There are few things creepier in a horror film than children. To see someone meant to be sweet and innocent be twisted into a villain really gets under your skin.
Typically, there are four types of children in horror films, The Witness, The Villain, The Victim and The Non-Victim
A good example of “The Witness” are the Grady Twins, they are there to witness the horror but not actually threaten Danny in The Shining.
There are a ton of examples of “Villain” characters in horror, including Damien and Esther. Children who play “The Villain” frequently appear as normal at first then turn dark, like Esther. A lot of the time we see them use their appearance to get close to their victims.
There are always casualties in horror films, it’s not often when you see a child fall victim in a movie, but it does happen. Regan and Toshio are good examples. In both cases, they were children who fell victim to circumstance. Regan was possessed and Toshio died at the hands of his father, then returned as a ghost.
The last type, “The Non-Victim”, often seem to be victims or targets, but we all know that they will escape or be rescued in the last moment possible.
Here are a few of the kids that give us nightmares.
Gage (Miko Hughes) was the cherub-faced boy in the horror classic Pet Sematary. Gage is killed when he is mowed down by a big rig. His grieving father could not bare life without him, so he buried him in the Native American burial grounds that border the Pet Sematary. When Gage returns, he’s not the sweet boy he once was, and everyone will pay the price.
Isaac and Malachai
Do yourself a favor, if you find yourself in a town where all the adults are missing, haul-ass out of there. In Children of the Corn a couple finds themselves trapped in a town where a group of young religious cult members believe that everyone over the age of 18 must die. Combine religion and creepy kids and you get the perfect mix for a horror movie. Isaac was played by John Franklin and Malachi was played by Courtney Gains.
It’s hard to get more disturbing than the Antichrist, played by Harvey Stephens. I mean his human dad tried to kill him, and with good reason. When a kid’s nanny commits suicide after yelling out “It’s all for you Damien”, it’s time to start asking questions. ‘
You should remember the 2002 film The Ring. Whoever watches the strange, cursed VHS, dies after seven days. In the film a journalist sets out to uncover the truth about the video that revolves around a little girl named Samara (Daveigh Chase). The girl’s adopted mother murdered her by throwing her in a well after being convinced she was a witch. Now, who is really the evil one in the story?
In 2009’s Orphan, a family adopts a very peculiar little girl (Isabelle Fuhrman), not knowing that she hides a sinister secret. Esther is not what she seems to be. She manipulative and dangerous. Her new mother suspects something is very wrong, but the father believes it’s all in the mother’s head and that their new daughter is just trying to find where she fits in. If you haven’t seen this movie, watch it immediately.
The Vampire Girl In 30 Days Of Night
30 Days of Night is one of the best vampire films to be released in decades. The film centers on a small Alaskan town who is preparing for the dark season. A stranger surfaces right before the lights go out and all hell breaks loose. Suddenly the town’s sled dogs are being killed along with the town’s residents. A group of vampires descend on the town, but these are not the vampires you see in most films. They are brutal, blood-thirsty, they’re ugly and the definitely don’t sparkle (thank god). During a scene when the surviving group of residents take shelter in a store, they stumble across a small girl (Abbey-May Wakefield), with rows of dagger-like teeth. She is is hands down the scariest vampire kids, based on looks alone.
When it comes to outstanding acting in a film by a child, no one can top Linda Blair’s performance as Regan in 1973’s The Exorcist. Between spewing green vomit, levitation, and head spinning, she kills it.
The Grady Twins
In 1980 we met two ghost girls (Lisa and Louise Burns) walking the halls of the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kurbick’s The Shinning. The twin girls only appear in the film briefly but still left their mark in horror history.
One of The Shining’s main characters, Danny (Danny Lloyd), not only possesses a special power, he can also see the ghosts that call the Outlook Hotel home. There is nothing Danny does that is scary, he’s just gives off a weird vibe. He is the classic witness.
The ghost child in The Grudge (the 2004 American remake of the Japanese film Ju-On (2000)) is hard to forget With pale skin, dark eyes, and that horrible sound that comes when he opens his mouth, he’s earned his spot on this list. Toshio (Yuya Ozeki) is the trapped spirit of a young boy murdered by his father when he discovered his wife was having an affair.
The Midwich kids
In the 1995 remake of Village of the Damned (1960), the women of a small town become pregnant after all of the residents black-out at the same time. The women give birth to a group of brilliant, pale, blonde, odd-behaving children, who have powers. Yeah, they’re all kinds of creepy.
After years of being missing, two young girls are found living in abandoned house deep in the woods. Once rescued, the feral girls are sent to live with their uncle, who has no idea that a dark spirit called “Mama” is following them. The youngest of the sisters, Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse) is extremely attached to the spirit, who wants to claim the girls as its own, but their Aunt and Uncle will not give up without a fight in Mama.
The Unborn’s Barto (Ethan Cutkosky) is different than the other children on this list. He is a dybbuk (disturbed spirit possessing the body of a living person) in the form of a child. The dybbuk has had a taste for Cassie’s family since her great uncle was possessed by it during WWII. In the film the spirit possesses another child, a sick old man, and a dead girl, but always returns to the appearance of the boy to terrorize Cassie (Odette Annable).
Some will disagree with this list, and of course there hundreds of other creepy kids that have appeared in horror films over the years. If I listed every one, I would be still working on this list until some time next year. But I think we can agree that each child on this list has earned his or her’s right to be here.