worst day of all; then again, what day isn’t potentially the worst of all when you’re so close to death?
Children of the Dark is ominous in tone and it revels in its own apocalyptic grime, but there’s a subtle emotional power to it all that elevates it beyond easily dismissed cliché. It doesn’t overly explain itself, but you never feel lost or unaware of what the stakes are. Violence is matter-of-fact and presented without cheap scares or glorification; a strong effort all around.
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