Children aren’t supposed to be scary. They’re supposed to be the innocents of the world – wide-eyed, chubby-cheeked, and sweet as can be. In reality, kids are small and weak, easy to control, and lack any kind of authority in society, which is what makes evil munchkins so hard for audiences to swallow. The thought that the weakest group of people, a group that is usually ignored or not taken seriously, could be hiding unstoppable destructive powers is enough to make anyone weary of the kid next door. This Friday, director Kimberly Peirce’s reimagining of Carrie, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, which itself inspired Brian De Palma’s 1976 horror classic starring Sissy Spacek, hits theaters. With the great young actress Chloe Grace Moretz (Let Me In, Hugo) stepping into Carrie’s pig-blood-soaked-shoes, the film follows the story of a shy, sheltered girl who is exiled by the kids at school and terrorized by her religious mother, played here by Julianne Moore. In honor of the return of one of cinema’s most terrifying teens, we’re counting down the ten most blood-curdling boys and girls:
10. Danny Torrance, The Shining (1980): It’s not Danny Torrance’s (Danny Lloyd) fault he’s creepy. After moving to the Overlook Hotel so his dad can serve as the winter caretaker, little Danny finds out he has ESP (which hotel chef Dick Hallorann calls “the shining”) and comes face-to-face with ghouls of the Overlook’s past and present while trying to avoid his murderous father with some help from his not-so-imaginary friend, Tony. The scary death visions are menacing enough (director Stanley Kubrick knows how to sear a horrific image in your brain, such as massive amounts of blood pouring out of an elevator), but when Danny’s eerily calm demeanor breaks and he begins shouting and writing “Redrum” (murder spelled backwards) while wielding a knife, he turns from victim of his own abilities into a hellish sort of prophet. Now that’s scary!
9. Cole Sear, The Sixth Sense (1999): This one is cheating a little bit since The Sixth Sense isn’t technically a horror movie, but hey, ghosts are ghosts! Haley Joel Osment’s round face and big sad eyes come off through most of Sixth Sense as more unfortunate than scary, the little tyke spends all his time moping and hiding, but the frightened boy’s tearful delivery of one of the most quoted lines in movie history is why Cole Sear belongs on this list. Show me the most fearless man in the world and I’ll dare him not to shiver when Cole whispers, “I see dead people.” Though Looper’s young Rainmaker could’ve been an equally-as-deserving non-horror movie pick, Cole takes the cake by sending shivers up our spines with just one line and that horrified expression.
8. The Grady Sisters, The Shining (1980): Yes, another entry from The Shining but these twisted sisters had to make the list. It would take something faster than Danny Torrance’s tricycle to get away from the memory of the Grady twins (Lisa and Louise Burns). The sisters tick every box on the creepy kid checklist: matching overly innocent dresses? Check. Dead eyes and handholding? Check. Plea to join them in the afterlife’s playground spoken monotonously in unison? Double check. As brief as their role in The Shining is, the intercutting of the twins’ slaughtered bodies with them begging Danny to play with them “forever and ever, and ever,” is entirely too memorable. These Diane Arbus-inspired twins are symbolic nightmares and will forever be an image of pure cinematic horror.
7. Carol Anne Freeling, Poltergeist (1982): Carol Anne? Carol Anne? Carol Anne! Carol Anne! Annoying as it is listening to Mrs. Freeling shout her daughter’s name into a closet, she had good reason: vengeful spirits had taken the girl hostage. Carol Anne’s (Heather O’Rourke) most haunting feature in the film is her baby voice. She all but coos when talking to the ghosts within the static on the TV, and she makes her way through much of the film in ignorance of how strange her knowledge of the spirits are. When her mother asks her the next day who she was talking to, sweet little Carol Anne replies with a flippant, “the TV people.” As if that weren’t enough, you can’t write about Poltergeist without mentioning that infamous line; all together now, “They’re here.” Spooky!
6. Eli, Let The Right One In (2008): There’s no bond as precious as that of young love, especially when that love is founded on murder. Tomas Alfredson’s Let The Right One In is essentially a love story between twelve-year-old vampire Eli (Lena Leandersson) and bullied neighbor boy Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant). Eli is a pretty quiet girl when she’s not hungry. Once she develops an appetite, or someone messes with her man, Eli turns vicious. When another neighbor becomes suspicious and tries to kill her, Eli pounces on the man’s neck as Oskar listens from outside the door. Though we don’t actually see any of that kill, the sound of blood gurgling out of his neck can be heard as his bloody hand reaches out of the door crack. Eli’s subsequent bloody hug with Oskar amps up the creepy for a little girl who’s no bark and all bite.
5. Esther, The Orphan (2009): Everyone’s got daddy issues but Esther takes it to the extreme. After being adopted by John and Kate (Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard), Isabelle Fuhrman’s Esther tries to settle into a normal family life but her true colors don’t take long to show. After an arguable display of humane animal treatment (that poor pigeon!), brother Daniel’s suspicious fall from a tree house, and a bludgeon-y run-in with a nun, mommy dearest begins to suspect that Esther may be lying about her innocent upbringing. Esther soon convinces an oblivious John that his wife is cracked and takes advantage of the broken family to seduce her adoptive father. And yet, a lust for older men isn’t the only secret Esther has and every calculated move and insincere smile makes sense upon the big, third-act reveal. The creepiest moment comes during school when a mean girl tries to disturb the ribbon around Esther’s neck, a gesture which is followed by a literal minute of her screaming and proceeding to throw herself around the inside a bathroom stall. No one said growing up was easy!
4. Carrie White, Carrie (1976): All poor Carrie wants is for the kids at school to like her, for a cute boy to take her to the prom, and for her mother to stop locking her in a closet with a bloody statue of Jesus, but things don’t go as planned. In Brian De Palma’s original Carrie, Sissy Spacek gives us the heebie-jeebies even before she turns from a soft-spoken freckle-faced weirdo into a wide-eyed murder machine. Raised by a religious fanatic mother, Carrie tries to keep her telekinesis under wraps but every time she gets upset—bam!—another light bulb blows out or mirror smashes. Eventually things seem to be looking up; Carrie starts standing up to her mother and even gets asked to prom, but nothing good can stay for long in this twisted coming-of-age tale. After some unforeseen circumstances, terror and Spacek’s cold stare rule the prom night. Carrie’s not one to cry over split blood and she goes out with a bang in the ultimate story of a good girl gone bad.
3. Damien, The Omen (1976): It’s all for you, Damien! When Robert’s (Gregory Peck) wife loses their baby in childbirth while in Rome, he secretly adopts a baby they name Damien (Harvey Spencer Stephens). Unlike most of the other entries on this list, Damien is a fright-inducing monster right from the beginning. People around him die continuously, animals fear him, with the exception of a loyal band of demon dogs, and he bellows ghoulish cries for help, pulling and scratching at his mother’s head when his parents bring him to a wedding at a church. In the most well known scene, Damien’s nanny kills herself at his birthday party, and it’s a moment made all the more terrifying due to the placid expression on Damien’s face, waving at one of his devoted dogs as his parents try to shield him from the horror. After an archeologist urges Robert to check his son for the sign of the devil, a bath reveals a small “666” on Damien’s scalp, confirming the fears of new parents everywhere; yep, he’s the antichrist. It doesn’t get creepier than that!
2. Samara Morgan, The Ring (2002): Based on the Japanese horror flick Ringu (1998), Gore Verbinski’s American version will scare the pants off of you as easily as the original. After a cursed videotape is watched, young Samara (Daveigh Chase) calls her victims whispering, “Seven days,” creepily crawls out of the TV disjointedly with a white dress and long black hair wet with murky ghost-water, and kills the viewer a week later. The tape is made up of images from the girl’s own mind, the most famous of which is the eclipse-like image of a lid closed over a well, as Samara’s adoptive mother dropped her down it and left her for dead— yikes! Between the senseless psychological torture, the horrible ways she disfigures the bodies of her victims, and her unwillingness to stay dead, Samara Morgan is one of the most sinister scamps in the horror history.
1. Regan MacNeil, The Exorcist (1973): The Exorcist is one of the best horror movies of all time and that is mostly due to the hilarious, disturbing, taboo spouting Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) and her penchant for vomiting split pea soup. Regan’s mother (Ellen Burstyn) and her doctors are dumbfounded when the lovable twelve-year-old starts swearing, threatening people, and committing murder. Things officially take a turn for the crazy when Reagan does the world’s most impressive backbend while running down the stairs, mumbling in a demonic baritone. From there we see her violate herself with a cross, turn her head 360 degrees, projectile vomit, and self-mutilate the words “help me” on her own abdomen. Despite her chilling, grotesque behavior, you can’t help but watch as this little girl self-destructs and takes down everyone around her. In the history of creepy kids, Reagan is the queen of youthful terror.
Agree with our picks? Who do you think is the scariest kid in cinematic history? Will you be watching Carrie this weekend?
Article by Nia Howe-Smith