Children of the Night (aka Limbo)

| November 18, 2015

The vampire, one of cinema’s oldest monsters, is damned hard to make interesting in the twenty-first century. Since the silent film era, legions of filmmakers have tried to present different takes on the vampire mythology, and the monsters have enjoyed a cyclical popularity that most recently took the form of the Twilight phenomenon. That’s not to say that there haven’t been some very worthwhile vampire films over the last several years, but finding novel ways of approaching such a well-established monster–and making it work in a story that is engaging–is obviously a task outside the reach of many horror filmmakers. It’s always refreshing to find a film with a unique take on familiar material, and writer/director Iván Noel’s Limbo (released on Blu-ray and DVD in the U.S. as Children of the Night) brings a novel approach to the standard vampire tale.

Journalist Alicia (Sabrina Ramos) receives a message from Erda (Ana María Giunta) pleading with her to come visit Limbo, the childrens’ shelter Erda runs. The children there all suffer from what Erda first suggests is a disorder characterized by extreme sensitivity to sunlight. Erda explains that some children have been dying and wants Alicia to investigate and tell their story, but it’s not long before Alicia realizes the children aren’t sick–they’re vampires. For many years, Erda has been taking in young victims of “careless” vampires, immortals trapped in young bodies. Siegfried (Toto Muñoz), one of the vampires, was a friend of Alicia’s when she was a girl and wants to pick up where they left off, which makes Alicia understandably uncomfortable. While spending time with the kids, Alicia discovers that they are being attacked by a group of men who stalk the grounds and grab the kids when they’re out feeding. She’ll have to choose a side, but the situation may not be as clear-cut as it seems.

This concept of the “vampire orphanage” is a strong foundation with which to build in any number of directions, and Limbo plays with some interesting ideas. However, it also has some jarring comedic aspects (it’s actually being marketed as something of a horror/comedy, which is not really accurate) that feel very out of place and pad the film’s running time unnecessarily. The film touches on some concepts reminiscent of better vampire films in recent history–Let the Right One In is a clear touchstone in the relationship between the child vampire and adult, although the dynamic is reversed here–but doesn’t feel derivative given its singular tone. It certainly helps that the performances are great all around, most notably including several of the vampire kids. Toto Muñoz in particular is very good as Siegfried, a tricky part that requires him to be both a genial kid and more than a little creepy by turns.

The film itself flits back and forth between varying tones in a similar manner. The kids are portrayed mostly as having childlike behaviors, but there are some of them who are clearly adult minds in young bodies. The humorous moments bump up somewhat awkwardly with some of the film’s darker scenes, including the abduction and murder of the vampire kids. The conflict between the children and the men waging war on them climaxes in a bizarrely joyful scene that happens to include gallons of blood. It’s easy to imagine that finale not working in another movie, but it ultimately feels like the only way to end Limbo. It’s a scene that is gruesome, funny, sweet, and playful. The movie is worth watching just for pulling off something like that, although there are plenty of moments throughout that set it apart from its contemporaries and make Limbo well worth seeking out for horror fans.

Artsploitation Films released Children of the Night on Blu-ray and DVD on 6 October 2015. Special features include a commentary by writer/director Ivan Noel, a “making of” featurette, and the film’s trailer.

About the Author:

Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He is author of "The Unrepentant Cinephile," and a regular contributor to Daily Grindhouse and Film Monthly as well as a member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle. He is co-director of the Chicago Cinema Society and proud owner of 35mm prints of Andy Milligan's "Guru, the Mad Monk." Follow his long-form film writing on Medium: www.medium.com/@rabbitroom
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