Since I am a single gal, the very thought of having my own kids is enough to send me into a terror spiral. But, the little darlings on this list aren't your every day kids; nope, these are the kids that nightmares are made of (Like Richard said, "children are almost essential to a real horror film"). But this list just isn't about children in horror movies; it's about when the children are the source of the horror. Now I'm not saying all kids are evil, but if you take this list as an example of just how bad children can get, you will never look at those trick-or-treaters on your doorstep the same way again.
1. The Bad Seed (1956)
If you are going to talk evil children, then you have to give props to one of the baddest in the bunch: Patty McCormack as little Rhoda Penmark. Directed by Hollywood vet Mervyn LeRoy (who was more famous for his sophisticated comedies than suspense thrillers), the film was based on William March's novel of the same name and focused on a little pig-tailed demon who gets away with murder (despite a tacked-on ending that gives Deus ex Machinas a bad name). Rhoda terrorizes her nice suburban mom and tortures the staff while draped in a pinafore and knee-socks. It might not be the scariest flick in the bunch, but you can't deny that she was a nasty piece of work.
2. The Omen (1976)
Sure Rhoda Penmark might have been one of the first, but when most people think of evil kids in horror flicks they're usually thinking of Damien Thorn. Besides, you can't get much worse than being the Anti-Christ. Richard Donner directed the story of an upwardly mobile couple who bring home their bouncing baby boy, and the last thing they were expecting was to have to avert an apocalypse. Throw in some serious overacting on the part of Gregory Peck and the unforgettable scene at Damien's birthday party (if you haven't seen The Omen, I won't ruin it for you), and you get a preschooler that no one in their right mind would want to mess with.
3. Children of The Corn (1984)
So you're probably thinking: scarier than Damien? I don't think so, but really think back to Issac and Malachi -- there's usually nothing scarier than a zealot, especially one wielding a sickle. Children of The Corn was based on Stephen King's novella about a young couple who get stranded in a town under the control of some misguided bible-thumping little darlings. Since the kids in town have already killed their parents and any other adult in a 10 mile radius they now run their very own cult. Of course, religious fundamentalism is never really to blame in either the original book or the film, and in the end, most of the blame is placed on a demon who hangs out in the cornfields. Despite spawning numerous sequels I'd rather forget about, Children of The Corn was one of my first official 'scary' movie experiences. So for that alone it earns a space in my heart.
4. Village of The Damned (1960)
Based on The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, Village was the story of a global cosmic event that creates some pretty dangerous little tele-paths. When all the women in a local village give birth on the same day, a brood of overly polite and emotionless children begin to take over their town by controlling the minds of all the adults in the village. Directed by Wolf Rilla, the 1960 film starred George Sanders (All about Eve) as the only guy in town who sees that these well-behaved fair haired children are much more dangerous than they appear. A town in peril, creepy little British kids and vague allusions to conformity, the sexual revolution, and anti-communism, and you have a classic sci-fi flick.
5. The Ring (2002)
While she wasn't the original, Daveigh Chase's Samara Morgan in The Ring remake was definitely one of the spookier kids to come out of all those Japanese remakes (and lord knows there were plenty to choose from). In Gore Verberski's remake of Hideo Nakata's horror about the ghost of a little girl with a serious axe to grind and a thing for black and white videos, he manages to make a waterlogged little girl just as terrifying as any fully-grown chainsaw wielding maniac. When that little girl stared into the camera with that creepy voice saying "everyone will suffer," I believed her.
6. The Exorcist (1973)
I have to tell you that I struggled with this one. I couldn't really decide if Linda Blair's Regan McNeil was really all that evil? Wasn't she just a victim of circumstance after all? Then I remembered her creative use of a crucifix and that scene of her walking down a staircase backward and I immediately had to sleep with the light on that night. Starring Ellen Burstyn and an honest to goodness Jesuit Priest, William Friedken's classic horror film about a young girl possessed by the devil himself still ranks among the scariest flicks of all time. Which has to count for something.
7. Twilight Zone: The Movie - It's a Good Life (1983)
So while I am fully aware that It's a Good Life originally aired on television back in 1961, I could never compile a list of creepy little kids without including the boy from Joe Dante's version of that episode for the big-screen. Kathleen Quinlan plays a woman who is lured to an idyllic town by a small boy who has the power to make everything just as he wants it. When most people probably think of this movie, they think about the tragic death of Vic Morrow and two young children during the filming of an elaborate stunt sequence. But for me? I can only remember that eerie little boy keeping a group of people hostage in a Norman Rockwell painting gone bad.