Two teens, Cindy and Lucy (Ami Dolenz, Maya McLaughlin), accidentally wake a vampire who starts converting the residents of the backwoods town of Allburg. A love-struck Priest discovers his dead brother’s wife (Karen Black) and Cindy have become vampires and restrains them. He recruits his old friend, Mark (Peter DeLuise), to see what caused the vampirism.
Produced by the folks that publish Fangoria magazine, the largest horror fanzine, Children of the Night doesn’t speak well for their subject-matter expertise. For many years they have reported on what is effective in the genre, so when they made a film, I expected it to have some connection to horror. You know, something frightening. Or shocking. Or interesting. Anything other than drab. But perhaps they always intended to make a comedy, not a horror movie. Of course, then it should have been funny. I’ve heard the film called a satire, but I can’t think what it might be satirizing.
Children of the Night starts well, introducing an all-American small town in the Bible belt, and then corrupting the image with kids stealing porn, a drunk stumbling into the street to be struck by a hit-and-run preacher van, and a doctor trying to talk his way out of his malpractice case. Then, it switches to two teens swimming in a submerged crypt, symbolically washing the dust of Allburg off before they leave the area. It’s an improbable scene, but it looks good, and isn’t something I’ve seen a hundred times before. Unfortunately, things go downhill rapidly as we’re introduced to Mark, one of the many lit-teaching, ex-seminarians who inhabit bad horror. For reasons known only to the multiple writers, they treat us to an irrelevant scene of Mark arguing the value of reading with a Bible-thumping parent. Oh, the horror. Actually, Peter DeLuise’s acting (thumping things, grimacing, and yelling out each line) is pretty frightening. Thinking he isn’t overacting enough, he rushes over to Evan MacKenzie as Father Frank who has become a guru of overacting. No gesture is too broad. No shout is too loud. Father Frank feels pain, and MacKenzie isn’t afraid to bang into walls and slap his palm against anything that makes noise. Now that’s ACTING.
As a majority of the cast follow DeLuise’s and MacKenzie’s lead, the blame has to go to director Tony Randel. That’s strange as Randel demonstrated real talent with Hellbound: Hellraiser II, but here it looks like he gave up, leaving the actors on their own while he played with the camera, making interesting shots that had nothing to do with the scene.
The only one who comes out of this looking like they should ever get another job is Ami Dolenz, who pulls off a poignant speech about what she’s lost in becoming a vampire. Take her, a few effects, and the opening, and dump the rest, and maybe someone could make a good film from it.