In BBC America and AMC’s supernatural horror series NOS4A2, Zachary Quinto stars as Charlie Manx, an immortal serial killer who takes his young victims for a long ride in his luxury Rolls-Royce Wraith and feeds off their souls. The poor kids are then trapped in Christmasland, a twisted village where every day is Christmas Day and unhappiness is illegal, making their lives pretty freaky and the kids themselves, well, pretty creepy.
To whet your appetite for season two, which just premiered this past Sunday (June 21) at 10pm EST on both BBC America and AMC, here’s a guide to some other super-creepy kids from the world of film and TV.
1. Damien Thorn in The Omen
Gregory Peck and Lee Remick star in this 1976 horror classic as an affluent couple whose young son Damien (Harvey Spencer Stephens) appears to be the focal point for a series of gruesome murders. They soon learn, of course, that the reason he’s creepy enough that his mere presence terrifies animals is that he’s actually the Antichrist. After watching The Omen, you’ll never think of the expression “devil child” in quite the same way again.
2. The kids in Village of the Damned
There isn’t just one creepy kid in this 1960 sci-fi flick – there’s a whole clique of them, all born on the same day in the same quaint English village. They all exhibit the same strange behaviors, too: talking like adults, displaying no warmth or empathy, and developing much faster than other kids their age. By the time they start reading minds and forcing adult villagers to do things against their will, you’ll be wondering whether they’re actually kids at all… as you cower behind your sofa cushion, of course.
3. Rhoda Penmark in The Bad Seed
“The bad seed” is kind of an understatement. In this 1956 psychological horror film, Patty McCormack plays eight-year-old Rhoda Penmark, a kid who isn’t just creepy but a fully-fledged murderer. When a local boy beats her in a penmanship contest, she responds by having him drowned, and he’s far from her only victim. McCormack had already played the role on stage and her screen performance is so unsettling that she earned herself an Oscar nomination.
4. Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist
In fairness, 12-year-old Regan (Linda Blair) is incredibly creepy because she’s been possessed by a violently malevolent spirit. In the most famous scene from director William Friedkin‘s iconic 1973 movie – the first horror flick to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars – Regan’s head spins a full 360 degrees as she spews vomit everywhere. Nearly 50 years after it came out, The Exorcist still isn’t a film to watch alone, or on a full stomach, for that matter.
5. The vampiric kids in American Horror Story: Hotel
Creepy kids have been featured in several seasons of Ryan Murphy‘s horror anthology series, but Hotel‘s little blond boys are probably the most unsettling of the lot. Perhaps it’s the way their platinum hair and cute French schoolboy outfits make them look all sweet and innocent, when we later find out that Lady Gaga‘s vampiric Countess is using them as a human blood filtering system. Eugh.
6. Gage Creed in Pet Sematary
Adapted from a Stephen King novel, 1989’s Pet Sematary hinges on a tragedy: when sweet and innocent little Gage Creed is killed in a road accident, his grieving father Louis (Dale Midkiff) brings him back to life by burying him in a cemetery possessed by an ancient spirit. Gage duly returns from the dead, but as a scalpel-wielding demon intent on murdering his own mother. The fact that he’s just two years old makes it even more abominable.
7. Kevin Khatchadourian in We Need to Talk About Kevin
Director Lynne Ramsay‘s adaptation of Lionel Shriver‘s bestselling novel vividly brings to life every mother’s worst nightmare. Tilda Swinton stars as Eva Khatchadourian, a once successful travel writer who feels goaded, loathed, and repulsed by her sadistic teenage son Kevin (Ezra Miller). As a series of freak accidents befall the family, Eva is convinced Kevin is to blame, but her husband Franklin (John C. Reilly) doesn’t believe her until it’s too late. Swinton and Miller’s performances – equally haunting in different ways – will stay with you for years.
8. Joshua Austin in Outcast
In this horror series based on comics created by The Walking Dead‘s Robert Kirkman, Gabriel Bateman plays Joshua Austin, a young boy suffering from demonic possession. In a way, it’s not his fault that he ends up eating cockroaches, bashing his head against a wall and biting people who try to help him, but it’s still horrifically creepy to watch.
9. The Grady Twins in The Shining
Director Stanley Kubrick‘s adaptation of one of Stephen King‘s most acclaimed novels is a pop culture staple that’s gone down in film history. It’s filled with terrifying moments, but among the most creepiest are brief glimpses of the Grady Twins (Lisa and Louise Burns), who were killed by their father while he was possessed by ghosts in the Overlook Hotel. The inherent eeriness of identical twins is a horror trope that Kubrick really helped to crystallize here.
10. Sadako Yamamura in Ring
Technically, the antagonist from iconic Japanese horror franchise Ring isn’t a child, but the ghost of one. After she’s murdered by her own father and dumped down a well, Sadako (Rie Inō) uses her psychic powers to burn her vengeance onto a cursed VHS tape that dooms anyone who watches it. She’s made unknowable and even creepier by the way her long hair obscures her face – an indelible visual that’s become a Japanese horror trope.
Actress Daveigh Chase did an admirable job portraying this vengeful child-ghost in the American version opposite Naomi Watts, as well. We still have nightmares about her crawling (as creepily as possible) out of that TV screen.
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