“There’s something wrong with the children” is not the kind of horror film that will keep you up at night. It experiments with the genre by adding social commentary on motherhood, parenting, and mental health. Directed by Roxanne Benjamin, the film hints at the childbirth discourse and layers it with horror elements. “There’s something wrong with the children” is not the first of its kind, but because of the themes it tries to explore, it is not a complete miss. The buildup was too quick to give me the creeps. The revelation was obvious and well-expected; therefore, there were not too many “jump-out-of-the-seat” moments. The film only becomes interesting when viewed through the social commentary lens, though the film limits itself and does not explore the themes to their full potential, leaving a taste of disappointment.
‘There’s Something Wrong With The Children’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
Two couples—Ben and Margaret, Ellie and Thomas—take a break from their usual city lives and decide to spend time together in the woods and live out of cabins. Ellie and Thomas brought their children, Spencer and Lucy, with them. From the get-go, the relationship between Ellie and Thomas seemed strained. He was distant and ignored Ellie, and she was bothered by his behavior. After a round of drinks, they called it a night and took their kids along with them to their cabin.
The six of them went on a hike that was planned by Ben. He was the adventurous one in the group and did not mind cutting down a few shrubs to find a trail path. After walking down the trail, they discovered the old ruins of a building. Ben guessed it could be an old, decommissioned military fort, a fur company, or even an abandoned mining camp. He was in his element, and he enjoyed every minute of studying the unexpected discovery. The building had a dark, nerve-chilling aura. What seemed strange was how a hole in the ground was surrounded by a wall, and there were stairs that led up to the spot. The giant hole grabbed everyone’s attention. Ben dropped a stone to estimate the depth of the hole. The hole was extremely deep, and the ambiance was getting too creepy. Ellie and Margaret decided to leave, but the kids stared at the hole in a state of trance. Spencer stated that it was “the place that shines” even though it was dark and deep. Lucy’s nose started to bleed, and they all walked away from the hole, except Spencer. While the adults were busy catering to Lucy’s bleeding, Spencer stepped ahead to jump into the hole. Ellie noticed Spencer, and Ben immediately rushed to grab hold of him. While they were able to save the children, there was something supernatural living in ruins, asking the children to submit themselves.
The children fell asleep soon after reaching the cabin while the adults indulged in some drinks and gossip. The eeriness of the old ruins was forgotten, and discussion of marital problems took precedence. Ellie disclosed to Margaret in secrecy that the distance between her and Thomas grew the moment they sexually indulged with another couple. While Thomas seemed interested in the other woman, he did not proceed to have intercourse like Ellie did. From that day on, she was made to feel as if she had cheated on him, and the guilt consumed her. Margaret proposed they spend a night together alone, without the children, to revive their chemistry. She was happy to look after Lucy and Spencer for her. A night off to focus on their marriage was just what Ellie needed, and she readily agreed.
While Thomas and Ellie went to their cabin to spend time together, Ben and Margaret were in charge of the children. Ben was a natural with the kids, making Margaret wonder if the decision to not have children was hers alone. Even though Ben supported her choice, it was not a decision he made. While Margaret wondered what their future as a couple must be, they ignored how obsessive Spencer was about going back to the “bright place.” He hissed back at Ben when he refused to take them to the fort. Why did the children want to go back to the old fort? What was the “bright place”?
Ending Explained: What Was In The “Bright Place”? What Happens To Lucy And Spencer In The End?
The next morning, when Margaret entered Lucy and Spencer’s room, she found their beds empty. The couple hysterically searched for the children, but they were nowhere to be found. Ben headed to the old fort, knowing how desperate Spencer and Lucy were to go to the bright place, while Margaret stayed back in case the kids returned. Upon reaching the fort, Ben found the children staring down at the hole. He requested that they come back, but they jumped instead. Ben was in shock; he saw the children die in front of his eyes, yet he could not do anything about it. Just as he was about to hopelessly share what he saw at the fort, Margaret informed him that the kids had returned. Apparently, they went to their parents’ cabin after waking up. Ben could not believe what he saw. He was confident that he saw the dead bodies of Lucy and Spencer at the bottom of the hole, but then how did they return?
Ben noticed how the kids were behaving strangely after the fort incident. They were more energetic than usual and displayed a lot more physical strength than before. Ben confronted them, asking whether or not they had been to the fort. They replied that they had been there, but he must not investigate any further. The kids spoke in a secret language, and there was something mysterious and demonic about their behavior. Ben went into his room, unable to accept what he was seeing. Margaret noticed Ben’s sudden shift in temperament and followed him inside the cabin. Ben confided in Margaret what he had seen in the old fort. He believed that the children were not who they used to be. It was logically impossible because he had seen them die. Margaret was horrified; she was worried about Ben’s mental health. He had suffered manic episodes before, and she wondered if he was going through something similar. No matter how hard Ben tried to make her believe it, she could not trust his memory. She believed he was agitated, and that resulted in a delusional state of mind. Ben realized that what he was saying was impossible for anyone to trust, even his partner.
Even after taking his mood stabilizer pills, the kids did not get any less strange. They were playing games with him to make him lose his mind. They wanted him to act crazy to make it impossible for anyone to trust him. After a troubling episode that resulted in him grabbing Spencer’s arm too tight and narrating what he believed was the truth, Ellie and Thomas started to maintain their distance from him. It came as a surprise to them when they learned that Ben and Margaret did not know where Lucy and Spencer had gone that morning. The heated argument eventually led to throwing mud at each other by bringing up their deep, dark secrets. The two couples were no longer the way they used to be; everything had changed between them. They lost the respect and affection they had for one another, and that was exactly what the kids wanted.
The children visited Ben and triggered him to snatch a shovel from Spencer, which led to what seemed to be his death. Lucy laughed as she watched her brother die, and Ben panicked. Margaret, Ellie, and Thomas concluded that it was Ben who had killed Spencer. He had been accusing the kids since morning, and they concluded that Ben’s mania led to his death. Ben was thrown out of the cabin, and the murder of Spencer was reported. As they waited for the police, Ben tried one last time to convince Margaret of his innocence. He took her to the old ruins, but there were no bodies like he had claimed. While Margaret hoped they could spend one last moment together before he was taken away, Ben was too shaken by the news to leave the fort.
While she was returning to the cabin, Lucy asked her to come along with her. She wanted him to show her something in the woods. Margaret found her request strange, especially given how unaffected she was by her brother’s death. Thomas intervened in their conversation, and Margaret went inside the cabin to find Ellie. Thomas followed Lucy to the woods; meanwhile, we get to know that Spencer was only pretending to be dead and had taken his mother away when Margaret entered the cabin. She searched the cabin, but there was no sign of Ellie and Spencer. She called Thomas and heard his phone ring in the woods, but he did not receive her call. Margaret began to panic as she heard strange sounds coming from another room. When she entered the room, there was blood all around. Ellie was covered in blood when Margaret found her, and she died in her arms. Margaret noticed Spencer walking toward her. He was not the Spencer she knew; he had a green spark in his eyes and blood on his face. She closed the door and trapped him. What followed was a game of hide and seek between Margaret and the children.
In the meantime, the police appeared, but she, too, was taken away and killed by the children. Margaret managed to reach her car, but just then, she noticed Ben enter the cabin. She rushed in to save him from danger, but she soon realized that he, too, was not the Ben she knew. He was possessed by a spirit that desired Margaret to submit to its power and bear children in order for their numbers to grow. He wanted to form a family with her and the children, but she was not ready to give up yet. She attacked him and tried to escape, but the children got hold of her. She was dragged through the woods and brought into the old fort with the other bodies. She watched the children drop the other bodies in the hole. She sneakily waited for the right moment and pushed the kids into the hole. She watched the hole emit a green glow after receiving the bodies. Margaret walked up to her car, and as she tried to escape, Ben walked towards her. Unexpectedly, Thomas, who was injured as well, helped her by tackling Ben. Margaret got in the car and drove as fast as she could. She stopped the car to process the multitude of emotions she was experiencing. But just as she looked ahead, she noticed Ben standing in the way with Spencer and Lucy. They held their hands and waited for Margaret to submit herself. She could have her own family, or she could fight for her freedom; she chose the latter.
We can conclude that the “bright place” was the settlement of an outlandish creature who fed on human souls and duplicated the bodies and minds. The duplicate bodies were sent back to society to bring more humans, which would ultimately lead to the dominance of the alien settlement. The alien spaceship on Spencer’s shirt is a hidden detail. The Serpentine Lord in the game of cards that Lucy is obsessed with is an entity that feeds on souls, similar to the creature in the bright place, and while playing the game, it was Margaret who got the Serpentine Lord, indicative of how the real events would unfold. Halfway through the runtime, it seemed that “There’s something wrong with the children” wanted the audience to wonder if the adults were overthinking things or if there was truly something suspicious going on, but in the end, with the murders and bloodbath, that possibility was nullified.
What Is the Social Commentary in ‘There’s Something Wrong With the Children’?
Margaret and Ben had decided from the get-go that they were not going to have children. They believed that the responsibility would eventually overwhelm them and affect the relationship that they shared. As a couple, they enjoyed traveling and taking part in adventurous activities, and they were not ready to cut it short. They had seen their friends change after becoming parents, and that was not the shift that they looked forward to. Though, after seeing Ben with Lucy and Spencer, she was in conflict and wondered if she was forcing her decision on him. Ben was not confident about being a parent; he discussed with Thomas how the constant pressure and responsibility were not something he was ready to handle. He enjoyed being with children, but he did not believe that alone was enough to change their decision as a couple.
Not raising children was a choice they made, though often, the people around them found it difficult to accept. Thomas coaxed Ben to give it some thought. He shared the wonders of parenthood and dismissed the concerns raised by Ben. All hell broke loose when Ben and Margaret confessed to losing their children. They were accused of not knowing the meaning of responsibility because they did not have their own children. Ellie insinuated that because Margaret did not go through childbirth, she could not look after her children. Ben and Margaret were simply ridiculed for their approach to life. Ellie tried to break the couple down by establishing that Margaret chose not to become a mother because of Ben’s mental health. Therefore, behind their backs, their friends had always wondered why they chose not to raise children. They could never accept that it was simply not the lives that Ben and Margaret wanted; therefore, they concluded that there must be a shortcoming that the couple tried to hide. “There’s something wrong with the children” also goes on to hint at how often those suffering from mental health issues are distrusted and dismissed.
Out of the four adults, Margaret was the only one who was confident about the choice she made. She had always known that she was not ready for the responsibility that came with motherhood. As a result, when the possessed Ben offered her the opportunity to surrender to power and unite to form a family, she mustered the courage and strength to resist. Society had asked her multiple times, in the form of family and friends, to give up and submit to the norms, but she refused to do so each time. In the end, it came down to choosing safety over uncertainty. By reuniting with Ben as family, she could have lived a possessed yet comforting life with him. Instead, she chose to live her mortal life while remaining true to her beliefs.