“What’s with kids today, huh?” – Freddy Krueger
Films portraying pint-sized villains are very much part of the zeitgeist right now. Just this year alone, Nicholas McCarthy’s The Prodigy, Lee Cronin’s The Hole in the Ground, Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s Pet Sematary and David Yarovesky’s Brightburn have all received theatrical releases. But films about malignant minors have been a staple of the horror genre for decades, as our list of ten must-see malevolent pint-sized monster movies proves.
The Children (2008)
What’s it about? A relaxing Christmas holiday turns into a terrifying fight for survival when an evil virus in the snow converts children into pesky little adult killers.
Who’s in it? Hannah Tointon steals this show as the movie’s moody mediator.
Why it’s worth a watch: Tom Shankland (W∆Z ) does a fantastic job of gradually cranking up the tension with the kids’ mischievousness going from bad to worse as ‘freak’ accidents get more and more gruesome. The kids’ performances are chillingly superb and the fact we never actually catch them with their hands in the cookie jar makes them all the more menacing.
Home Movie (2008)
What’s it about? When two young children start displaying some disturbing behaviour patterns, their desperate parents resign themselves to the fact that their only hope is to document everything on film for the whole world to see.
Who’s in it? Adrian Pasdar, Cady McClain and real-life siblings Amber Joy and Austin Williams
Why it’s worth a watch: Despite opting for the much-maligned found footage approach, writer-director Christopher Denham creates a wholly believable film by using mostly Camcorder footage shot during holidays or special celebrations – times when people tend to film stuff, especially when they got kids. The ten-year old twins ooze all kinds of creepiness, and the fact they barely open their mouths the entire movie makes them extra dark.
Mean Creek (2004)
What’s it about? A group of teens seek “playful” revenge on a boy who’s been making the youngest member of the group’s life hell by inviting him to a birthday boating trip that ends with dire consequences.
Who’s in it? Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Trevor Morgan, Josh Peck, Carly Schroeder, and Scott Mechlowicz
Why it’s worth a watch: Having been bullied as a kid himself, Jacob Estes uses his own experiences as inspiration to create a shocking morality tale that explores the destructive implications of bullying from a perspective that’s rarely been seen before. The real eye-opener here is the fact that the kids aren’t really lashing out at the bully himself, but rather at their own troubled lives in an attempt to settle scores with their own demons.
Children of the Corn (1984)
What’s it about? A malevolent entity known as “He Who Walks Behind The Rows” convinces the town of Gatlin’s children to kill the adult population to ensure a successful corn harvest.
Who’s in it? Peter Horton and The Terminator’s Linda Hamilton play a happy couple who are just passing through the town only to get caught up in the ritualistic atrocities.
Why it’s worth a watch: Who isn’t afraid of hordes of blonde children sauntering around town armed with sickles? Creepy kid factor aside, the film also scrutinises religious cults whilst making sure to never overburden its audience with its preaching. Despite countless shoddy sequels and quasi-remakes, Fritz Kiersch’s original has aged incredibly well and is just as unnerving now as it was when it first came out.
The Pit (1981)
What’s it about? On the verge of hitting puberty, Jamie, a solitary autistic boy wreaks revenge on anyone who harasses him by feeding them to a pit full of mysterious raw meat-craving creatures in the thick of a nearby forest.
Who’s in it? Sammy Snyders plays Jamie, who focuses his hyperactive hormones on his babysitter, Jeannie Elias.
Why it’s worth a watch: The freakish plot alone makes the film worth its weight in gold and, although it’s definitely a tad rough around the edges, as long as you’re open to throwing logic out of the window for ninety minutes, there’s all kinds of B-movie fun to be had here.
The Brood (1979)
What’s it about? Nola is dealing with rage issues so she agrees to take part in a series of unconventional “psychoplasmic” trials. Riddled with anxiety and resentment from her troubled childhood, she reaches breaking point and ends up spawning a litter of malevolent, mutant mites. Serving as vessels to their mother’s emotions, the diabolical brood act out Nola’s secret desires to harm anyone she harbours resentment towards.
Who’s in it? Samantha Eggar as neurotic Nola under the “professional” care of Dr. Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed).
Why it’s worth a watch: Inspired by his own acrimonious divorce, The Brood is David Cronenberg’s most mature and intensely personal film. It might have been written off by critics as a “crass, ugly and vulgar” affair when first released, but 40 years later, it’s one of Cronenberg’s ripest films for a revisit as it feels more vital and shocking than ever.
The Omen (1976)
What’s it about? An American diplomat and his wife adopt a young boy going by the name of Damien. It soon becomes apparent that Damien might actually be the Devil incarnate, intent on using his evil powers to stop anyone who comes in his way.
Who’s in it? Lee Remick’s Kathy Thorn character provides the most extreme form of post-partum depression in film history and Harvey Stephens’ chilling performance as the Devil’s “angelic” vessel makes for one of the creepiest kids on film.
Why it’s worth a watch: Director Richard Donner provided one of the most unique spins on the “killer kid subgenre” by showing audiences how an innocent child can cause mayhem even in the highest social and political circles.
Who Can Kill a Child? (1976)
What’s it about? Tom and his pregnant wife, Evelyn head off on holiday to the island of Almanzora, just off the coast of Spain. Once there, they’re bemused by the fact that it’s an “adult-free holiday resort.” The only logical explanation is that the kids must have murdered all the adults.
Who’s in it? Outstanding performances from the two leads, Lewis Fiander and Prunella Ransome
Why it’s worth a watch: Dubbed one of the most disturbing films of all time by the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright, Narciso Ibañez Serrador takes his hard-to-chew premise dead serious, playing on both xenophobia and cultural taboos to set a shockingly credible tone. The secluded setting lends to the discomfiting vibe of the film and children don’t get more menacing than these, especially when they start hording into the streets in scenes that pay unabashed homage to Hitchcock’s The Birds.
Village of the Damned (1960)
What’s it about? Based on the John Wyndham novel “The Midwich Cuckoos,” the film takes place in a quaint English village where everyone suddenly loses consciousness for 24 hours. On coming to, every woman and girl of childbearing age is parthenogenetically pregnant, and soon giving birth to eerily analogous offspring with killer psychic skills.
Who’s in it? Martin Stephens, who plays the creepiest kid on the block, is superb, as are his parents in the film, George Sanders and Barbara Shelley.
Why it’s worth a watch: As bizarre as the whole thing sounds, this is one of the most startling sci-fi shockers of the ’60s. It’s brilliantly acted, particularly by the malignant minions, and the village setting does nothing but enhance the creep factor. Wisely refraining from overdoing it with the special effects, Rilla created an ingenious and eerie tale that is just as effective even now, more than 50 years (and one ho-hum remake) later.
The Bad Seed (1956)
What’s it about? Based on William March’s novel of the same name and directed by Mervyn LeRoy (after Alfred Hitchcock decided not to take the reins), this deep introspective on the notion that killer instincts are in our genes tells the tale of first-grader Rhoda Penmark whose inner demons drive her to get everything her own way. When one of her classmates drowns, Rhoda’s mother starts to get a feeling in her hit that there may be more to her apparently innocent daughter than meets the eye.
Who’s in it? Patty McCormack is magnificent as the charming-but-evil little Miss Penmark.
Why it’s worth a watch: The Bad Seed was unflinchingly unique for its era; so much so that the credits urged viewers to “refrain from divulging the unusual climax of the story.” Despite the film’s somewhat stagy feel – having been a long-running Broadway play probably had something to do with that – LeRoy’s taut and eloquent direction combined with the idea that Rhoda’s Colgate-bright smile and blonde pig-tails could be harbouring such evil is downright unsettling.