If there is one word you could use to describe All the Kind Strangers, it would be disturbing. With a real Children of the Corn/Village of the Damned vibe, this television movie manages to be quite frightening once you figure out what is really going on and it goes to prove yet again just how scary kids can be. Starring Stacy Keach, he plays a photo-journalist out on the road for work when he picks up a boy and offers him a ride home. Unknowingly, that would be his biggest mistake as he finds himself out at a house in the middle of nowhere with a backwoods family reminiscent of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There is no Leatherface to be found of course and being a television film there is little to no blood, but they are just as menacing in their own kind of way.
The children in this film are messed up, having lost both of their parents at a young age and as such, growing up without any proper guidance except from their older brother played by John Savage, they are lacking in certain departments. Keach’s character Jimmy Wheeler has no idea what is going on, but soon comes to the realization that there is nothing normal about this family and that he needs to get out of there as fast as possible. The problem lies with the children though as they will not allow him to leave, needing a new father to go along with the new mother they recently acquired. Even worse is the fact that he soon comes to learn that he has to play along or else he will join all of the other parents they have had over the years.
Keach is excellent as the outraged and unwilling substitute dad. While the entire situation is entirely horrific at first and quite scary, he eventually comes to understand it – at least a little. There is a lot of suspense brought to the screen courtesy of director Burt Kennedy. While there is no violence to be had, there is always the threat of it and the fact that you never know exactly what is going to happen from one minute to the next keeps you watching. Though the film features all the hallmarks of a television production, it manages to elevate itself from those boundaries and become a very compelling and interesting picture. It stays with you for a bit afterwards as it not only provides a mystery and a few chills, but a question as well – like how did society fail these kids and could this still happen in today’s day and age? At the end of the picture the horror is transformed from what it was into something else and it manages to do so quite seamlessly. You also gain a little empathy for the kids which is surprising as they were so creepy and intimidating when first introduced.
All the Kind Strangers is not what you expect to see and being surprised by any movie is a good thing. With a truly unsettling atmosphere at times and a great performance from Keach, this a film worth seeing.
3 out of 5