That which is repressed will always return: The philosophy by which the late film scholar Robin Wood understood all horror movies. Children, he explains, may very well be the most oppressed section of the American population; “What the previous generation repressed in us, we, in turn, repress in our children”. He argues that in an American society, where there is a system of surplus repression (codes of normalcy necessary to fit in with the status quo) that horror movies represent our desires to break the rules and be free. The monsters thus embody the Return of the Repressed. With child-monsters, the most horrifying aspects come from their ability to transcend what we consider acceptable child-behavior and competence. They are made limitlessly powerful by this, sending a chill up our spines every time. Here are 10 of the most unnerving children in horror. With so little as a whisper, glare or smirk, these kids can make anyone’s skin crawl.
10. Chloe Moretz in Let Me In
A second adaptation of the 2004 Swedish novel, Let The Right One In, Stephen King dubbed this “the best American horror film in the last 20 years”. And with good reason. The film follows Owen and Abby, two twelve year old neighbours who find a kinship based on their own positions as outsiders. Largely a coming-of-age story about friendship and young love, the film provides many emotional moments as it seeks to remember the most difficult aspects of adolescence. As the two connect, something very strange about Abby becomes apparent – turns out, she has been twelve for a very long time. In the role of a vampire, Moretz does an outstanding job at portraying the pain associated with her violent, never-ending life. When that lust for blood comes over her – get out the way!
9. Kirsten Dunst in Interview With the Vampire
Based on the first of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles book series, this film’s Gothic and Romantic characters were brought to life by a stellar cast headed by Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. Living the lonely life of Vampirism, it’s only a matter of time before they need something more to live for. A child perhaps? Kirsten Dunst steals the show with this depiction of the Vampire Child, aging in soul but not in appearance, and becoming more vicious with every passing year. Resentful for her condition, manipulation is her game. Without a doubt, little Claudia is one of Hollywoods biggest little monsters.
8. Courtney Gains in Children of the Corn
In the role of Malachai, Gains started off his acting career with a bang. Intimidating and steadfast, he works as the right hand man (and enforcer of law) to a child “prophet” who has seen the truth of Life. This prophet will stop at nothing to keep his following strong and diligent. Step one, eliminate the false authorities – parents. When a young couple stumble into a town under the control of brainwashed kids, they soon find out they have certainly taken a wrong turn. At least someone was nice enough to warn them of Malachai’s wrath.
7. Ivana Baquero The New Daughter
Banquero first garnered international attention when she starred in the dark Spanish epic Pan’s Labyrinth, which followed a young girl (Banquero) as she tried to make sense of Franco’s Spain, war, and loss. The film has been critically acclaimed, winning a number of academy awards. A few short years later, Banquero stars alongside Kevin Costner as Louisa, a teenage girl who begins to exhibit very strange behavior after moving to a new home in rural South Carolina. It’s not long before it becomes clear that Louisa is turning into someone else – or worse, something else.
6. Missy Keating in Dark Touch
In Marina de Van’s newest feature, Missy Keating (daughter of Boyzone member Ronan Keating) plays the heart-wrenching role of an abused girl struggling with trauma while trying to settle in with her foster family. After witnessing the extremely violent deaths of her family by an invisible force, she begins to wonder what she herself is capable of. While searching for her inner strength, she develops something much more powerful within herself. So powerful, in fact, that she finally has the means not only to protect herself, but avenge herself.
5. Harvey Stephens in The Omen
What could be more evil than demon possession? How about being the spawn of Satan himself? In this horror classic, Stephens plays Damien, evil incarnate. When the new parents bring home their baby, they believe their happy lives are finally complete. But when strange things start happening, the Thorn family finds they are in real danger. After all the violence and death, there is a lesson in this one – never steal a child if you don’t know where it came from, because it may have come from Hell.
4. Heather O’Rourke in Poltergeist
“Theeeeey’re Heeeeeere”. It is quite possibly the most well known horror movie quote and one of the eeriest to be uttered by such a small person. This 1980s classic is one of the most frightening, even behind the scenes. Just before the release of Poltergeist III, young O’Rourke fell ill, meeting an untimely death which has since been attributed to the Poltergeist curse. The urban legend is bound up in the four deaths of cast and crew members throughout the series’ six-year life span. The last death was O’Rourke’s. Her role as Carol-Anne, a young girl who communicates with, and is kidnapped by the spirit haunting her home makes her one of the most remembered film stars of the time. In fact, O’Rourke’s tomb is a stop on “Haunted Hollywood” tours (whether or not it is in good taste is up to you).
3. Natasha Calis in The Possession
This 2012 Sam Raimi production follows in the recent reemergence of the demonic possession flick (popularized in the 1980s by William Friedkin’s The Exorcist). Before you mistake it for trendy incompetence, know that Roger Ebert has dubbed it as “one of the better” of its kind. Much of the film’s success is owed to Calis’s performance as Em, as she seems to really understand the importance of subtlety. The story follows Em’s growing obsession with a jewelry box that she finds at a garage sale. After an appropriately slow build, Em becomes overtaken by whatever she has released. Some of the film’s best moments are on her face, not to mention how well she screams, which is always a bonus.
2. Daeg Faerch in Halloween
Taking on the role of an already beloved character is always difficult. In Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween, the role of Michael Myers is expanded so that his childhood and escalating violence becomes the story’s new center. Thus, Faerch can be applauded for his ability to take what was already creepy in 1978, and build it into a tower of terror. This version removes Michael from the original setting of a typical middle-class home and into a working-class space of violence and abuse. Even so, it still plays on the original concept that the willingness to yield to base-instincts in a child is a truly frightening thing, especially if he has access to kitchen knives.
1. Linda Blair in The Exorcist
The crass remarks and gestures of sick little Regan are absolutely no joke. In one of the scariest films of all time, Linda Blair takes on the persona of a demon, Pazuzu who is hell bent on making everyone really, really uncomfortable. Oh, and killing too, it’s pretty into that. Urban legends surround the film due to a number of on-set incidents, despite Friedkin’s having the set and crew blessed numerous times while filming. Injuries and even a fire are cited as evidence of a curse. The film deals with, and challenges many sensitive issues such as sexuality and religion, a lot to take on for Blair who was only fourteen at the time. And yet, she did an amazing job. She was very convincing in her demonic state, and rightfully won a Golden Globe.