They’re creepy, and they’re kooky, mysterious, and spooky. No, not The Addams Family – we’re talking Hollywood’s murderous children. Damien. Gage. Samara. The Children of the Corn. The names alone are enough to send chills down the spine of the most seasoned horror fan. These terrifying tots have been a movie staple for years, from 1956’s The Bad Seed up to the recently released Orphan: First Kill, a prequel to 2009’s Orphan, featuring everyone’s favorite child/not-child, Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman). It’s a proven genre that hasn’t lost its power… and it won’t end anytime soon.
The Omen (1976)
When their child dies shortly after birth, American diplomat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) is persuaded to take in a child whose mother died during childbirth, without letting his wife Katherine (Lee Remick) know. They name the child Damien (Harvey Spencer Stephens). Oh, and he just happens to be the son of Satan, the Antichrist. Soon, there are hangings, decapitations, and an aversion to entering church. Stephens is perfect, and his chilling smile into the camera at the end of the film leaves the viewer haunted (of the shot, director Richard Donner said, “The kid turned to the camera, and I said, ‘Don’t you dare smile. … If you smile, I’ll never talk to you.’ And he fought the smile, then he smiled, and it was magic”).
Children of the Corn (1984)
At the bequest of “He Who Walks Behind The Rows,” the children of Gatlin, Nebraska are coerced by 12-year-old “preacher” Isaac (John Franklin) into murdering the adults of the town as human sacrifices. From that point on, any adults unlucky enough to pass through are also sacrificed. Three years later, Burt (Peter Horton) and Vicky (Linda Hamilton) – adults, of course – stop in the abandoned town and are chased by the bloodthirsty cult that Isaac has formed. When Vicky is caught by second-in-command Malachai (Courtney Gains) and is prepared for sacrifice, it sets off a chain of events that incites the demon god’s wrath. The Stephen King adaptation marries murder, the supernatural, and the power of cults effortlessly.
Pet Sematary (1989)
After moving to Ludlow, Maine, the Creed family befriends their neighbor Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne), who shows them a pet cemetery (spelled “sematary”) nearby. When Church the cat is killed on the highway, Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) is taken by Jud to an old burial ground and told to bury the cat there. The next day, kitty’s back… but he isn’t the same lovable pet. Alarming? Sure, but when their son Gage (Miko Hughes) is killed on the same road, Louis buries Gage there, and the next day, well, a reanimated Gage is pretty damn evil now. Hughes has to be one of the cutest child actors of all time, so it’s unsettling to see his Gage so diabolical.
The Bad Seed (1956)
The earliest example on this list, The Bad Seed introduces Rhoda (Patty McCormack), who seems to be your average, sweet eight-year-old girl. Always wearing frilly dresses and perfect Cindy Brady pigtails, she may harbor some entitlement, but, hey, Rhoda’s an angel. Except it becomes apparent that she killed a classmate to get a medal that she felt should have been hers… and it may not have been the first time Rhoda’s done it either. Maybe it’s genetics? Possibly – turns out mama was adopted and is the daughter of a serial killer. McCormack’s portrayal nails the entitled, emotionless, and downright creepy Rhoda.
Wicked Little Things (2006)
n 1913, a group of children in Addytown, Pennsylvania, are buried alive in a mine after an explosion. Fast-forward to today, where Karen (Lori Heuring) and daughters Sarah (Scout Taylor-Compton) and Emma (Chloë Grace Moretz) have moved to Addytown, where – surprise! – those 1913 children aren’t dead after all. It’s suggested that they might want to stay indoors at night when the zombie children roam. At least Emma’s making friends. Well, just one… a zombie friend, Mary (Helia Grekova). After a group of the kids eat Sarah’s friends, Karen agrees to leave the town. If only Emma had told her mum she was going for a sleepover at Mary’s.