A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a friend about horror movies, and we couldn’t remember the name of a very particular one. The only thing we remembered was a creepy child as the main killer and many eerie moments put here and there. An argument bloomed during our discussion; we were progressivly growing irritated with the quesssing game, and at one point my friend stated something that got me thinking. She said „the reason we can’t remember the movie is because there was an evil child involved, and evil children are everywhere in horror movies.“
My first instinct was to disagree but then it hit me. Of course, she was right.
The theme of a corrupted child has rapidly gained popularity in the horror industry since The Bad Seed in 1950‘ with the introduction of a deceptive and furious eight-year-old Rhoda, and continued onward through the deadly Satan’s child in The Omen and the poor girl in Exorcist, ending on this year’s The Boy, which wasn’t very critically acclaimed.
The amount of horror movies involving evil children is large. Very large. The IMDb list of horror movies called „Creepy kids collection“ contains 50 titles, and it was created with only the scariest in mind (1). Another IMBd list titled „Horror Movies with Kids“ contains 98 of them (2). Yet another one, called „Evil Kid Horror Movies“ names 83 movies (3). This gives an idea of how much the creepy kid theme is loved by horror film producers, and how many movies with this particular theme were produced over the years.
Why is the theme so popular? Are people really scared of children? Or maybe there is something else to it? In order to answer these questions, another one must be asked first: why does anything get popular?
It happens when a thing works in a particular industry with a particular audience. For the horror industry that thing must be scary. This leads to a theory that children are actually scary, and that’s the reason for their popularity in horror movies. Personally, I know a lot of people who find children in horror themes the scariest part, even more frightening than blood, killings, monsters and adult serial killers. I am not among them, so I can’t speak from the emphirical point of view but, obviously, I talked to them about it, and learned some interesting things on the matter.
It turns out there is no scarier thing in movies than an idea of perverted innocence. Children are seen as incarnations of purity, their point of view being not yet corrupted by sins of the world and their dreams and hopes not yet destroyed by cruel reality. Seeing a sweet, innocent child grabbing a weapon, killing on purpose, or even behaving like a serious adult makes people feel uneasy since it’s heavily contrasting with the usual view on children and the reminiscences of own childhood days. Children are supposed to be playing with toys, wear adorable clothes and be happy about the littlest of things. They should certainly not be handling knives, be bloodied all over, or push other people down the stairs in order to take their life.
For some people the scariest thing about children is their unpredictability. Children’s heads work in mysterious ways, sometimes they see beings and objects their parents cannot see, they play strange games and say strange things (4). We, adults, are often scared of these oddities because no one really remembers what it was like to be a child and what it was like to think in these abstract ways. Sometimes, that particular children trait makes adults edgy around kids (I know it makes me edgy). No one ever knows what a kid is going to come up with during its playtime. Maybe it will take out a chopper and attack you with it because it might be a game for them. After all, children do not really know what is right and what is wrong. They are yet to learn about how the world works.
There are also instances where people compare children to dolls, another one of famous horror themes. It’s difficult to ridicule the idea, since most of the dolls are to resemble children, especially long-haired little girls in pretty dresses. What is interesting, a lot of little girls featured in horror movies resemble dolls with their big, empty eyes, and hair, and dresses. Coincidence?
Chucky is an exception. Do you remember Chucky? I know I do.
Of course, there are also people legitimetly terrified of children, infants, and so forth. It’s called paedophobia(5). If you’re interested in reading more into it, I recommend the link at the end, under the line.
Children in horror movies become corrupted in various ways. Some of them become traumatised by an event, some of them are manipulated by a third party, some of them are just bullies, and, lastly, some of them are simply born that way. The thing is: they are supposed to be pure and happy. And that is the notion that scares people when contradicted.
The discourses I had with my friends regarding the issue in question actually opened my eyes a bit. I think of it as an issue because the idea of corrupting children in movies has always seemed to me like rape. I guess it turns out that’s the whole idea behind the creepy kid scheme.
(In case you were wondering: no, we didn’t remember the name of the movie.)
(1) IMBd list: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls000361063/
(2) IMBd list: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls053332813/
(3) IMBd list: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls005787544/
WRITTEN AS AN ASSIGNMENT FOR THE WRITING FOR MEDIA CLASS, SUMMER SEMESTR 2016