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Halloween With Ten Creepy Kids

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Halloween is supposed to mean scary but really, as
an adult, when is it actually frightening? Not often.
And that's fine. For those over the age of 13,
Halloween is simply about costumes, shindigs and lots
and lots of candy. Or nothing. Which is again, fine.
Halloween is for kids, the little ones tearing through
the streets, searching for candy, having a grand old
time. But that got me thinking about them, kids, and
how they make for one of my favorite sub-genres of
cinema -- creepy kids. For many, few things are
scarier than believing children -- those unspoiled
symbols of purity and innocence -- are really out to
get you, perhaps even kill you. There are
psychological reasons for such thoughts, as in deep
down, many of these movies reveal a fear of parenting
(I know a few older women who were terrified about
having kids after watching Rosemary's Baby).

And there's the twisted storytelling logic wherein
kids make the best, creepiest villains. It's just so
perverse to see, say, little Samara Morgan (no
relation) crawling across the floor, or the
emotionless look on Damien's face in The Omen
after his nanny jumps out of a window, or those creepy
little brats freaking out poor Deborah Kerr in The
. So, to bless the beasts that can be
children, and to ring in Halloween, I'm listing ten of
my favorite creepy kids in cinema. Some are quite
young, some are teens and some are just plain sad. But
all are crazy, evil and in some cases...oh, I can't
help it, cute as hell.

Battle Royale (2000)

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What if we encouraged the kids to not be alright?
That's the situation in Kinji Fukasaku's masterpiece
Battle Royale -- a terrifying, bloody and
morbidly satiric film in which kids are instructed to
kill other kids (starring one of my favorites, Takeshi
"Beat" Kitano). Here is the deal: In the
not-so-distant future, an economically depressed Japan
is having serious problems with lawless teenagers. The
government passes a violent law -- the Millennial
Reform School Act -- they believe will safeguard
against further mayhem. The law is essentially a sick,
twisted, Darwin-inspired game, in which a class of
young teens are put on an island, given various
weapons and forced to take each other out within three
days. The last kid standing wins. Yay! Or... no,
wait, this isn't really any fun at all. Watching the
kid's diverse personalities (some get back at others,
some want to topple the system, some still really want
that certain boy to like them) is frightening,
perversely funny and extraordinarily poignant within
this violent milieu. It's a potent parable. And, come
to think about it, these kids aren't so creepy. I just
love them too much.


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Are these freaky things even kids? Well, yes...
sorta. After watching Samantha Eggar birth them
(licking the newborns and all, a scene every
libidinous teen should watch to prevent pregnancy) in
David Cronenberg's classic (and one of his greatest
movies), they definitely come from her womb. But what
are they exactly? That's what Eggar's husband (Art
Hindle) wants to find out after mysterious, deformed
blonde kids in ski jackets show up unannounced to kill
people. Worse, they take away his daughter. And things
become even more complicated when he realizes his
wife's psychiatrist (a fantastic Oliver Reed) has
something to do with it. So let me re-phrase this:
they aren't really children but, when referring to the
shrink's eccentric methods they are "shapes of
rage." Shapes of rage that do your bidding. Damn.
I want some. This might make me re-think my desire to
never bear children.


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Now, adorable Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd) wasn't a
bad kid; he just had, as hotel cook Scatman Crothers
so eloquently put it, "The Shine." He could
read thoughts and see into the past and future. But
then, he also had that imaginary friend on his index
finger, Tony. Tony spoke in that little kid creepy
voice ("Redrum! Redrum!"), which freaked out
his mother (Shelly Duvall) and clearly made his
psychotic father (Jack Nicholson) a little on the far
side of grumpy. I felt terrible for that kid--he
endure far too much stress in that hotel. For example,
whilst in the middle of simply trying to enjoy his Big
Wheel, two of the scariest kids I've ever seen in
cinema, those Diane Arbus-inspired ghosts of the Grady
Sisters have to come out to taunt him ("Play with
us, Danny..."). Or worse, his homicidal father
chases him with an ax. Still, sympathy aside, the
urchin is scary, charmingly so. Director Stanley
Kubrick chose Lloyd out of a talent search based on
his ability to concentrate -- which is vaguely
disturbing in itself. How did he find those twins I

The Village of the Damned

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The picture hasn't worn as scary throughout the
years, but there is something iconic about these
blonde, mod-looking children with their blank,
penetrating glow-eyes. And disturbing, too, since they
can make people do things they didn't intend to do
(like, oh, drive their car into a wall). Taking a cue
from the blonde psycho from The Bad Seed,
this cult classic decided to flood an entire English
village with flaxen freaks, unleashing a horror that's
tough to fight -- who wants to attack the kids? After
women become pregnant under bizarre conditions (let's
just say their husbands have nothing to do with it),
out pop scores of Vidal Sassoon-haired babies who grow
up freakishly fast and claim superior brains, but are
seriously lacking in the social skills department.
They also appear to be in on some secret, which is
truly the film's scariest conceit. If you just think
about it and transfer it to real life, the idea of a
bunch of grimly serious little blonde kids, dressed in
matching clothes, glaring at you, would be
terrifying. Or it could be the Olsen Twins but again,
they are creepy cute.

The Omen (1976)

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Here's the lesson learned from The Omen --
don't ever take a kid and pretend it's yours. You
never know, he could be the Antichrist. And don't name
him Damien; it just seems like, I don't know, setting
the kid off on the wrong foot. He could, as in Richard
Donner's film, cause the nanny to hang herself (the
picture's scariest scene), or make visits to the zoo
highly unpleasant (especially when driving by the
baboons). And even if the father is as solid as
Gregory Peck and the mother is as perfect as Lee
Remick, no matter: He's still trouble. Yes he's
cheek-pinching cute (he reminds me of my beloved Angus
Young... awww), but when he can only be destroyed with
the seven daggers of Meggado, well, maybe one should
consider adopting through the proper channels next
time around.

These Are The Damned

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Directed by the great Joseph Losey, the masterful
These Are the Damned was made in 1961, hacked
up by producers and not released in England until
1963. It finally found its way to America in 1965,
thank God (or Satan, whomever). Macdonald Carey plays
an American tourist who while vacationing the English
seaside, falls for Shirley Anne Field, a young woman
who just happens to be the sister of Oliver Reed, a
bad-ass motorcycle gang leader to a bunch of Teddy
Boys. Reed hates Carey and exhibits some decidedly
incestuous feelings for sis, but that's just part of
the problem. Reed is such a violent hoodlum, the new
couple run off to a cave under a nearby military base
which is where (surprise) the weird kid action starts.
In this case, a group of children, who've suffered
experiments conducted by a scientist intent on
developing a race of humans who can survive an atomic
blast. As a result, the poor kids have all become
radioactive and can now kill anyone who dares to get
near them. What's sad is that rather than recoil from
these children, the couple wants to save them. But
alas, life isn't so easy (you can't just adopt a brood
of radioactive children) and the picture remains
hauntingly grim.

The Exorcist (1973)

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Obvious, but for a reason--it doesn't get much
worse than this. Sure, that little Osment kid saw dead
people and Danny Torrance watched waves of blood pour
out of a hotel elevator... but little Regan's (Linda
Blair) head does a 360 and she pukes pea soup. She
also says really, really (and I mean really)
inappropriate things. There's no way her brave,
patient mother (Ellen Burstyn) could take her to a
birthday party or you know, church (things
would be flying out of every window). And then there's
that risk of vulgar actions with sacred objects
("Fuck me Jesus" in Sunday school? How
embarrassing). All of this makes William Friedkin's
The Exorcist the gold standard in the annals
of creepy kids in cinema, with demonic possession
topping the list of "things we don't want our
kids to catch." For most of the film, the little
girl is locked in her room and tied to the bed where
she flails, screams obscenities, laughs manically and
sprouts boils on her face (maybe that Ritalin didn't
help). Can you imagine this film being made today? Not
a hell.

Deliver Us From Evil

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Never released in the United States and
"banned" for blasphemy, the masterful movie
presents a wonderfully deceiving package. The story of
two teenage convent girls who "dedicate ourselves
to Satan" could have been some dippy horror
movie--a T&A fest with demons and multiple
slayings and loads of sex (I know, you've probably
lost interest...just stick with me). It could have
been one of those '70s horror films that make you run
for the shower directly upon watching because even
your soul feels soiled. Which isn't a terrible thing.
But that's not what Don't Deliver Us From
is going for. It's really about the
obsessive nature of female friendship, of living in a
boring world filled with hypocrisy, of becoming fueled
by literature and the forbidden and all the stuff
that's so intense when you're 15. Here it's gorgeous
raven-haired Anne (Jeanne Goupi) and her best friend
Lore (Catherine Wagener), two beautiful but curious
(yes, curious) girls marking their time at
Catholic School by sneaking into bed with each other
and reading erotic literature under the sheets.

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They're especially fascinated by evil, which, isn't
that strange considering their Catholic environment.
But when they renounce Jesus Christ and all his works
to become baby brides of Satan, they one-up the
typical Catholic schoolgirl naughtiness. They kill
animals, torture men and...I don't want to spoil the,
uh, fun. I love movies that are able to crawl
under your skin and almost make you feel
guilty--complicit even--with the character's
intentions. With loads of sacreligious imagery and the
director clearly giving the Church a big, fat middle
finger, the general ambiance of the movie is
unsettling and cheeky, but in an intoxicating, magical
way. You really fall in love with these girls. And
that, quite simply (and subversively), makes you feel
evil. And you'll never, ever forget their recitation
of Baudelaire's "Les Morts des Amants"
(Death of the Lovers). If only all poetry readings
were this insanely brilliant.

Pretty Poison (1968)

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I will never, ever stop talking about Tuesday Weld.
I love her so much, that as I've said numerous times,
it almost hurts. Lord Love a Duck, Wild
in the Country
, The Cincinnati Kid,
Play it as it Lays, Thief and on and
on... But my favorite Weld performance? As Sue Ann
Stepanek in Pretty Poison. Pretty
is the definitive Tuesday Weld movie.
Playing the beautiful but deadly high-school majorette
to Anthony Perkins twitchy, creepy fire-starter, she
is the deliciously deviant underbelly of America's
heartland. Where blondes are supposed to be good girls
but, in her case, are most definitely not. Made in
1968 and directed by Noel Black, the picture was
something of a dud upon release (too sexually
disturbing? too strange?) and has achieved cult status
ever since. And deservedly so. With it's violence,
pitch black comedy and sexy viciousness (watch Tuesday
commit murder and immediately want to have sex after)
the picture is wonderfully subversive and deeply
strange. And Weld...she is charming, scary, beautiful
and sickly erotic. Need I explain the plot? The
manipulation of Perkins (who thought he was doing the
manipulating)? The killing of her mother? The
crazy, beautiful, psycho intensity of Weld? No. You
really should watch it for yourself. Again, Tuesday,
Tuesday. As Tiny Tim sang, "If only Tuesday Weld
would be my wife."

The Bad Seed (1956)

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Though The Omen or The Good Son
tried, nothing compares to The Bad Seed --
and no child actor has entirely out-seeded Patty
McCormack as blonde, pigtailed Rhoda Penmark, the
sociopath who clobbers a schoolmate to death with her
shoes. Calm and cool, she can also rip into fits of
rage that are both terrifying and hilarious. Perfectly
balancing a disarmingly adult demeanor (her scenes
with handyman Leroy are wonderfully subversive and
weirdly sexually provocative) with the tantrums of a
little girl, her performance begs the question: where
did McCormack learn to act like this? A classic and
the first of its kind, the then-shocking The Bad
holds up, albeit with a tad more camp, but
with just as much psychotic gusto. As the all-knowing
Leroy spits out: "I thought I saw some mean
little gals in my time, but you're the meanest!"
Yes indeed, and also the greatest. If the crown could
exist, Rhoda is my Creepy Queen. She's also, I'm just
going to admit it, one of my heroes.

Read more Kim Morgan at her blog href="">Sunset Gun.