Jason's Halloween Horror Picks - Misplanned Parenthood

Your friends are all growing up, getting married, and starting a family, leaving you behind and all alone. The next time these same friends start spouting about their superiority over you due to their ability to procreate (I mean, they ARE better than you, but not JUST because they thought 'pulling out' works), just show them any of the movies in my list below and be prepared to sit back and bask in your newly appointed role as "the smart one" in your group (you need a new group). That's right, here are ten movies involving killer kids and murderous tykes that will make anyone think twice about starting a family.

1. It's Alive (1974)

Frank and Lenore are about to become the proud parents of their second child. As Frank chats with other expectant fathers in the waiting room, screams are heard and everyone in the delivery, sans Lenore, is dead, with a baby-shaped hole in the skylight above. Without much consideration, it's decided that the killer must be the newborn infant. Soon, the world discovers the identity of the couple with the murderous baby and Frank must hunt his new son down and kill him to end the murderous spree that he has embarked upon (something we ALL must do at some point or other).

Containing perhaps the youngest of all of the killers on the list (he chalks up his first kill within seconds of emerging from the birth canal), It's Alive is a great little 70s exploitation shocker from writer/director Larry Cohen. Just about anything Cohen is worth checking out, but this one is great to watch for any expectant parents during their third trimester. The mutant baby doesn't look half bad considering the budget (an early job by Rick Baker) and John Ryan (as Frank) gives an excellent performance that keeps the audience invested in the ridiculous. It's Alive also spawned (yep, I've already proven that I ain't afraid of no pun) 2 sequels (also written and directed by Cohen, and one of them featuring Ryan) that are certainly fun in their own right, and a remake from a few years ago that is wholly skippable.

2. Beware! Children at Play (1989)

In a small town, children begin disappearing left and right (or willy nilly, if you nasty). A police officer and a writer team up to figure out what exactly is going on and where the kids are going. As it turns out, a local teenager is brainwashing the kids into joining his murderous, zombified, cannibalistic cult, leading to a final showdown between good and bad, kid and parent, taste and lack thereof...

The fine folks at Troma distributed this late 80s exploitation shocker that gained a small bit of notoriety. The first hour, despite a few decent kills, is a bit boring and can be a chore to get through, particularly a rather campy overall mood and performances more wooden than human (although, the opening scene is pretty fun). But, it's the grand finale that raised its share of controversy. Seeing no other way out, the adults band together in an all out massacre, killing every child in the town. There's no other way to put it - it's a kid killing marathon (the Kenyans still win). All manner of weapons are used in all manner of ways as child after child is murdered in a field by their own parents. Thankfully, the cheesy manner in which it is done takes a lot of the edge off, but it still could be tough for some to get through.

3. The Brood (1979)

A psychologist is using quite unconventional methods on Nola, a woman currently battling for custody of her daughter with ex-husband Frank. As they delve deeper into her psyche using physiological changes, despite Frank's insistence of the illegitimacy of the doctor's methods, bodies start piling up and it seems that children are the culprits. With the safety of his own daughter on the line, Frank sets out to prove that the doctor is behind the whole thing and perhaps the murderers are something else entirely.

Sure, I used a few vagueries on the plot description, but much of the fun of this early effort from David Cronenberg is in discovering the intricacies yourself. With Cronenberg, you know you're going to get more than meets the (poked) eye and you can also be sure that a bit of body horror is to be involved. There are quite a few creepily effective scenes (I'm specifically thinking of a mid-movie scene in a classroom) and Oliver Reed has a lot of fun as Dr. Hal Raglan. Definitely one of Cronenberg's best...

4. Home Movie (2008)

The home movies of the Poe family (David, Clare, and twins Jack and Emily) reveal the ideal family life - nice home, happy marriage, good job... But, Jack and Emily have quite a few odd habits that become increasingly alarming to their parents (come on - we've all stapled a few live frogs to a tree before). In order to stop them before it's too late, the loving parents must enter the nightmares of their creepy children and regain control of their psyches. But, will both sides be able to survive the night?

I'm not normally a fan of found footage films, but this one does something unique and can be quite effective at times (also, I don't want anyone to think I can't appreciate anything made after 1987). Adrian Pasdar as the father veers just on the right sight of being over the top and is a real hoot. The kids are very suitably creepy (and, just happen to be played by real life twins). No gore and no jump scares, this one is all about atmosphere. The ending is both disturbing and shocking, if also a bit necessary to suspend your disbelief on a few things, but the whole paper bag motif will be in your head for days!

5. Firestarter (1984)

Andy, a telekinetic since volunteering to be a guinea pig for scientific experiments, and Charlie, his young daughter with the ability to start fires with her mind (lighter child safety locks be damned) are on the run from a secret government agency (the very agency who killed Charlie's mom - dunh, dunh, dunh). Once captured, Charlie befriends a one-eyed, two-mopped janitor who is actually an operative hired to find the powerful duo.

This one might be a bit of a cheat - it's more sci-fi/thriller than it is horror, and it's a pretty well known movie. Sure, there are a ton of killer kid movies that could have been used in place of this one, but I felt like Firestarter plays with the guidelines of the category a bit and was therefore worthy of inclusion. Firstly, the killer kid, in this case, is actually the good guy, so you root for her to keep adding to her body count. Secondly, it's based on a book by Stephen King, who has written about more murderous youth than you can fit in an entire corn field (Children of the Corn, Pet Sematary, Carrie). Lastly, it has underrated performances by David Keith (not to be confused with Keith David, even though you probably will anyway and presumably he wouldn't mind) a very young Drew Barrymore, and a hammy George C. Scott. Granted, Oscar winner Louise Fletcher is inexplicably only given about two lines and then asked to kick it in the background for the rest  of the time, but if she can forgive that injustice, then I don't understand why YOU are still harping on about it.  Who do you think you are?  Louise Fletcher's mom, Mrs. Fletcher?  You're starting to piss me off, now (test to see who's still reading).  I love you.

6. Kill Baby, Kill (1966)

The ghost of a young girl, at the behest (which is a second helping of hest) of her grieving mother, Baroness Graps, is making short work of several locals on a small island. A doctor is called in to perform an autopsy of one of the victims, all of whom are found with a silver coin embedded in their hearts, and along with a local nurse and the town witch, will try to get to the bottom of what is going on in this turn of the century Carpathian village.

An Italian flick directed by the famed Mario Bava, this one is also a unique take on the category as we are now dealing with the GHOST of a child as opposed to a living, breathing, parent-sponging, non-appreciative typical killer kid. The real villain of the piece is the mother (not a spoiler), but little Melissa is still quite the creepy presence. Much of the horror of the 70s through the present has been influenced by the works of Bava (this one certainly seems to have had an effect on genre favorites The Shining and Suspiria), so any chance that you get to check out one of his earlier films is a chance that you should take.  Plus, there's some really creepy dolls thrown into the mix, and we all know how those usually go!

7. The Children (1980)

A busload of children has disappeared from the quiet town of Ravensback. When Sheriff Billy Hart is finally able to track them down, he discovers that a yellow cloud of toxic gas has transformed the children into murderous zombies with black fingernails and a love for microwaving living things. The adults of the town (those who are left, anyway) must band together to stop the tykes before, well... bad stuff happens.

Another killer kid movie distributed by Troma (but made outside of their company), The Children is a fun kidsploitation flick made as the 70s were coming to a close. The parents contained within would all be considered contenders for Worst Parent of the Year Award (the televised ceremony to be delightfully hosted, of course, by Neil Patrick Harris), giving the impression that, in this one case, the kids could be better off as zombies. The plot gets silly and the acting is laughable, but a bit of gore and nudity, bizarreness, and a goofily fun final twist make this one an entertaining 90 minutes. It would actually make a pretty good double feature with Beware! Children at Play listed above.

8. Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)

Alice is a 12-year-old girl, jealous of the constant attention and affection afforded her little sister Karen (Karen, Karen, KAREN). When Karen is found murdered in a church just before her first holy communion, Alice is the number one suspect. Her case isn't helped any by the fact that more and more people are dying at the hands of Karen's killer and Alice's innocence seems less likely with each. But, is it really Alice, or someone else entirely?

This film, also known as Communion and Holy Terror and Weekend at Bernie's 3, is very reminiscent of the Italian giallos of the 60s and 70s and is quite the effective little slasher, predating Halloween and Friday the 13th. Because the killer may or may not actually be a child (a fact I will not reveal here), it may seem to be (yet another) stretch for the category, but Alice certainly seems capable of murder and fits the creepy kid mold beautifully. An early appearance by Brooke Shields as Karen is quite suitably unlikeable. Containing a lot more depth than a typical slasher, particularly once motivations are revealed, this is one that never gets enough credit, but is certainly worth your time.

9. Devil Times Five (1974)

After a deadly van accident in a snowy canyon, five children emerge, seemingly unharmed. The young survivors arrive at the secluded mountaintop winter home of a rich businessman and his friends. Soon, strange mishaps start occurring (the movie would be boring if regular old haps started occuring) and the group is stranded without electricity and telephones. One by one, the adults begin to fall prey to a series of shocking and violent deaths. By the time the few surviving adults suspect the demented delinquents it may be too late (well, yeah, of course it is too late).

Boy, did we ever hate kids in the 70s - with my #10 below, half of my list was made in the decade of my own birth (although, this one was almost replaced by 1981's Bloody Birthday). Originally known as Peopletoys (da fuq?), this one is pure 70s sleaze, particular in the first half hour. What makes it unique on this list (an accidental motif of mine, apparently) is the fact that the focus really isn't placed primarily on the psycho kids, but instead on the adult victims and their grisly dispatchings. Inventive kills, gratuitous nudity, overly creepy kids (including a young Leif Garrett - no, really), and well staged set pieces (the opening bus crash in particular) make this one of the highlights of 70s kid-based shlock.                                                                         

10. Who Can Kill A Child? (1976)

On the island of Alamanzora, a couple of English tourists find the town to be completely devoid of any adult presence. Instead, they find a group of mute, stare-contest champion children. As it turns out, the kids are possessed by a mysterious force that causes them to murder anyone of voting age. The question raised in the film's title comes into play when the couple must decide how far they are willing to go to defend themselves.

And, I'll end the list with the best. This Spanish production begins with a disturbing history lesson, leading into a rather chilling sequence of children playing on the beach. Almost surely an influence on King's Children of the Corn, this one suffers just a bit from a lack of gory deaths and actors not quite up to the task (other than our two excellent leads), but it more than makes up for it in psychological terror. Once the halfway mark hits (an unforgettable scene where one of our leads must make the first such title-decision), the suspense in this builds at a steady pace until we get to the frightening ending. If you're planning on seeing just one killer kid movie from this list (why, though?), this would easily be my top recommendation.  

So, there it is - ten very solid reasons to practice birth control. Some are scary, some are cheesy, and a few are downright disturbing, but all of them are solid examples of the killer kid genre. If you need more than just ten filmic experiences watching kids kill or be killed (what is wrong with you?), then you should also check out The Offspring, Bloody Birthday, Sleepaway Camp, The Pit, any of The Omen flicks, or a new entry - Cooties. If you want to take issue with any of my choices or suggest a few of your own, leave a comment below!

Jason Howard