Have you ever stared into the innocent eyes of your son, daughter, niece, or nephew and wondered if they may be hiding some kind of evildoing agenda? After all, a simple smile is often enough for a child to disarm even the toughest of adults. Throughout the history of horror cinema, there have been a number of filmmakers who not only have dared to ask the same question but have explored the answers in a gory fashion.
In our lead-up to Halloween, we’ve put together this roundup of the best killer kid horror movies, covering multiple eras and featuring adopted nightmares, pagan preschoolers, and demonic toddlers.
Mikey isn’t an Oscar film by any means, but amongst the other murderous toddler entries of this roundup, it’s one of the campier and more amusingly ridiculous entries that everyone should check out at least once. The film stars Brian Bonsall as the titular murdering tot, a foster child who carries out his acts of brutality from one adoptive family to the next.
After being taken in by the Trenton family, the psychopathic youth falls in love with the girl next door (Josie Bissett). But when he’s rejected (she’s a decade older than him), Mikey becomes enraged, which isn’t good for anyone. Mikey was actually the subject of extreme analysis by the British Board of Film Classification (similar to the MPAA in the states) in the wake of the 1993 James Bulger murder in Liverpool. To this day, the movie is still “unrated” in the U.K.
Village of the Damned is an adaptation of the 1957 John Wyndham novel The Midwich Cuckoos. The story follows the inhabitants of the British village of Midwich, all of whom fall unconscious when an unexplained blackout falls upon the unassuming hamlet. Sometime later, many residents of the village begin giving birth to children with strange physical attributes, morose demeanors, and telepathic abilities shared amongst a singular “hive mind” network. It’s up to a local professor (played by George Sanders) and a few other civilians to figure out what’s causing these adolescent abnormalities before it’s too late. Hailed as an eerie and atmospheric flick, Village of the Damned is creepy cinema from start to finish.
Based on the Stephen King novella of the same name, Children of the Corn stars Linda Hamilton and Peter Horton as Vicky and Burt, a traveling couple passing through a rural part of Nebraska. When a boy stumbles out into the road, Vicky and Burt accidentally run him down, only to discover that his throat had been cut beforehand.
Searching for help, the couple venture into the mysteriously quiet town of Gatlin, a community made up of only children. But it turns out that these very boys and girls are all members of a pagan sect that worships a horrific deity referred to as “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.” It’s not groundbreaking cinema, but there’s something peculiar and fascinating about Children of the Corn that makes it a riveting folk horror entry to this day.
An American remake of the 1998 Japanese horror film of the same name (with both movies being based on the book series by Japanese author Koji Suzuki), The Ring stars Naomi Watts as Rachel, a Seattle-based journalist who is roped into investigating the death of four teenagers. When she learns that the victims all watched a mysterious videotape before perishing a week later, Rachel watches the same tape, which contains a bevy of strange and disturbing vignettes.
After her viewing, she receives a phone call from an unknown individual, who whispers, “Seven days.” Cursed by the bizarre recording, it’s up to Rachel to unravel the mystery behind the deaths before her own week is up. A chilling classic that spawned two sequels, The Ring would be pivotal in laying the groundwork for future American remakes of Asian horror films, including The Grudge, Dark Water, and Shutter.
An adaptation of the William Peter Blatty novel of the same name, The Exorcist stars Linda Blair as Regan MacNeil, the 12-year-old daughter of a Hollywood starlet (Ellen Burstyn) who becomes slowly possessed by a terrifying demon after playing with a ouija board. Confounding every physician she visits, push finally comes to shove, and Regan’s mother is forced to call upon a local Jesuit psychiatrist named Damien Karras (Jason Miller) and a seasoned exorcist (Max von Sydow) to wage war with the monster living inside her child.
Widely regarded as one of the best horror films of all time, The Exorcist is an unrelenting foray into some of the most disturbing things one will ever see onscreen, phenomena made all the more horrific when you consider that it’s all happening to an innocent and powerless pre-teen.
Based on the 2004 John Ajvide Lindqvist novel of the same name, the 2008 film Let the Right One In ditches the conventional vampire cinematic sub-genre, which was starting to show some serious signs of aging, in favor of an emotionally-resonant, coming-of-age allegory that just so happens to be mired in local bloodshed. Starring Kåre Hedebrant as a reclusive boy named Oskar, our story follows Oskar’s newfound friendship with a young girl named Eli (Lina Leandersson).
After gradually warming up to each other, Oskar learns that Eli is much more than meets the eye, at least as far as mythic, blood-sucking night-stalkers go. A moody and deliberately slow-paced feature, Let the Right One In is a fantastic addition to the horror genre as a whole and one of the best modernized depictions of vampiric lore to date.
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