A very interesting parable that Carpenter gives his wide-screen visual flair to. The first half is great despite some uneven performances. The second half feels atonal and uneven and the suspense is generally lost, most likely due to the insipid special effects they used for the kids' eyes. Very tacky. Still, the themes of mass-conformism and fascism are ever-prescient.
When a film's most exciting thing is a bunch of white wigs and laser eyes, you got to know what to expect from it. Carpenter has nice ideas, but misses all of them. The boiling hand scene could have been stellar if this wasn't just a vanilla sci fi with so little skills - you're damned if you don't fall asleep within its first 45 minutes.
A plain execution without any errors but with sterile, almost lifeless result. It seems like everything's going precisely from the point A to the point B but unique fell, charm or even a flaw that could be considered as John Carpenter's trademarks is missing. What is left is hour and half movie where everything works by the clock with fine performances and couple of gory money shots to keep the viewer entertained.
Carpenter himself called this film a "contractual obligation" that he didn't like, and despite his way with CinemaScope and the inherent creepiness of kids with 60s haircuts, there's not much to it. You can't stay absorbed because the rules of the game are barely defined; it's too inarticulate to work as a metaphor about parents and children; and if it's a parody, it's a joke-free one. Nice opening, though.
Terror as politics: a superior organism gives birth to a collective of perfectly organized beings (nine caucasian, blonde children - a metaphor for the aryan race?) that are in fact a metaphysical substitute for a fascist party. Their masterful weapon: being able to manipulate our thoughts and mental images to the point of killing. Our only chance: to hope that the surviving child becomes human. Or all is lost.