Letting the Formula Work For You Part 1: The Creepy Child

Last Friday I finally got around to seeing The Cabin In The Woods, a clever film that deconstructs horror movie formulas, while at the same time poking fun at them. I really hated the ending of the film when I first saw it, but as I've been thinking about the symbolism of it all...I kind of discovered that me hating the ending was almost like a part of their plan...and shows how predictable I am as [SPOILER] "an angry god" or member of the audience, in viewing the offerings of the organization AKA filmmakers. They didn't appease me...so I wasn't appeased. Kinda brilliant actually. [/spoiler] The movie really got me thinking about the various tropes that pop up in the well worn horror genre and how certain films successfully utilize them, while others hope that just by placing them in there at all the job of scaring the audience is done.  

So let's take a look at some of the most famous tropes, including some of the ones featured in The Cabin in the Woods and how some movies used them to their advantage. However, we are gonna do this is in a topic per post format because as I started writing this I realized there is far too much to include....so for now I am gonna start with one of the very most common...

As seen in: The Bad Seed (the ORIGINAL creepy kid...who I almost forgot!), The Ring, The Exorcist, The Sixth Sense, The Omen, The Orphanage, The Others, The Shining, Poltergeist, Insidious, The Innocents, Orphan, Godsend, The Grudge, Let Me In, The Wickerman, The Unborn

What is it about kids in horror movies that make them so darned creepy!? I mean...they're little! They're not full grown human beings! Surely you could put Samara or Damien in their place right...right!? Okay maybe not so much when it seems almost all of these kids are for whatever reason PURE evil. And heaven help you if they are singing!

Before we get into the nitty gritty of stuff done well vs. cliche garbage I present to you....


5. Cole Sear - The Sixth Sense. Nice kid, but it wouldn't be too fun having non stop ghosts stopping by the house in hopes of him helping clear up unfinished business

4. Esther - Orphan. When she's not trying to kill you she's hitting on your husband!

3. Samara - The Ring. You just can NOT discipline this girl. She will put images in your head if you do...and plus...she never sleeps! How can you combat that!?

2. Damien - The Omen. Not so keen on the anti-Christ.

1. Regan - The Exorcist. I would like my child NOT to be possessed by Satan...


DO give them depth and a backstory. Cole in The Sixth Sense is probably one of the most interesting child characters I can think of in any film. His story is compelling, and so the audience cares for him...which makes the scares all the more effective.

DON'T just put them in the movie as a plot device. The Wickerman is an offender of this. I feel like this is one of the problems with the ghost kids found in The Grudge.

DO give the characters a personality and highlight their complexities. Again Sixth Sense is a great example of humanizing what would be a supposed evil kid in any other film. But also take a look at the kids from The Others. Their illness and upbringing have made them very different from other kids...and in their own way they are kind of fascinating.

DON'T introduce your character as a cardboard thin caricatures of an evil child. Godsend is the huge example of this. In fact...I don't remember anything about this movie other than "evil kid" When i just looked up the plot again on imdb i thought.... ohhhh evil CLONED kid. Even better. Oh and Orphan...though the twist makes it worth it haha!

DO let them discover something mysterious...or be at the center of it all. I like it when kids are the first ones to know something is up. When I was a kid I always thought it was like this :) I appreciate this in Let Me In, The Orphanage and The Ring

DON'T put them in danger just for a cheap scare. Now the operative word is cheap. Sometimes kids can be used for the most effective scares! But sometimes...in something as mediocre and ridiculous as The Wickerman, it induces an eye roll as opposed to genuine concern. And above ALL..... DON'T do THIS in your movie:

That oughtta do it! Tune in next for the segment on new houses :) Did I miss any? I wanted to include a few Simpsons clips about creepy kids but couldn't find them. haha! Next time....


Amelia said...

Haha creepy kids are the worst! I liked what you said about humanizing the kids. I thought the Orphanage was an interesting use of children as both innocent and creepy.

Amelia said...

Oh! I just realized you forgot the Children of the Corn! Waaaay creepy.

Johanna said...

It's not really a horror film, but The Good Son with McCauley Caulkin and Elijah Wood. Bless Mac's little heart, I always thought he was a little off with those cherry red lips.

Now I feel bad for saying that.

Sarah said...

Mom, you're funny. Emily, where in the world did half of the pictures in this post come from? Especially that last one with the creepy kid feeling up his mother/sister/babysitter? Yuck!

Sarah said...

Mom, Jeremiah laughed and laughed at your post. He wants you to know that it makes him love you when you say silly things like that.

Unknown said...

Little Carol Ann in Poltergeist. She was definitely the center of it all and rather creepy... There heeeerrrreeee!