Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pediophobia: Children in Horror

A couple days ago I posed the question to some of my readers, “why are we, as an audience, so scared of kids in horror movies?” After seeing The Children, I was genuinely terrified of little kids, how they smile, how they look off into the distance with an emotionless expression and it got me thinking. Two people responded to my question, one of them took a whole new approach to it (I will post his answer later) and the other was Rachel Fariss. I think she really nailed it on this one and it's open to much discussion. I let her make this post so here is her answer:

“Guest poster RachsMedia here, of Rach's Media Opinions. Rick has kindly allowed me to post a discussion on children in horror. Actually it's less a discussion, more a collection of musings and opinions from yours truly. The question I'm asking is what is it that makes kids so creepy? I've decided that the answer to that question depends on what horror movie we're talking about. See, there's a few different ways to make a child scary. I'm going to go through some examples throw some ideas around about what's scary about each.

1. The Advanced Intelligence Children
These are the children that can outsmart or possibly control adults. The best example of this is The Village of the Damned. These creepy, glowing-eyed rascals are too clever for their own good. So what makes them creepy? Lines like this don't help:

"Why do you think your own survival depends upon emotion from us? Should we pity you? Empathize with your plight?" - Mara Chaffee

I think what makes these kids creepy is that they personify a fear that many parents deal with. "Are my kids going to be emotionally stunted? And what happens when I can't teach them anymore? Will they leave me for dead?".

2. Genuinely Evil Child
Here I'm talking about kids that understand that they're committing atrocities and are happy with that. Some good examples of this are Damien from The Omen, Henry from The Good Son and Micheal from Halloween. The images of these nasties go against the commonly held notion that children are innocents. They are atrocities, violations of our preconceived ideas. Hence, creepy as all hell.

3. Accidentally Evil Child
These are children that commit evil due to an external force. Regan from The Exorcist is probably the best known of these, but the one I want to discuss is the more recent example of The Children. These kids are suffering from an illness that causes them to take delight in murdering the adults around them. The idea is chilling. No matter what you do, no matter how well you raise them, they could still turn on you. There are scenes where the motherly, nurturing instinct is crushed (I mean proper crushed) by the survival instinct. *shudder*

4. Evil Infants that still require nurturing.
Two examples spring instantly to mind, Rosemary's Baby and Grace. In Rosemary's Baby, Rosemary finds herself with Satan’s bun in the oven. In Grace, Madeline wills her stillborn baby back to life, only to find that she doesn't require breast milk so much as breast. The intensely creepy moments in both these films are the moments when you realize that both of them have every intention of caring for their little monsters and raising them to adulthood. The scariest things the infants do is tap into the maternal instincts of some very strong women.

That's what I got so far. Feel free to get the discussion going on anything I've missed or anything you disagree with. Thanks for reading and thanks to Rick for allowing me to guest-post :)”

I want to thank Rachel for going out of her way to make this post and for providing me with some images. I also want to take this opportunity to say… if you want to make a guest post, please, feel free to contact me.

Follow Rachel on Twitter here.
Check out Rachel’s blog here.


Chris Hallock said...

I seriously love The Children and its layers of subtext and unflinching style.

It's one of few movies from the last few years I'm certain to watch over and over.

Nice post!

Have you even seen Who Can Kill a Child?

Rach555 said...

Yay, my first guest post! How exciting :)

Thanks again, it was a wicked topic.

the jaded viewer said...

Awesome post. I'm intrigued by 2. Genuinely Evil Child. That's the most frightening.

The Children is definitely a #1 as its a virus causing the children to kill.

If they ever did a Michael Myers, the tween years...that would be scary as hell.

ZedWord said...

There are many cultural factors that may explain why we fear children.

Fear or distrust of children in Western culture is a carry-over, I think, from Victorian ideas about children and Christian morality. In a number of Victorian cultural writings, children (being newly born and unlearned in the ways of God) are closely associated with the sin all humans are considered to be born with after the Fall. John Wesley, an early promoters of Methodism, saw children as "natural atheists" in that they would naturally be inclined to love of nature (Children of the Corn?), desires of the flesh (Grace?), and all sorts of other naughty un-Christian business. Children, therefore, had to have their wills broken and civilized.

While we like to think of children as innocent, there is a history of thought that see children as corrupting.

There may also be an element of the fact that adults can never really feel or think like they used to as a child. Children appear oddly alien to adults because adults can't ever fully get into a child's frame of mind. Therefore, there's a mystery and dangerous potential in the child, especially if it is one's own: it looks like you, it may act like you, but it's not you and you don't know exactly what's going on in that little head of his or hers.

And don't forget the weirdness of pregnancy.

Something grows inside you. Silently, it entered your body at a moment when you were most open and vulnerable, and now it sleeps among your organs, waiting and growing. Your blood becomes its blood. Your air, its air. Your life, its life. Your body and your moods and wants and needs begin to change and intensify, a slave to the whims of the creature inside you. It grows bolder, kicking and turning inside your guts until it is final ready to burst forth in moment of screaming and blood.

Pregnancy and monstrous babies have been the subject of a whole sub-genre of horror films that include such movies as The Brood, Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, It’s Alive, Progeny, and Baby Blood.

forestofthedead said...

Great post. And great comment ZedWord.

Anonymous said...

I think these types of movies are scary to some people because of the fundimental question they pose to the audience, in fact for a parent or wannabe parent its the worst question you could ever ask. If there was something wrong with your child, could you stop it? In these movies there are three choices that we as the audience see parents forced to pick. Either:
1) you help the child survive (maybe by taking care of it yourself or getting it speicalist help) but you have to live with what you have done, knowing it may not be cured and you be responsible for anything it does in the future.
2)you kill the child
3)allow the child to kill you.

All three outcomes are a parents worst nightmare, and what even scarier is we know as viewers that there ARE evil children out there, 50 or so years ago we didnt know psychopathy could affect children, but now we know it exists, and now we have to deal with it, just like these parents in the movies. One of you reading this post may well have to deal with something like this one day, and the child batter its little eye lids, cry and hug you, it will use your parental love against you in order to survive, to hurt you or to hurt others, and deep down know you will let it. This is why these films can be so scary.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for spelling mistakes in the above post :/

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