Phillip's Horror Lists, Part Four: Kids Incorporated
A few of the films I've already mentioned (such as "Who Can Kill a Child?) deal explicitly with children, either as the main protagonists or the main antagonists. Here are six other horror film where children figure prominently in the action. These are all 4-star films (by my reckoning, at least) and are all very worthy of viewing. In alpha order, then:
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2011) – Not directed by del Toro but written by him and bearing his stamp all over the final product, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” is a bit frustrating. Two-thirds of the film are exceptional, while a good third is rather irritating. The setting is amazing, however, and the concepts are solid. Katie Holmes is decent, although she seems to sleepwalk through quite a bit of the movie. When “DBAOTD” is good, it’s great. When it’s not so good, you’ll probably find yourself looking at your watch.
Parents (1989) – Certain films defy easy description and “Parents” is certainly one of them. A young boy begins to suspect that his parents are…well, for lack of a better word, they appear to be cannibals. “Mystery meat” is always on the menu and Dad seems particularly secretive. Will young Michael get to the bottom of things or is just one seriously disturbed dude? The ‘50s setting, soundtrack and slightly-off color palette are all integral to the film’s power but Randy Quaid is something to be seen. As the father, Quaid turns in one of his very best, quirkiest performances. He’s funny, scary, sinister and, oddly enough, kind of paternal. The twist ending is also particularly good. Put this on a double-bill with “Eating Raoul” and don’t skimp on the appetizers!
The Gate (1987) – I remember watching this special effects extravaganza when I was much younger but I haven’t been able to get a hold of it for quite some time. Enter the glory of Netflix and I’ve finally rewatched “The Gate.” Final verdict? That was one seriously fucked up kids’ movie! From implied to actual violence against children to the creepy creature effects to the wack-a-doodle sense of logic on display, “The Gate” is like a mish-mosh of “Peewee’s Playhouse” and “The Evil Dead.” Several kids accidentally open a doorway to Hell in their backyard and inadvertently release a mob of obnoxious little demons. It’s up to them to save their town and, by default, the world. Truly a one-of-a-kind viewing experience…and this was marketed to kids?! Insane…
The Innocents (1961) – Slow but eerily effective, “The Innocents” is another filmic adaptation of Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw” (also seen in “The Nightcomers,” with a suitably sweaty Marlon Brando performance). Similar in tone and execution to other subtle classics like “The Haunting,” “The Innocents” is about a rather flighty young governess who begins to suspect that the two children under her care have become possessed by the ghosts of the former governess and caretaker. Worse yet, the two young children have begun to take on many characteristics of the dead people, including their kinky sexual interests. This is a slow-burn of a film but is more than suitably atmospheric and creepy. That little boy, Miles, is just about the creepiest rugrat on earth!
The Others (2001) – At its heart, Alejandro Amenabar’s funereal “The Others” is a puzzle-box, not unlike the early (read: good) films of Shyamalan. There is a twist here, one which I won’t reveal for anything, but the entire film hinges on the twist. Luckily for everyone involved, the twist is great and makes the film that much more impactful. Nicole Kidman (in one of my favorite roles of hers) portrays a rather odd mother who keeps her two young children shut up in a dark house all day long. The kids, you see, are direly sensitive to light and can’t come into contact with so much as ray of sunlight. After a time, however, Kidman begins to suspect that there’s something going on in her home. Is it actually haunted, as she suspects, or is she really just bat-shit crazy (like we suspect)? The answer is something else entirely and makes “The Others” quite a worthy addition to any horror collection. The lack of gore and explicit violence makes this one a good choice for younger viewers, although the slow pace may turn them off.
The Tall Man (2012) – Extensively reviewed earlier, since I watched it on October 1st, I’ll just give the bare bones here. A single mother (also the town doctor) in a small, run-down town in the Pacific Northwest must unravel the terrible secret of The Tall Man when her son is abducted one night. Nothing is as it seems, however, and in short order we’re left wondering who, exactly, the monster really is. The truth will (probably) surprise you. Although only peripherally a horror film, “The Tall Man” makes some excellent, controversial points about family and child-rearing, making this quite the thought provoking bit of genre fluff.