The Monstrous Child: 10 years, 10 terrors!
If we’re being honest, children are creepy as all hell. Horror films have been utilising this inane fear for many years with portrayals of harrowing kids such as Damien from The Omen, Regan from The Exorcist and The Grady Twins from The Shining. Whether they’re possessed by demons, vengeful spirits or just natural born psychopaths when they come in pint sized vessels the creep factor is definitely increased.
Children aren’t supposed to be scary, they should be cute little angels, and that’s what makes them perfect for horror. Twisting that which we always associate with innocence and purity is a staple of the horror genre which is why so many films use these pre-teen terrors to get under our skin. For one reason or another these children and teens got under our skin or in our head in the last 10 years.
- Winner – Abby (Let Me In)
- The original Swedish film Let the Right One In introduced the character Eli a centuries-old child vampire who, after castration as a child, renamed themselves from Elias. In the American remake Let Me In the character is altered slightly to become Abby. The relationship between Owen and Abby is a bloody romance with a gruesome body count. The name and backstory may have been altered but the creep factor of a young vampire who can use her innocence to lure victims is still high.
- Runner Up – Dalton (Insidious)
- Possessed children are scary; this is a fact of horror. In Insidious this stands true with poor Dalton who, although stuck in a coma for the vast majority of the movie, manages to be creepy in both the physical world and the spirit world his active mind is roaming. As the wanted conduit for The Lipstick-Face Demon, Dalton’s body creepily “walks around at night”, scaring his little brother and us.
- Winner – Kevin Katchadorian (We Need to Talk About Kevin)
- The psychological debate of Nature vs. Nurture has presented itself in many forms of media, but possibly none more terrifying than its portrayal in We Need to Talk About Kevin. Told in a non-linear narrative through the perspective of Kevin’s unreliable narrator mother Eva we watch in horror as a petulant child grows into a sadistic teen. The fact that Kevin looks like the ‘cute boy next door’ and yet is a complete sociopath is what makes him terrifying. A wolf in sheep’s clothing with one hell of a mean streak.
- Runner Up – Jill Roberts (Scream 4)
- From one sociopathic teen to another, Jill is a fame hungry film student who’s willing to murder to get the fame and stardom she feels she deserves. Jill is the cousin of the Scream Franchise’s protagonist Sydney Prescott and is clearly jealous of her fame for being the survivor of the Ghostface killing sprees. Jill has got evil mass murder down to a fine art with a fall guy in the form of her boyfriend and a great repertoire of evil mastermind monologues.
- Winner – Bughuul’s Children (Sinister)
- Bughuul may be the ‘eater of children’ but it’s the actions that he manipulates his snacks to do before their demise that are truly terrifying. When Ellison moves his wife Tracy and their two children Trevor and Ashley into a ‘murder house’ to write his new book he doesn’t expect to unearth evidence of multiple sinister killings. Shown through Super 8 mm reels we watch in horror as Bughuul’s children murder their parents and siblings in gruesome ways. One family is drowned in their pool bound to lawn chairs, another are set on fire in their car, there’s an awful incident with a lawnmower and another family ‘hanging out’ from an old tree. Bughuul’s children are a family nightmare and need way more than a time out.
- Runner Up – Pauline (Excision)
- Pauline is an all-out gross anti-heroine, a disturbed and alienated teen girl who has embraced her delusions and is unapologetic in pursuing what she wants. She has aspirations of a career in medicine and is pushed to extremes through her own goals of helping her sister and those set by her controlling, neurotic mother. Pauline has vivid fantasies about blood, death and mutilation that she seems to really, really, The culmination of Excision is brutal and though Pauline’s intentions may have been good, her methods certainly weren’t. Bring on the bloodbath.
- Winner – The Desange Sisters (Mama)
- These girls had a rough start when their father took them to an abandoned cabin with the intention of killing them after murdering their mother and his colleagues because of losing his fortune in the financial crash. The two are feral after spending five years in the cabin being ‘raised’ by the titular Mama. Older sister Victoria acclimatises to domestic life but Lilly finds it difficult, reverting to her animalistic behaviour. Mama may be the real monstrous entity here but little Lily’s wild squeals and inhuman crawling make her both terrifying and heart-breaking to watch.
- Runner Up – The Parker Sisters (We Are What We Are)
- Film rule 27: Cannibals usually aren’t the good guys. We Are What We Are is an American remake of a Mexican film, but in this version the gender of the children has been swapped. The Parker sisters, Rose and Iris, are left to continue a cultish religious ritual themselves after the passing of their mother. Of course this ritual involves killing and eating other humans, so not a responsibility anyone wants to be left with. These creepy children are victims of their upbringing and familial control, which makes them sympathetic and scary.
- Winner – Samuel Vanek (The Babadook)
- “Why can’t you just be normal?!” screams desperate mum Amelia to her six year old son Samuel. Samuel is not an easy child to deal with, screams and shouts, demands constant attention and even brings a weapon to school. The Babadook is a complex film about grief and motherhood and Samuel is a perfectly obnoxious, unruly and complicated child that exasperates a parent and solidifies their fear of creating a monstrous child. Samuel is an absolute pain in the ass, he’s almost unbearable in this film, but that is his point. He is everything that Amelia has been through, her fear, grief and anger staring back at her in the form of something society says she should have unconditional love for. He is straight up insufferable though!
- Runner Up – The Baby (Devil’s Due)
- Rosemary’s Baby set a high bar for pregnancy horror which the directors of Devil’s Due were aware of when they created this found footage take on the demonic baby narrative. After a ‘night they can’t remember’ on their honeymoon a young couple finds out they are pregnant. Unfortunately this little ‘bundle of joy’ is actually a hellish burden on expectant mother Sam who experiences nose bleeds, stomach bruising, cravings for raw meat, superhuman strength, telekinetic abilities and unexplained feelings of rage. This truly is a diabolical pregnancy.
- Winner – Elias (Goodnight Mommy)
- We’ve had some siblings so far but here’s the first set of twins, another horror staple for creepy kids. When Elias and Lukas’ mother returns from facial surgery covered in bandages the two become convinced she is not their mother and conspire to prove so. They tie up their ‘mother’ and torture her using scissors and a magnifying glass trying to force her to answer for who she is. A child torturing their parents is of course a terrifying concept, but Goodnight Mommy takes it to a whole new level with delusion, violence and two vicious little psychopaths.
- Runner Up – The Twins (The Witch)
- From one set of scary twins straight to another, Mercy and Jonas make up two of the five siblings in The Witch. After their infant brother Samuel is abducted and their other brother Caleb is lost in the woods they accuse their sister Thomasin of witchcraft, plunging the full family into madness and paranoia. This obnoxious pair taunts Thomasin throughout and develops a close relationship with the potentially demonic family goat, Black Philip, before disappearing into the woods like the rest of this poor family. These kids are annoying and creepy in equal measure.
- Winner – Luke Lerner (Better Watch Out)
- Taking privileged child to a new extreme is this sociopathic little creep. Luke may start the film as the innocent victim type but soon becomes one of the most deplorable villains in horror, despite not having fully hit puberty yet. Luke, like many young boys, has a crush on his babysitter, Ashley. Unfortunately for her this seemingly sweet kid is actually a sadistic, manipulative and sinister psycho who is capable of deception, molestation and even murder. His obsession with Home Alone is anything but childlike and leads to an explosive scene involving Ashley’s boyfriend and some paint cans. Someone needs to tell his parents that their little angel is actually a raging lunatic.
- Runner Up – Kimmy + Friends (The Purge: Election Year)
- The Purge offers a whole array of different types of villains and psychos; I guess that’s the whole point. However teen Kimmy and her friends are seen as revellers in the chaos. Kimmy starts small, terrorising a store owner the day before the Purge but once the siren starts she takes it to a new level. After killing her parents Kimmy returns to the store with AK-47’s, power saws and mask reading ‘KISS ME’…no thanks.
- Winner – Janice/Annabelle (Annabelle: Creation)
- We’re back with the crowd favourite, creepy possessed children. Janice is an orphan under the care of Sister Charlotte who, along with five other girls, moves to the Mullins’ home for shelter. She suffers from polio making moving around the creepy house difficult, and leading to some of the scariest stairlift scenes I’ve ever witnessed. Unfortunately for Janice she becomes the plaything of a demon at the residence that eventually possesses her causing a homicidal rampage. A reclusive Janice escapes from the house and begins calling herself Annabelle, and we all know where that leads to in The Conjuring.
- Runner Up – Bee (The Babysitter)
- My love for Samara Weaving has already been well documented, so of course I love her character in The Babysitter. Sweet, loving and nurturing Bee makes sure that Cole never feels left out or bullied. She is the best babysitter anyone young child could ask for, as long as you go to bed on time and stay asleep. Bee is the leader of a cult and needs the blood of the innocent to perform a ritual, and to keep getting what she wants she is not above hurting a minor. Somehow Bee walks the line between sociopathic and sympathetic, she really does love little Cole, but a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do.
- Winner – Charlie Graham (Hereditary)
- Charlie is an odd and girl with something that just feels off about her. She never seems to be fully present, a disconnected teen with a blank-eyed stare and an eerie sound motif of clicking her tongue. She also has some strange hobbies including sketching macabre images, including her recently deceased grandmother, and beheading a dead pigeon to make a disturbing art project. Of course there are underlying reasons for Charlie’s strangeness that come to light later in the film. Unfortunately they come too late for Charlie herself who suffers a shockingly terrible accident involving walnut cake and a telephone pole. ‘Klock!’
- Runner Up – The Baby (Ghost Stories)
- Though only a small and mostly unseen part, The Baby from Ghost Stories is a truly harrowing reflection of a monstrous child. Mike Priddle and his wife are having the worst pregnancy, plagued with hospital visits and a possibly poltergeist haunting. Even more harrowing, his wife passes during childbirth, leaving behind something implied to be inhuman. We do not see the child, only the actions that child causes and that’s scary enough.
- Winner – Brandon Breyer (Brightburn)
- The age old question, “what if Superman wasn’t a good old Kansas farm boy and was actually a raging dickhead?” is answered beautifully by Brandon Breyer. This little bundle of extra-terrestrial joy crash landed in the back garden of Tori and Kyle Breyer, a little miracle for the couple who couldn’t seem to get pregnant. Everything was going fine until puberty, which caused changed in Brandon beyond hair growth and dropping a few octaves. After developing superpowers Brandon becomes a creepy, red hood wearing psychopath who can fly, shoot lasers from his eyes and move objects with his mind. Not the miracle we hoped for.
- Runner Up – Miles Blume (The Prodigy)
- Ding ding ding, we’ve got another possessed kid! The culprit this time is a dead mass murderer, Edward Scarka, who is feeding his obsession through young Miles. Known as the ‘Thrush Creek Killer’ Edward murdered nine women and cut off their hands to keep as trophies. Poor Miles just happened to be born minutes after Edward is gunned down by police, seemingly allowing his soul to take possession of the new-born. Miles always seemed more developed and mature than his peers, this clearly explains why. The moments when Edward and Miles physically meld together are terrifying and cannot be unseen.
- Sneaky Honourable Mention – Georgie Bradley (Ready or Not)
- I couldn’t help but include this little bugger too. This young member of the Le Domas household is an entitled little brat who follows family tradition to the letter. When Grace is hunted on her wedding night as part of a twisted hide and seek ritual to keep the money flowing in the family, little Georgie steps up to help. When he finds her hiding from his psychotic elders he doesn’t fall into the innocent child mentality, he proves instead that apples don’t fall far from the tree and shoots her in the hand. I’ve never been more satisfied watching a young child get punched in the face…
Horror’s obsession with terrifying tykes clearly isn’t going anywhere. With 2020 already bringing back Brahms and Kayako in The Boy and The Grudge sequels and The Turning, Gretel and Hansel and Becky focusing on young protagonists in dire situations, 2020 has already proven the scary child is here to stay. There are still plenty more opportunities this year to see some creepy kids and homicidal teens. Here’s to another 10 years of monstrous children hiding in plain sight and fuelling our nightmares.