Could it be their sweet smiles and innocence which makes children the perfect antagonists in horror movies? In most horror films, their forgiving eyes, and dwarf-like form is a disguise for unadulterated evil, consumed little beings who are often far from adorable.
Their unassuming character traits are the first step in tricking, deceiving and destroying those who set out to protect and love them. And in some cases, they provide the ideal host for spirit entities setting out to accomplish the devil’s work. Perhaps the smaller the more feared.
In the Village of a the Damned (1960), a coastal town called Midwich falls victim to an unforeseen force which mysteriously impregnates all of the local women. As the children grow older, they appear to behave and look the same. An advocation for a nazi propaganda film, the unemotional brood begins to control their parents with their psychic abilities and mind-controlling powers. In John Carpenter’s 1995 remake, Mara the leader of the children hypnotises her own mother into committing suicide by jumping off a cliff. Out of the children, and deliberately the cutest, David is the only child to show compassion and helps his parents save the day.
More creepy than feared comes 9 year old Cole Sear from the movie The Sixth Sense (1999). He’s known for the most reenacted quotes of all time ‘I see dead people,’ also seen in the Wayan Brothers film Scary Movie (2000) which makes watching the real movie a struggle without bursting into fits of laughter. Apologies M.Night Shyamalan, but we look forward to your next film The Visit (2015).
There’s something about Asian supernatural horror which make for cripplingly scary movies compared to the more mainstream. Cultural superstition encourages wrathful spirits as seen in Ringu (1998) where a videotape curses people giving them just seven days to live after watching. Antagonist Sadako Yamamura’s walk from the wishing well, towards the screen and physically out of the television set was terrifying. Actress Rie Inō was shot walking backwards to achieve the disjointed unnatural looking walk, and then the footage was reversed in post.
Film Orphan (2009) wins the award for the most hated little girl in cinema, besides from Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Antagonist Esther is a step up from Veruca and the one child you wish you could set the squirrels on and throw down the garbage shoot. After being adopted by her new family, Esther tries to kill her siblings, tempts her recovering alcoholic of a mother into drinking again, kills a nun, has her mother institutionalised and then tries to sleep with her father. This is one little girl who needs a good spanking, or in this case a drowning.
Andy and Barbara Muschietti’s short film Mama (2013) caught the attention of horror director Guillermero del Toro and was rapidly developed into a feature film of the same name. The first chapter of the film evokes a deep sense of dread as sisters Victoria and Annabelle are discovered after 5 years in an abandoned forest cabin. When found the sisters are feral. They crawl on the walls and claw out of the shadows as if they’re inhumane – this being the scariest part of the whole movie. Their uncle Lucas and his reluctant girlfriend Annabelle take custody of the girls and slowly they adapt to everyday life, but they’re not alone as a malicious entity called Mama turns the house upside down. Annabelle should’ve left Lucas before taking on his weirdo nieces. Note to oneself, men with kids can be baggage.
In Let the Right One In (2008) 12-year old Oskar is a social outcast and is bullied at school. He’s befriended by the new girl next door called Eli who is strange, but they develop a close relationship. Eli is an extremely violent young girl whose outbursts are beyond any pre-menstrual tension I’ve ever experienced, although close. Oskar should’ve thought twice when he asked Eli ‘will you be my girlfriend?’
In the The Innocents (1961) Miles and Flora have had their fair share of childhood trauma, an uncle who couldn’t care less about them and memories of a disturbing past which lingers on. It’s up to their new Governess Miss Giddens to figure out the reasons behind the children’s odd behaviour, and stop a cunning ghost by the name of Peter Quint from possessing Miles.
An intimate kiss between Miles and Miss Giddens is one of the most unsettling scenes in the film, and makes you wonder how such a scene would be received today.
The countdown chants in the game of hide and seek must have set the tone for the the ‘1, 2 Freddy’s coming for you,’ song. The sound of children’s singing can be sweet and equally disconcerting.
The name Damien will be forever linked with one of the most terrifying supernatural films of all time, TheOmen (1976). The devil incarnate wreaks evil havoc with those around him, scaremongering the animals, resisting the church, killing his nanny and his mother, setting a hospital on fire to destroy any evidence of his origins, amongst many other beastly deeds. No parent wants to sneak up behind his own child only to find the words 666 etched on their skull. This was just the first film, Damien makes it to number four and a remake with his wrath. ‘Ave Satani,’ composed by Jerry Goldsmith is the most distinct and recognisable score in horror film, it runs parallel with the booming Euro-classical sounds of Christopher Young’s ‘The Second Sight Seance,’ in Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) an all time favourite film score of mine.
The Enfield Haunting
Janet Hodgeson is an unusual girl and it’s not just because a demonic ghost is trying to kill her in The Enfield Haunting (2015). She falls asleep in graveyards, maybe even unsettling the ghost who’s trying to attack her and then she pretends to be possessed. She’s lucky to have paranormal investigator Maurice Grosse on her side, even if his ulterior motive involves making contact with his dead daughter, also called Janet. Although she’s mischievous, even pretending to be Janet to a devastated Mrs Grosse, she’s a fragile young girl, well only when the demon ghost isn’t inside of her. But if she were to say something ghastly, it would be difficult to tell whether she said it or the ghost did.