October 30, 2010

Guest Post by Tonia Brown: Killer Kids

Tonia Brown is a fellow writer of dark fiction, as well as the alter ego of writer Regina Riley. Her new erotic horror novel, Lucky Stiff: Memoirs of an Undead Lover, is available now and I will be reviewing it here on Wag The Fox in the near future. She also has another novel set for spring 2011 called The Cold Beneath, which will be a blending of the undead and steampunk. Nice.


I should preface this blog post by explaining something that most of my friends know about me, but as perfect strangers you might not be aware of.

Children frighten me.

I don’t mean that I have a phobia of babies. (Other wise known as pediaphobia, or it’s almost naughty moniker, pedophobia.) I don’t squeal in fear at the sight of a child or run when I hear a baby cooing—though I have been known to cringe when handed a delicate newborn. My fear is nothing so simple as it can be treated with medication or some sort of acclimatization. No. I am afraid of kids on a much deeper level. The thought of childbirth disturbs me. The idea of being responsible for a little human being vexes me. The whole business of raising kids altogether leaves me nauseas with trepidation.

I should also explain that I have the utmost respect for those with kids. You are doing a fine job of perpetuating the human race, and as a fellow member of said species, I salute you. I really don’t see how you do it! Having a kid is such a terrible amount of responsibility. Me a parent? I could never manage it. Again, I salute you.

That said allow me to get around to my topic of choice for this posting.

Killer Kids

When it comes to movies there is nothing quite as spooky as a devilish child. Whether it’s the tortured ghost of a preteen boy meowing from a taped up closet, or an undead little neighbor girl with a hunger for human flesh, when we put children in horror films they almost always seems to guarantee a scare. And the younger they are the more frightening they can be. Children in the corn. Children in the mines. Children in the sewers. My, oh my!

The youngest in this killer kid phenomenon is probably the baby from It’s Alive. (There might be a few possessed fetus films out there, but for the sake of this blog we will say that being a killer kid starts at birth, not conception.) When it was first released in ’74 the movie flopped. But after the film’s advertising focused more on the killer baby aspect and less on the distressed parents, it was re-released in ’77 and snagged a whopping seven million dollars.

Why? Because killer babies are freaking scary! That’s why! Even though you rarely get to see said offspring, he stills screams and cries in the most disturbing way. (My twin sister can mimic the cry of the It’s Alive baby with skin crawling perfection, and often torments me with it.)

Another alarming killer baby movie is Grace. To be fair, and spoiler alert here folks, but the baby doesn’t actually kill. Instead the mother kills for it. And there are only a few deaths in the actual film, with several others implied toward the end. Despite this, Grace pulls several creepy punches by giving you a once dead baby that now yearns for human blood and a vegan mother who learns that meat really is murder. Tasty, tasty murder.

Jumping up a few years in age and we find ourselves with a selection of delightful films that focus on killer toddlers. Leading this uber creepy brood is the one of the greatest of all killer kid films, The Omen. Hands down, Damien is one of the scariest children to ever grace the silver screen. You want to believe he is just a boy. You want to believe it’s all just bizarre coincidence or really bad luck. But in your heart of hearts you know better. He isn’t just a boy. He’s the son of Satan. With a suicidal nanny, a yen for matricide and a guard dog roughly the size of a horse, what more does he need to set our blood cold? Oh wait! I know. How about those terrible piercing eyes and fatal pout?

Village of the Damned produced one of the most bizarre of all killer kid scenarios. Who was at fault for the blue eyed, blonde haired brood of telepathic psychopaths? Aliens? Who knows! The kids in this one are right scary, all innocence and smiles and maturing at an unnatural rate. But look out, ‘cause those tots can kill you … with nothing but their mind!

Slide the dial a bit higher on the age range and we really open the options on the killer kid genre. In fact, the majority of crazy children movies take place in the preteen and early teen range. It seems that most filmmakers place the blossoming of evil at about twelve years of age. Why? Perhaps it’s because they feel that kids younger than twelve don’t really know what they are doing. (Though Damien would certainly beg to differ.) Or maybe it’s easier to get a twelve year old actor to actually act evil. (Though the young man who played Damien would certainly beg to differ.) Whatever the reason, twelve seems to be the magic number, giving us all kinds of preteen terror!

Amidst this cinematic plethora of awful adolescents are the twin films The Bad Seed and The Good Son. Though filmed years apart, both are about terribly, terribly naughty children, one about a boy and the other a girl (I’ll let you figure it out based on the titles.) who kill and destroy and maim and make even the most spoiled of brats look like a saint. The reason I dote on these two films is because the kids involved are not all that special. They aren’t spawns of the Devil. Not supernaturally enhanced. Not accidentally chemically altered. These two kids are just plain old sociopaths. They kill because it benefits them. They kill to punish others or to preserve themselves. But even worse, they kill because they want to.

And that, my friends, is pretty frightening stuff indeed.

The list of killer kid movies goes on and on, but my space here on Mr. Fox’s blog is limited. So I will close by saying, once again, that kids in general scare the bejesus out of me. Put those kids in zombie make up and I’m liable to pee my pants and run away screaming in terror. But I don’t think it’s just Hollywood’s smoke and mirrors that makes these kids so creepy. I think the real reason lies in the fact that we often equate youth with innocence. Most of us feel that evil, real hardcore evil, is a learned trait, not a born one. But when we challenge that notion, when we suggest that someone can actually be born bad, why then we ruin our precious idea of redemption. And without redemption, all the rules of the ‘good versus evil’ game change, forever. After all, how can one return to innocence, if there was no innocence to begin with?

Happy Halloween folks, and keep an eye on those little ones. Won’t you?

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