Monday, November 9, 2015
Elements of Horror: Creepy Kids
Enough of the broad topics, let's get back to some specific subgenres of horror. The creepy kids subgenre is a particularly fruitful one. The Village of the Damned, The Omen, Children of the Corn, The Innocents and many more horror stories benefit from the inclusion of a creepy kid. Even in movies like The Ring, where the creepy kid isn't the villain, they can add a lot to a story.
My dissection of this horror comes from second hand experience only as I have never been a parent. However, from what I understand, one of the scariest things in the world is taking on that responsibility for another human life. Movies like the Omen or Rosemary's Baby poke at a very specific fear, what if my child is pure evil?
Even for other movies where maybe the children didn't start off so bad, they are still scary. Even to those of us without children, we were all raised under the idea that harming a child is taboo. Therefore, when a kid gets possessed by the devil or develops telekinesis, how do you fight back? I think anyone short of a sociopath would at least have to pause before taking a shovel to a toddler's head, even if said toddler was trying to eat your brains. It is that moment of hesitation and weakness that is the downfall of all protagonists facing off against creepy kids. Sure, they are easy to physically over power, but what kind of monster would do that to a child?
There is also the idea that children don't know what kind of evil they are doing. Before the develop a good conscience, they are essentially little hedonism machines doing whatever makes them feel good. Just as we are slow to take action against a child, we are just as slow to attribute any genuine feelings of malice to them. This lets evil jerks like McCauley Culkin in the Good Son get away with just about anything.
Aside from the prohibitions against harming or thinking ill of children in general, things get super horrible when it is your kid befriending a vampire. If it comes down to the fate of the world and murdering your own flesh and blood, who among us could easily make that call?
Creepy children touch a lot of sensitive areas for horror fans. What they lack in physical menace they more than make up for in psychological and emotional trauma. They are one of the hardest monsters to dehumanize and one of the easiest to let get away with things.