Producers: Paige Pemberton and Paul B. Uddo   Director: Roxanne Benjamin   Screenplay: T.J. Cimfel and Dave White   Cast: Alisha Wainwright, Amanda Crew, Carlos Santos, Zach Gilford, Briella Guiza, David Mattle and Ramona Tyler   Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment

Grade: C 

The latest installment in the partnership between Blumhouse and Epix to make low-budget horror movies is this straightforward creepy children tale that offers nothing new, content to do the tried-and-true but doing it reasonably well.  Dedicated horror fans should find Roxanne Benjamin’s sophomore feature, the bluntly titled “There’s Something Wrong With the Children,” a competent if hardly inspired means of spending ninety minutes; others can safely look elsewhere.

The efficiently simple script by T.J. Cimfel and Dave White finds two couples, Margaret and Ben (Alisha Wainwright and Zach Gilford) and Ellie and Thomas (Amanda Crew and Carlos Santos), longtime friends, going off for a weekend getaway to a remote collection of rental cabins called The Far Syde.  Ellie and Thomas have brought their two rambunctious kids Lucy (Briella Guiza) and Spencer (David Mattle). 

The first night features a thunderstorm that the children enjoy watching, but Margaret and Ben notice some tension between Ellie and Thomas.  The next morning all six take a long hike through the surrounding forest, coming upon the ruins of what might be an old fort or factory.  Climbing in, they follow a path that leads to a deep hole, perhaps an old well, that fascinates Lucy and Spencer. 

That night Ellie confesses to Margaret the source of the trouble at home—they experimented in sex with another couple that left Carlos distressed.  Margaret suggests that the kids stay with her and Ben that night so that their friends can reconnect free of distraction.  Though Ben, who’s told Carlos he’s not ready to have children himself, is initially nonplussed, he agrees.

But during the night the children disappear, and Ben goes out in search of them.  He suspects they’ve gone back to the ruins, and is correct: but just as he reaches them, they jump down the hole, and he presumes they’ve died.  When he returns and tells his wife what’s happened, she’s distraught, but in the morning the children are back with their parents, happy and apparently unharmed.  Margaret suspects that Ben is suffering from a delusion—he’s suffered from manic episodes and is on medication—but he’s certain of what he saw.

There’s a tipoff to what’s happening during the hike early on, when gabby Lucy described her favorite trading-card video character as an eater of souls.  Ben is sure the children have been taken over by some malignant power, but Margaret, and later Ellie and Carlos, dismiss the suggestion as a manifestation of his illness—to their eventual regret, of course.  Lucy and Spencer begins playing wicked tricks on Ben, and then on the other adults.  And of course the shenanigans turn lethal.  A forest ranger (Ramona Tyler) turns up in response to a plea for help, but as usual in such fare, her rational response to an irrational situation proves less than helpful. 

Benjamin handles the small-scaled action decently enough, and cinematographer Yaron Levy keeps the camera close to give the film a properly claustrophobic feel, even in the scenes within the huge ruins that stand in contrast to the modest cabins that are the main elements of Owl Martin Dwyer’s stark production design; Andrew Drazek’s edits crisply and The Gifted, an L.A. duo, contributes to the mood with a frequently overblown score.  In a few fleeting scenes it’s indicated that the kids’ real forms now resemble some sort of gigantic insect; these visual effects are adequate at best.

The adult actors are all okay, with Wainwright and Gilford standing out; she’s especially good in the final reel, where she takes center stage and provides the intensity the ultimate confrontation requires, while he manages Ben’s transformation from confidence to nervous self-doubt in fair fashion.

But what suspense the narrative generates really depends on the children, and Guiza and Mattle deliver nicely, initially coming across as typical raucous adolescents and then turning sinister and, in the final stages, coolly malevolent.  And then do it with just unnerving smiles and some light effects on their eyes.

For what it is, “Something Is Wrong With the Children” is a proficient trip through some familiar horror territory.  The problem is that it isn’t very much.