At the risk of offending some friends of mine who think these movies are the proverbial bees knees, I’m going declare my utter contempt for horror movies in which kids (or kid-sized slashers) are the primary villain. Other than providing good excuses for the promotion of birth control, these films don’t scare me in the least. I imagine there are some of you who feel exactly the same way. Why do these films frighten some while others remain largely unaffected? I will attempt to explain…
Here are my personal reasons for not taking a shine to this horror sub-genre.
Because I’m a strong, healthy, normal-sized dude and I’m not afraid of something smaller than me trying to stick a butter knife in my shin. I’ve kicked a few soccer balls and footballs in my day and I understand the force and reach of a well-placed front kick. If Chucky, the Bad Seed, or Orphan come running after me with an ice pick, I’m gonna punt their undersized frame, launching them clear into a ceiling fan. That’s ONLY if I’m unarmed, and I’m never unarmed as long as I’m in a house full of blunt, sharp, flammable objects (not to mention BOOMsticks!). If I’m armed, consider them toast the first time they jump out from behind a corner to surprise me.
In fact, if I’m aware of their presence, they need to be afraid of ME because I’m strong enough to pick up a push-mower and chase them around the house like in Dead Alive until I catch up with them and turn them into mulch. Let’s see them try to outrun that with their stubby, little legs!
But let’s say you’re not as strong as me (as honestly, few of you are). When is the last time a toddler, grade school kid or even young teen menaced you? Don’t you think you could take them? Sure, they might have a knife and the element of surprise on their side, but it’s kinda like getting bit by a mosquito. It may draw some blood but one good slap and it’s dead as a door nail.
Now what if they have Satan on their side like Damien from The Omen or Mia Farrow’s love child with the devil in Rosemary’s Baby? They have minions and supernatural powers so it’s not really a fair fight, but darn it if I’m still not scared of ’em. Their minions may overpower me or Satan might make a telephone pole fall on my head, but there’s no way those little guys can take me in a brawl. I could trip Gregory Peck and have him fall on Damien and crush him. As for Rosemary’s Baby, I suspect imitating a British Nanny would suffice.
Whoa, going to some dark places there, but you get my point. I’m too skilled at protecting my genitals and if they slice my Achilles heel tendon, I could still hop fast enough to run them down or at least get in position to defend or attack with lethal force.
And the creepy supernatural kids from The Ring, Ju-on (The Grudge) and Unborn? They don’t fight
fair at all and are genuinely scary (except for the fact that Unborn sucked and Odette Yustman can’t act). In fact, the scariest little person from that type of film comes in the form of a doll from the Japanese horror film Reincarnation. Dang it, now I’ve scared myself in broad daylight… GET THAT DOLL OUT OF MY HEAD!!!!
I would flee from Jason. I would cower from Michael Myers. I’d at least try to out-pun Freddy, but there’s no way I could beat any of them short of a lucky shot with a bazooka then moving to China before they can regroup. Chucky, on the other hand, better hide in a Toys-R-Us or at least try to set the house on fire while I’m on the toilet or in the shower because there’s no way he can take me in a fight.
Now little creatures attacking in groups (i.e. Puppet Master, Children of the Damned, Gremlins, Oompa-Loompas from Willy Wonka, etc…), that’s a totally different matter.
Okay, by now I think you get my drift. However, these “evil children” movie genuinely affect some people. Who could be afraid of such a thing?
The answer lies in the demographic which these movies are targeting: Women and families.
These films play upon the fear of evil within your own family or inside your own home. Your children are either in danger or have turned against you. Both prospects are frightening to a mother or even a father. They form an emotional empathy while watching the film because they can imagine themselves and their own family in that exact situation and it plays upon their worst fears. Those fears not only include the mortal danger of their family but also the horror of betrayal.
Jason can stab you in the back, but a stab from the Orphan hurts even worse because you once loved and trusted them. Sure, you can take her easily, but you’ll hesitate to do so because it’s like having to put down a loved one. There’s a reason why some people cite Old Yeller as one of the most traumatic movie-watching experiences of their lives. It ends with a kid having to kill, not just a rabid dog, but Yeller was a family member, his best friend who once saved his life.
For the record, I saw Orphan (2 stars out of 5) last night and I didn’t see what the big deal was. I really didn’t.
I figured out the twist before I even saw the movie. Why? Because the commercial indicated there would be a big twist. I thought about it and the only obvious twist I knew they hadn’t tried for this type of film was long overdue… and I was right. That, plus they dropped some super-easy clues in the trailer (but don’t they always?). That kid actor was amazing though. I’d say she’s stolen the “creepy little actress” crown from Dakota Fanning.
As an antidote to Orphan, I recommend the much more clever creepy kid film Joshua. It involves a super-intelligent kid who at first seems sociopathically jealous of his newborn sister. The twist, while probably a letdown for those expecting the kid to go on a stabbing rampage, was inventive and encouraged a lot of thinking on the part of the viewer… something Orphan failed to do in my opinion. The REALLY WEIRD part is that both of these films star Vera Farmiga playing the exact same role as a hysterical mother, afraid of her child. It’s like she saw the script for Orphan and said to herself, “Hey, it’s just like my parts in Joshua and Running Scared! Awesome, I always wanted to be a one-note character actress!” C’mon, babe. Show some range.
With a heavily-hyped horror film called Grace and a remake of It’s Alive! releasing this year, it looks like “baby horror” will soon eclipse “creepy kid horror” as a trend. I can’t say I’m thrilled, but at least baby horror has some nastier, more taboo elements to them. It certainly worked for Rosemary’s Baby, a film I have a love/hate relationship with. By the way, when is somebody going to remake Basket Case? That’s prime intellectual property for this category.
While I’m eagerly awaiting for a more interesting sub-genre of horror to make a comeback, like Cronenbergian “body horror” or Lovecraft “I saw a monster from the abyss and now I’m insane!” adaptations, I guess these pre-pubescent killer movies will have to do. I’m really hoping that one of them will affect me or get under my skin in some way. Now if we could only get “killer clown” movies back on track. That’d be sweet.
Here’s a great, cheesy trailer for Basket Case which deserves a remake. It’s really an “evil, deformed twin” movie, but since he’s big enough to fit in a basket, I think he qualifies…
Gotta work out hard so I can beat up Chucky.
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