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Children of the Night Reviews

The second of three 1992 video releases from Fangoria Films, CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT is a straightforward vampire thriller that proceeds with style and a refreshing lack of gimmickry. Though not especially revisionist, the movie does introduce a few new ideas to the bloodsucker lore, such as creatures that can live underwater. That's where the story's lead ghoul, Czakyr (David Sawyer), is lying dormant as the story opens--in the flooded crypt beneath a church in the small town of Allburg. And who should happen along but a pair of teenaged girls, Lucy Barrett (Ami Dolenz) and her visiting friend Cindy Thompson (Maya McLaughlin). Lucy's getting ready to leave town for college, and with Cindy is taking part in the local ritual of swimming the crypt, "to wash the dirt of this town off forever." In the process, Lucy loses her cross necklace during her swim, and the icon awakens Czakyr, who attacks Cindy as Lucy flees in terror. Shortly thereafter, Frank Aldin (Evan MacKenzie), a priest in a nearby town who's friendly with Cindy's mother Karen (Karen Black), reveals to his teacher friend Mark Gardener (Peter DeLuise) that Cindy has become a vampire and infected Karen as well; Frank has barricaded them into an upstairs room and feeds them blood-engorged leeches. Responding to his friend's plea to find out what's going on, Mark travels to Allburg just in time to save Lucy from her grandmother, who, like just about everyone else in town, has now been transformed by the evil Czakyr. Investigating at the local lodge, Mark and Lucy are captured by the locals and confronted by the towering, deformed Czakyr, but manage to escape. Picked up by town drunk Matty (Garrett Morris), who has commandeered a religious van, they flee to a deserted lumber mill. While the others are asleep, Lucy is visited by the vampirized Cindy, who has put her mother out of her misery and enlists Lucy's help in destroying Czakyr. Mark and Matty awaken, find Lucy gone, and rush to town to save her, dispatching numerous vampires along the way; down in the crypt, Czakyr kills Cindy but is overwhelmed by his former youthful followers, who rise from the water to attack him. He survives, though, and attacks Mark and Lucy in the church; just as he's about to put the fatal bite into Lucy, Matty drives the religious van through a wall, the huge crucifix on the front impaling Czakyr, destroying him and freeing the town from the vampire curse. Although there's little in CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT that is truly surprising, it moves confidently, with pacing that really picks up in the second half; once it gets cooking, the film's action doesn't stop. Despite the modest budget, director Tony Randel (HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II) and cinematographer Richard Michalak pack their contribution to the 1992 vampire film boom with moody atmosphere. As with his previous film, Randel goes less for quick jolts than for scenes that build a mounting sense of terror. The screenplay by Nicolas Falacci provides him ample opportunity, with the early "feeding" scene of Karen and Cindy providing one of the film's most chilling moments. Earnest performances all around help, and "Saturday Night Live" alumn Morris's comic relief is funny without overwhelming the seriousness of the situation. Although the makeup work by KNB EFX is efficiently gruesome, the movie doesn't become the gorefest that HELLBOUND was. Even so, there are a few elements here that are recognizable from Randel's earlier work, such as a scene of two creatures thrashing carnally inside a cocoon, and the Christopher Young-ish score by Daniel Licht (who worked with Young on the music for the HELLRAISER films). Unlike Kathryn Bigelow's brilliant NEAR DARK, CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT doesn't reinvent the subgenre it deals with, but nor does it try to; it's the kind of solid, scary, unpretentious low-budget horror film that's gotten scarce in this age of needless sequels and dumb comic terror. (Violence, profanity.)