When you think of children and horror movies what's the first thing that comes to mind? Children of the Corn? Poltergeist? The Exorcist? Maybe Damien from the Omen sticks in your head as he screams, "no daddy, no!". There are some pretty popular films concerning the children of the horror-verse. It's no surprise really. Once you have kids you're either terrified of what might be done to them while your back is turned. Pick your poison be it death, dismemberment, molestation, poisoning by an angry relative via Halloween candy. There are a good number of ways that children can find themselves in a great deal of trouble in the really real world and not just the fictitious world of horror.
What about the other side of the coin? A great deal of us fear for a our children quite regularly to the point of instilling some form of neurosis, but be honest. A great deal of us wonder what the undeveloped sense of morality in a child might lead to. The knife drawer is only inaccessible as long as we put adequate protective devices on them and at some point... our kids become aware. You'd think that you've taught your children well enough to keep their brains free and clear of amoral behavior short of the occasional game of doctor or the case of the wandering candy bar, but that's probably only 80% true. Think about how kids treat other kids when their learning how to become members of society. You can't say that less than a few rocks have been thrown in defense of a child's honor after a loss at a game of tag. When you're not around... kids curse. That's right parents. Put your bars of soap away. They'll do you no good in the secret world of children en masse.
When I was a kid we used to keep a well disguised copy of Penthouse accessible in the community tree house. It was their for a make shift peepshow at will, and we were fairly young. You know that we found that in some other kid's tree house. That means that at least two separate groups of youths were staring at threesomes and keen examples of oral sex and we lived in a pretty small town. Imagine a group of kids in each town throughout the United States alone doing what we were doing. Cursing and teaching each other to curse while staring at smut (loyally), throwing rocks at each other and trapping each other in pricker bush prisons in an effort to punish kids who couldn't run as fast as the rest. I can tell you quite honestly that I spent a number of summer days waiting for dinner time to be released from my own personal green Hell. Some days, they wouldn't let you go and then you'd have to rummage through the brush to escape. These were normal, everyday kids who are now upstanding members of society. At least two of them are teachers in grade school. Another, a future minister.
Enough of this anti-nostalgia trip. You came here to read about movies you should be watching or to be reminded of films you haven't seen in years. Maybe you should be watching your progeny instead. What happens when our little angel turn on us? Well, there's a horror movie for that too; Several in fact. We mentioned Children of the Corn and we'll get to that but it's a bit obvious, don't you think? Sure the Good Son and Damian from the Omen can definitely teach a kid a thing or two about how to get an "A" in Evil. Let's take a brief look at the ways in which our children might (and we know you're loosing hours of sleep about this) become the villain and not the victim. Maybe you've heard of a few of these classics, but hopefully you'll get the chance to enjoy these kiddy terror's anew.
The Children (1980)
A radioactive leak turns children into living, breathing, hugging microwave ovens. That's pretty much all that needs to be said for this early 80's B movie. Distributed by Troma for years and also part of the Grindhouse Experience series, this picture was made when movie men wanted to test boundaries with as little money as possible. Before the 80's ratings back lash and before kids were fought evil in the Monster Squad and the Lost Boys, children WERE the monsters you fear. Enjoy some rather dated, rather poorly done but altogether fun special effects work. You'll never look at black nail polish the same way again.
The Children (2008)
When I was a kid I watched the Good Son. Macaulay Culkin did some pretty atrocious things to some nice animals and humans alike. I thought they were pretty rough. Seeing a kid commit vicious, brutal crimes against victims who could not possibly suspect him as a violent psychopath was disconcerting to me even if I was one of their rank. If you watch that movie today it still holds up, but only if you can stop laughing about how that "Home Alone kid" committed all those criminal acts and made Elijah Wood look like a pussy. Well I can tell you that if the Good Son got you thinking about the potential evil in children this film will rock you to your very core. There are any number of things I am going to have to second guess doing when I play with my kids. I'm not even sure I want them to have as much as a pencil sharpened to too fine a point. Sledding? Never again! This movie really embodies the random evil that might stir inside a child's brain. It also deals with parental guilt for suspecting their children of foul play. Don't feel guilty. Just make sure that time out you just gave them taught them something.
Bloody Birthday (1981)
You wanna see a movie that portrays child actors as sadistic, unstoppable killers? Bloody Birthday will show you of what child actors are capable. Lesson from this film as in other films: If you notice a strange series of births orienting around any specific date or celestial event make sure to get the burlap sacks ready. I mean, maybe they'll come back form the grave and get you but at least that would be NORMAL. This film is as funny as it is clever and not all together easy to come by. Pick it up on VHS and enjoy the cover art.
Children the Corn (1984)
I'm pretty sure everyone's seen this and we can all agree that the Stephe King story is better, but that there's something terrifying about the opening sequence. Maybe it's that mid80's, mid-west thing. Wholesome America on the turning point... ready to meet the future. Then along comes a bunch of bible thumping kiddies with an agenda. I suppose religious zealots will be religious zealots at whatever age they realize they can rule by killing those who think differently then themselves. At least these children have cool names like Malachi. If you didn't get your Linda Hamilton fix in Terminator as the mother of one of Hollywood's most famous sons, then this will definitely be a treat for you. Cyberdine of the Corn. You know how many sequels this movie spawned? Too many. These went the same way as the Hellraiser series. Bad and badder.
The Bad Seed (1956)
For a film made in 1956 you have got to hand it to these filmmakers. It's pretty ballsy. Sure, the gore level is way down (we don't have a word for gore yet do we?). Little blond haired girl is a bad egg (or seed if you're a vegan). She's sweet and she's deadly. She kills anyway that gets in the way of her agenda. And her agenda is? Pretty much killing adults who get in the way of her agenda. Vicious cycle. Stay around for the definitely fifties credit sequence. I think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory used our blond haired lead as a model fro Veruca Salt which was written ten years later. What happens when your kid is a brat and you give them everything they want? They get away with cold blood murder. This movie is on as many top ten creepy kid lists as can be written but it's not only a great piece of children related horror, it's a great film. Of course you can check out Village and Children of the Damned if you're a fan of some of the older fare.
The Other (1972)
If you're not careful this film can be comedic unintentionally. My fondest memory of this was an image I had in an old album of horror films from the early 80's. It was a boy in a magician's hat torturing an elderly woman with a rat. While the plot runs thin and the twist ending becomes ever too apparent too soon, this film has got some descent creep outs. I wouldn't exactly call this one scary, but I would say that it will make you think twice about accepting nonsensical excuses from your own kids.
The Brood (1979)
David Cronenberg loves that body horror, and we can't blame him. He's just so darn good at it. Enter the story of a married couple who separates after the wife requires therapy to attempt to overcome her mental hardship. Enter Oliver Reed! When psychologists discuss the physical manifestations of mental disorders I think that Cronenberg has it right. Mutant children in hoodies must spring forth from your torso and attempt to live out your ipod-synced anger, visiting death upon those who might threaten your family. Makes sense. By the time you've been given a clean bill of health you've bought out Old Navy and had to retake the family Christmas card picture a dozen times. The effects are creepy and classic Cronenberg. I thoroughly enjoy this picture and hope to heaven that the remake the most certainly will complete does Oliver Reed's acting justice in the recast.
Who Can Kill A Child? (1976)
Not that I was trying to avoid this movie, but I only recently caught this one. Great title. Great poster. What wouldn't be to love? Well, it's better than I could've imagined. Go to an island for a vacation and enjoy the locals and their darling children. This movie, like Bloody Birthday, really has some amazing child actors who play the roles of killers quite well. It's completely nihilistic and squashes all your hopes and dreams out of you like the last dollop of toothpaste straight out the tube. What I like best about this entry into the child killer subgenre is the ferocity and diligence with which the children of this damned island pursue their victims.
I wrote a guest piece for the Bloody Iris where I went in depth with this amazing film. Go check out Jenny Spencer's amazing blog and the piece I put together as part of her Halloween festivities. Jimmy Terror Asks Who Can Kill A Child at the Bloody Iris
The Pit (1981)
Trogs! No, not the band. The prehistoric creature used as the method of murder for one young man in the middle of the woods. Please don't take this one seriously. It's not exactly creepy although I'm sure there's something to be said about the congenial way this young man approaches his victims. Its out and out hysterical but will most likely keep you out of the woods for awhile... just in case. I think you can get the feeling for why this young man might have some social issues given the captioned photo. This screams Night Warning.
This is by no means a complete list. In fact, it's really refreshing to know that parents have been afraid of their children for a good portion of film history. Make sure to tuck your kids in extra tight, hide your guns and knives (even the dull ones) and keep the radiation levels to a minimum. They're coming to get your Barbara! No. Not those. The young impressionable ones barely tall enough to reach the glassware, but tall enough to turn the gas nob on the stove before they leave the house for an all day play date. Maybe they'll be the ones kissing you before you go to sleep for a nice long dirt nap. Hey, we can't all hope to be Tom Atkins smacking our kid around, trying to rid our household of comic smut, but maybe we can be lucky enough to have a kid as intelligent as Billy; a kid who will take initiative and mail order a voodoo doll to teach you a lesson.