Horror Ten Spot: Best Killer Kids Flicks!
With MAMA opening in two weeks, I'm reminded of two of my favorite things to witness in a horror film having to do with children. Color me cruel, but I love it when an annoying, deserving snot-nose little punk gets brutally slaughtered onscreen. Ah, that's the best. Because it's such a rarity though, especially in this oversensitive PC world we live in now (rightly so, given Newtown, a truly incomprehensible act), such a sight is almost...almost outdone by seeing creepy killer kids run roughshod over a band of adults. Isolated psychotic progeny is always nice, but I like the sadistic team work of a crazy-clan-of-killer-kids even better. Sick, I know. But not as sick as never addressing this love of mine in an official Horror Ten Spot. All that ends today friends...cop a peek at my 10 favorite killer kids flicks ahead!
OUTLAAAANDERRRRRR! Truth be told, not big fan am I of THE CHILDREN OF THE CORN, but in the name of staying flame retardant, and considering all the damn sequels spawned, too hard to leave off the list entirely. So #10 it is! Sure, the Amish are frightening in their own right, but my main gripe with TCOFTC is that the kids aren't brutal or savage enough. That first flick really has little to even warrant an R-rating, but as the sequels persisted, quality waned, the butchery hiked. Not a enough to achieve greatness, mind you, but through 48 sequels or whatever, there are a few solid moments to be found.
Also known as PEOPLETOYS, no killer kid completist could leave out the obscure 1974 film DEVIL TIMES FIVE. I remember seeing it for the first time only a couple years ago, during a 31 days of Horror marathon, and I was struck by how affective the material played. Pretty simple, a quintet of deeply troubled seedlings escape from their psychiatric transfer and soon maraud a wintertime village of vacationers. And nastily so! Sure it's a cheaply made B-movie with little directorial merit, but hey, the plotline and handful of death scenes are done well enough to warrant a look.
A title I often confuse with the 1981 slasher flick HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, the killer kids movie BLOODY BIRTHDAY, released the same year, holds some marked distinctions in the subgenre, not least of which the setup. In BLOODY BIRTHDAY, a rare lunar eclipse occurring ten years prior, on the birthday of three children, levies an uncontrollable curse on said children that makes them murder indiscriminately. I clocked this piece for the first time last October, and was surprised to find a handful of truly creepy scenes amid an otherwise boilerplate effort.
Deviating a bit, as it's not an overarching killer kids movie per se, the indelible image of little Gage skulking around with that damn scalpel will haunt me forever, especially since it's been rattling around in my brain for nearly 20 years. In fact, the only thing more frightening about PET SEMATARY, which King adapted into script form himself, is the shot of Zelda (played by man) lunging up to the camera lens in that one bedroom scene. Still, the heartbreak of seeing Gage wonder off into the country road, the baby shoe, only makes the return of evil that much more disturbing. Little dude basically becomes the real life Chucky, without the campy humor to cut the terror.
Two movies sharing one title, released 28 years apart from one another, both plumb the horror that accompanies a harem of murderous munchkins. That said, both are wildly different. The schlocky 1980 Troma title features a school bus of children who unknowingly drive through a toxic nuclear fog, only to be morphed into little zombies. Not blood-parched zombies, but ones who can light ablaze anything with a single touch. But the better film is the Christmastime UK chiller from '08, in which a horde of young tykes becoming mysteriously sinister outmatch their oblivious parents. Nothing new story wise, but the execution is unmatched.
Essentially one in the same, yet with a gender reversal and a highly amusing, perverted snap twist, I feel ORPHAN and THE GOOD SON are flip sides of the same coin. Thus, I'm giving both the creepy Siamese twin treatment. I remember seeing THE GOOD SON in the theater at age 10, and even then, liking Macaulay's character more than Elijah's. Cut to 20 years later and here I am writing for horror site. Makes sense, right? But ORPHAN I dug a whole lot more when I saw it too in theaters. First off the acting is tremendous, from the adults to the kids, especially the titular star Isabelle Fuhrman, who completely sells the sordid reveal in the third act. Loved it!
Cheating a bit am I with Larry Cohen's IT'S ALIVE, after-all it's a deadly infant, not a more developed child, that overruns an unsuspecting family. A whole different subgenre really. But while we're on the subject, I implore you to seek out the 1990 Z-movie THE SUCKLING (aka SEWAGE BABY)...just, WOW! But back to IT'S ALIVE, it's a movie as old as any on this here fete, which is quite a feat on its own. The flick was remade in 2008 with Bijou Philips, and is basically parroted with the conceit in the 2009 flick GRACE. Even so, the horrifying juxtaposition is still there...a symbol of youth and innocence is savagely sullied when an insatiable bloodlust takes hold. Whether 6 months or 6 years old!
Three syllables...CRONENBERG! The master of bodily horror made an intense statement with one of his earliest yarns, the terrifying 1979 flick THE BROOD. Put simply, seeing a throng of bloodthirsty little bastards has never been more harrowing than the way Cronenberg frames it. Based on an original screenplay and made for a shoestring budget (roughly $1 million), like always, DC peppers his film with social commentary, this time on half-cocked medical methods and psychiatric negligence under the guise of cutting edge techniques. Of course, the presence of Oliver Reed always classes up the joint.
This is probably my favorite flick on this list, straight up. Glum, gritty, un-resolute...it's really the titular morality bind that makes this a most fascinating and unheralded 70s horror import. No matter how evil, how dastardly, how deserving...can anyone really bring themselves to killing a child? Directed by the "Spanish Hitchcock," Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, the flick fuses a grainy realism with the beauty of an exotic island, on which a vacationing couple discovers only a retinue of kill-crazy kids. Survival of the fittest of course, and it's up to the man of the couple to protect his little Devotchka. But damn, I love 70s aesthetic and the moral dilemmas this flick poses!
F*ck me running, Jerry Goldsmith's satanic-goth score alone is frightening enough to make one piss themselves something nasty. Throw in the devil incarnate formed as black-eyed 6 year old boy, direction from Dick Donner, leads from Greg Peck and Lee Remmick...and whoa...THE OMEN is born. Released on 6-6-76, the demonic nature of the Damien, the sick little hell child is in many ways a forerunner of the deep levels of malevolence a kid can incur in a film. Little bastard's flat out unremitting, just take a look at what happens to mommy. Too bad the sequels hardly follow suit.