Scary Freakin’ Kids

the omenThe kids in the book NOS4A2 (by Joe Hill) are bad. Not bad like they don’t want to do the dishes bad, or bad like they hit their little sister bad, but bad as in that they are demonic and have three rows of sharp, hook-like teeth. Bad as in they play games called ‘Scissor the Drifter’ the goal of which can be easily understood by deducing that the word scissor is a verb and the word drifter is a person. The kids in this book live at a place called Christmasland, where they sing Christmas carols for eternity, crucify old people, and make disturbing late night calls to adults.

Now, like most single men, I employ a healthy terror of children. They are small, honest and fragile. You have to feed them all the time and they often require help cleaning themselves after excreting some astoundingly disruptive element. They seem to have the ability to read minds and eat all of your money.

But what is it about kids in the horror genre?

Everyone does it. There are monster kids in books – Stephen King’s Children of the Corn and Wyndam’s Midwich Cuckoos (Village of the Damned) come to mind. Ray Bradbury wrote a story about an infant that assassinates its parents. I can’t remember the motive, but I think it had something to do with revenge for an irritating mobile and cold nipples.

Horror films feature children as often as romantic comedies feature Meg Ryan. There are creepy kids wandering around behind walls with Nicole Kidman, dead kids coming out of pet cemeteries, and monster little girls coming through your TV after you have had the misfortune of seeing a particular video. If the movie world were real, Japanese children would be meowing like cats, ghost photobombing Bill Pullman, and having weird tentacle sex. I don’t know what’s creepiest from those choices.

And then there’s my namesake, donning his permanent 666 yarmulke, and torturing those around him whilst preparing to take over Daddy the Devil’s throne in Hell.

Demonic kids are everywhere.

Reading NOS4A2 over the last week, I have been thinking about why kids in horror are so damn scary, arguably more so than demonic or ghostly adults. I don’t think it’s my issue – commitment and responsibility – as I don’t think Damien the Omen was chasing down adults demanding a clean poopy diaper. There is just something about mixing childlike innocence with evil that just makes a shiver run down your spine as you go to check that your front door is locked.

It’s that play on what is safe and comfortable being turned into something disturbing that really makes kids in horror scary. Joe Hill’s ability to do this is awesome. And he did it with other things as well. There is the constant presence of Christmas: Christmas carols, decorations, icons, even his creation, the horrific Christmasland. All of it used to put a twist on something safe and sound to make it uneasily disturbing.

In any event, it works. This week I have been more terrified of children than ever. My neighbor’s baby starting crying and I was sure that he was going to come through the wall.

I don’t know what would have been worse – if he had played scissor the neighbor or asked me to clean his poopy diaper.

Scariest kids in horror?

  1. #1 by PJ on May 20, 2013 - 2:22 pm

    First, stop crying you big sissy.
    Second, kids are definitely creepy in books, I’m looking at you scary kids in Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, because they’re supposed to be cute and innocent and instead they kill mercilessly as if the choice was either make another pillow fort or slaughter the neighbor and his family, both seem like good ways to spend an afternoon. That’s why my baby’s bed is on my wife’s side of the bed. Practical and safe!

  2. #2 by Damien Galeone on May 20, 2013 - 3:29 pm

    Yes, and then there are those damn zombie kids!

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