Monday, October 15, 2012

They're he-re...

Every day at work, when I walk back to my office after heating up my canned chicken-noodle soup for lunch, I face off with the ghoulish girl zombie from George Romero's Night of the Living Dead.
We stare each other down. She usually wins.

To clear things up, my colleague has this poster hanging in his office. I saw it again today, just as I do every day, but today it really struck a chord. Think of all the children in horror movies. Damien in The Omen. The devil spawn in Rosemary's Baby. Carol Anne. The little Lutz girl. Malachi and his children of the corn. The little boy in Insidious. Danny and his "redrum." Firestarter. The wicked little things. Regan. Rhoda. And the one who terrifies me most of all - that girl who crawls out of the well in The Ring. After that film, I was afraid to turn on my TV for a month (which tells you a lot about my true character; I am a full-blown scaredy cat underneath it all).

Yikes. (
To sum it up, many classic, popular horror films focus on the child as either a beset innocent or a cold-blooded killer, rarely anything in between. You do also get the cold-blooded killer who seems innocent, the terrifying child who is so good at maintaining the front of innocence that his/her prey are blind to the child's true intent; these kids tend to scare us most of all.  

The question, then, that's been rattling its chains in my brian all day (and one that I've asked a time or two before) is ... why? Why are children so often the life-blood of the horror genre?

I don't have an easy answer. But I do think that the child serves as a barometer of sorts. Horror films tell us what waters are choppy. Afraid of rampant capitalism? Watch out for the zombies at the mall. Worried about English imperialism? That handsome dude from Transylvania who just moved to London might make you a little nervous. The advances of modern science? Here's an arm and a leg and a head; assembly is required. Killer kids and their counterparts speak to our worst fears as a society. Regan is the perfect bogeyman for all of those 1970s parents whose kids suddenly started smoking a lot of pot, rebelling against authority, and wearing really tight jeans.

So, gentle readers, I'm curious. Who is your favorite scary kid?

As an aside, many of the segments of Night of the Living Dead were filmed in Pittsburgh and its surrounding areas. Supposedly, some of the scenes were filmed in the old house of one of my high-school English teachers. I don't think this is really true, but I like it;).

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