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Shiverin' 6: Creepy Kids, Part One

Welcome to another terror-filled edition of Classic-Horror.com's Shiverin' 6. In this installment we will delve into one of the horror genre's most frightening sub-genres: the killer kid flick. Since this is a rather large category of films we've decided to dedicate two separate features to these pictures. Part One will focus on children who act as individual threats and part two will take a look at children acting out as a group. Possession films will be saved for future columns.

Before unveiling our first list of terrifying tykes, perhaps we should ponder just what it is about these films that allows them to creep so deeply beneath our skin. For most viewers the most probable reasoning for this fear lies within the perceived innocence of children. Adults (especially parents) tend to think of children as being pure and un-tarnished by malevolent thoughts which renders them incapable of committing acts that could be deemed as consciously evil. Although any parent will tell you that kids are much more deceptive and cunning than one could ever imagine, we simply cannot fathom the possibility of a small child lashing out with malicious intent. When films show us these horrors (sometimes in graphic detail) we become shocked into a state of obvious terror.

With that being said, let's meet six children you'd never want to babysit.

Rhoda Penmark, The Bad Seed (1956)

"What would you give me for a basket of kisses?"

Is evil hereditary? That's the question that is posed by Mervyn LeRoy's The Bad Seed and if eight-year-old Rhoda Penmark is any indication, the answer is a resounding yes. Lurking beneath Rhoda's facade of innocence and manners lies the mind of a jealous, vindictive killer who will stop at nothing to get her way. The child throws herself into violent temper tantrums at times which are shocking, but it's the twisted rationale and off-hand way that she describes her sinister actions that will haunt you long after the film's conclusion. Patty McCormack (who also played Rhoda in the stage version of the story) is mesmerizing in a performance that garnered one of the film's four Academy Award nominations.

Niles and Holland Perry, The Other (1972)

"Holland, where is the baby?"

As a series of accidental deaths besiege the Perry family, nine year old Niles Perry begins to place the blame on his mischievous twin Holland. This intensifies as an elderly neighbor is scared into having a fatal heart attack, the boy's mother is paralyzed after being tripped while going down a flight of stairs, and a newborn is found drowned in a barrel. Throughout the course of these tragedies Niles holds fast to the contention that Holland is behind these incidents but the truth may be more complex than that. Chris and Martin Udvarnoky are excellent as the Perry twins; surprisingly, they never acted again after this film.

The Davis Baby, It's Alive (1974)

There's only one thing wrong with the Davis Baby... It's Alive!

The dangers of pollution and prenatal medicine on infants are exposed in Larry Cohen's baby run amok masterpiece, It's Alive. When Lenore Davis gives birth to a hideous monstrosity it immediately massacres a hospital staff, flees through an air duct, and sets out on a bloody rampage through the streets of Los Angeles. Although the mutated baby was born with an enlarged cranium, razor sharp teeth, and massive claws it is actually a sympathetic character that attacks only out of fear rather than any conscious desire to kill. The "baby" is the work of legendary make-up artist Rick Baker who would go on to become one of the most celebrated effects artists of all time.

Damien Thorn, The Omen (1976)

"He's killed once, he'll kill again... he'll kill until everything that's yours is his."

So you thought your kids were bad? Try being the parents of the Antichrist. This is the fate that befalls the Thorn family after Robert Thorn switches his wife's child (who died shortly after birth) with an abandoned child in a hospital in Rome. As Damien grows the demonic powers protecting him become evident as a priest who knows the truth about his birth is impaled by a weather vane that falls from the roof of a church, a nanny hangs herself in his honor, and a photographer is beheaded by a pane of glass while searching for a means to destroy the child. Actor Harvey Stephens's cherubic face is the perfect counterpoint to the evil that lies within his character.

Bobby, Dead Of Night (1977)

"Were you nice to me Mommy?"

In the only standout segment of an otherwise lackluster anthology film, a mother uses an occult ritual to bring her drowned son back from his watery grave. The child that shows up cold and shivering on her doorstep seems normal at first, but quickly turns sinister. Soon after Bobby's return, he demands that his mother plays a game of hide and seek with him. Murderous intentions are soon revealed as the game turns into a relentless assault on the child's mother leading up to a shocking conclusion that shows that neither Bobby, nor his accidental death, are what they appear to be. Lee Montgomery, who also appeared in Ben and Burnt Offerings, is splendidly chilling in the role and his character is one of the creepiest kids you'll find in a 1970s television film.

Gage Creed, Pet Sematary (1989)

"Now I want to play with you."

Louis Creed finds out the hard way that "sometimes dead is better" in this big screen adaption of the Stephen King novel, Pet Sematary. After the Creeds' youngest child, Gage, is killed in a tragic accident, Louis becomes overwhelmed with grief and decides to use the power of an ancient Indian burial ground to resurrect his dead son. This proves to be a deadly mistake as his son returns changed. He is no longer a sweet innocent child, he is something evil... something with murderous intentions. After stealing a scalpel from his father's medical bag, the child sets out in search of playmates. The fact that actor Miko Hughes was only three years old when he starred in this film adds an extra layer of creepiness to his already impressive performance.

Discuss your favorite creepy kids (non-grouped variety) in the comments!