The Naughty List: Creepiest Kids of Horror

You better watch out, you better not cry.

Better not pout, I’m telling you why…

Yes, it’s that time of year. Maybe you have your ‘Elf on the Shelf’ out. We know Santa’s been checking and updating his list all year, but it’s never too late to end up on the ‘Naughty List.’ And let’s face it, horror movies are filled with creepy kids. From the 1950’s The Bad Seed to Stephen King’s Children of the Corn, killer kids are a recurrent trope in the genre. Every horror generation seems to get its very own ‘kids who kill‘ movie. And while they’re not always scary or always kids – Orphan, we’re looking at you – they manage to get under our skin like a checkout line temper tantrum. Below are some of the naughtiest kids in horror movies. So hold on to your gift receipts because some of the kids are waking up to an empty Christmas tree.

Eden Lake (2008)

In the 2000’s, British media was consumed with a moral panic over ‘chavs.’ You may be asking yourself, what’s a chav? It was a British slang term for lower-class white teen subculture. Chav’s had all the typical swagger of rebellious youth coupled with an appropriation of designer clothing labels. Not one to miss out on a good moral panic, the horror genre capitalized on British public concern with Eden Lake. A relatively unknown Michael Fassbender starred in this movie about a couple terrorized during a lakeside retreat by a pack of hoodie-wearing teens. The brashness and entitlement of teen played to all the fears of middle-class Britain. Brett, the chav’s de facto leader, painted a chilling portrait of a teen psychopath. Eden Lake is a hidden gem of a movie.

The Bad Seed (1956)

By today’s standards, The Bad Seed is quaint. Nonetheless, The Bad Seed has its fingerprints all over a lot of modern thrillers. From The Crush to Single White Female, The Bad Seed kickstarted several familiar thriller tropes. Pigtailed Patty McCormack’s Rhoda served as the template for ‘killer kids’ for decades. For the time period, The Bad Seed was also a pretty subversive twist on the clean image of the Shirley Temple’s and Judy Garland’s that proceeded its release. McCormack’s ability to switch from ‘sweet and innocent’ to ‘cold and ruthless’ still unnerves. Besides we probably all knew that one kid who was good in front of the parents, and heartless when they weren’t looking.

Village of the Damned (1960)

Sorry, John Carpenter. The original 1960 Village of the Damned is the superior movie. Months after an entire British village inexplicably falls unconscious, all women of child-bearing age give birth on the same day. Their children have strangely diluted pupils and platinum blonde hair. They also share telepathic powers and a complete lack of conscience or remorse. Even after over 50 years, Village of the Damned remains an intriguing and uneasy science-fiction/horror thriller. For teachers holding out for their Christmas ‘After Eight’s’, the Village of the Damned is that quietly stubborn class you just couldn’t reach.

Children of the Corn (1984)

Children of the Corn isn’t technically a good movie. Based on one of Stephen King’s lesser short stories, it’s somehow spawned a never-ending stream of direct-to-video sequels. King did actually adapt his own story for its big-screen treatment. Not that it matters as Children of the Corn isn’t much more than a fun midnight B-movie. But you’re not likely to find a ‘naughtier’ collection of children. When child preacher Isaac arrives in Gatlin, Nebraska, he convinces the town’s children to murder all of the adults. It’s a ritualistic sacrifice in the name of ‘He Walks Behind the Rows’ that makes for a gruesome opening. If religious zealot Isaac is creepy, he’s nearly outdone by his right-hand man, Malachai. Without a doubt, all of the ‘Children of the Corn‘ are getting lumps of coal in their stocking.

The Good Son (1993)

By and large, The Good Son is a soft remake of The Bad Seed. Fresh off his success in Home Alone, Macaulay Culkin played against type as the psychopathic Henry. It’s a male and contemporary update on the Patty McCormack role. A pre-Frodo Baggins Elijah Wood is on hand as Henry’s cousin, Mark. Following the tragic death of his parents, Mark moves in with Henry and family. Soon he realizes that the seemingly angelic Henry is in fact a death-obsessed ‘Bad Seed’. You could argue that Culkin is simply playing his smarmy Home Alone character, just not for the same laughs. But there’s no arguing that he makes for a detestable pint-sized villain. Culkin is the kid that sneaks all the Christmas cookies, but blames his siblings for it.

The Brood (1979)

Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg is a horror icon. And The Brood is a forgotten and under-appreciated Cronenberg chiller. Frank Carveth is separated from his wife, Nola, who is institutionalized under the care of controversial psychotherapist, Hal Raglan. Raglan’s ‘psychoplasmics’ therapy urges patients to channel repressed emotions into bodily manifestations. Nola’s inner rage is inexplicably channeled into the asexual reproduction of a ‘brood’ of disturbed children. These ‘children’ target and murder those with whom Nola’s enraged. It’s early and vintage Cronenberg body horror. The Brood’s asexual children may not disturb younger horror fans. But they may remind people who work in shopping malls over the holidays of unruly kids.

The Omen and Damien: The Omen 2

He’s the son of the Devil, so his placement on this list goes without saying. The Omen is a 1970’s horror classic. Its sequel, Damien: The Omen II is a somewhat satisfying follow-up. Other sequels and a remake followed, but you’d be best served to stick with the first two movies. Fans of The Final Destination and Saw series should may see The Omen’s influence. For these first two Omen movies, Damien himself isn’t really all that bad. But The Anti-Christ may remind you of that kid who’s spoiled rotten by his parents.

The Children (2008)

This little British film may be the one of the better recent horror movies you’ve neither seen nor heard of. The Children is an adept mix of dark humour and intense scares and violence. If you’ve seen the recent Nicolas Cage horror-comedy, Mom and Dad, The Children is a reverse on the premise. A virus slowly infects children over the Christmas holidays, turning them into feral killers. It’s a well-paced horror movie with plenty of scares and tension to spare. Any parent who has wished the kids would go back to school after Christmas Day will relate to The Children.

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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