Horror 365, Movie(s) 132: Top 10 Evil Children

The fact that my kids are grown-ass adults makes me feel, understandably, kinda old. On the other hand, it also means that I don’t particularly have to like children anymore. So I don’t. Plus, as I’ve made clear in the 13 Rules Of Horror, children are creepy–always. I speak from experience as a father. Especially when they do non-childlike things and/or do childlike things out of context. In no way of course do I refer to my own kids. They were always rational, angelic, selfless, beatific little beings full of sweetness and light. But other people’s kids, wowzers. Let’s just say I’ve seen a few who’d be at home on this list.

#10 It’s Alive (1974–ye gods not the remake)

I’m starting with this one because this thing freaks me out to this day. In truth, I was torn about listing it at all since this godawful critter falls closer to the monster end of the spectrum. Still, it’s somebody’s kid I guess.

#9 A Wrinkle In Time (2003)

I haven’t seen the 2018 adaptation, but I’m apparently one of the few who kinda dug this made-for-TV version and thought they did a decent job with IT and CENTRAL Central Intelligence. Little bit of backstory, the Advanced Technology Center on the campus where I teach is a pretty cold, imposing edifice that I frequently refer to as CENTRAL Central Intelligence. Anyway, the creepy children show up in the scene on Camazotz where they are all standing in their driveways bouncing balls. In unison. Expressionless. Yikes.

#8 “The Empty Child” (Dr. Who)

“Are you my mummy?” That’s pretty much all I have to say I think.

#7 The Children (1980)

These kids are more George Romero zombie-lookin’ than the ones coming up at #6. And they have black fingernails. And they they burn you up when they touch you. And the movie has one of those awesome “ain’t over yet” endings I love so much.

#6 The Children (2008)

I’ve written about this before because it is, after all, a christmas movie. I used to think this was a blatant ripoff of the original, but I think maybe it’s more along the lines of heavy influence. There are many differences. In this case, it’s some weird virus that causes all the problems as opposed to some chemical mist. Also these kids become largely affectless (with occasional outbursts of rage) and homicidal but otherwise function like normally living, breathing children which makes them that much spookier.

#5 The Omen (1976–again, not the remake)

Of course Damien was gonna be on this list. Before anything demonic or supernatural happens, all ya gotta do to up the weirdness factor is put a kid in a suit. To me, a kid in a suit is part of that whole uncanny valley thing. Then add the Satan stuff and we’re off to the races. And that smile at the end. Sheesh.

#4 Children Of The Corn (1984–remake, no)

I’m not sure which is more threatening, Malachai yelling “Outlander!” or everything Isaac says. To be fair, Isaac was played by an adult John Franklin, but really that just adds to the “kid out of context” vibe.

#3 Hereditary

Poor Charlie. She’s awkward, weird and, well, possessed, sure, but she’s still essentially innocent (though that noise she habitually makes is unnerving). But the best part about her is the total misdirection she provides. From the second I saw the trailer for Hereditary, I focused entirely on the wrong thing, right up to that gobsmacking WTF moment. If you know, you know. If not, what rock have you been hiding under?

#2 Village Of The Damned (1960–not sayin’ it again)

Before Jean Grey and Professor Xavier started up the psionics in The Uncanny X-Men, these kids were possibly the original creepy, suit-clad, telekinetic kids. They also have that white hair and those freakazoidonal eyes. And yet, somehow I find them significantly more sinister when their eyes aren’t glowing. I love this movie, and it’s quite a testament to director Wolf Rilla that the audience doesn’t feel at all bad about what happens to these tykes. Not for a second. At least, I don’t but, y’know.

Honorable Mentions

The Good Son, Night Of The Living Dead (1968), Pet Sematary (both versions), The Shining, Sinister, Us, The Woman In Black (2012)

#1 The Bad Seed

Darling Rhoda Penmark, my favorite vicious little sociopath. Can’t you just see her showing up on an episode of Law & Order either completely taking in Benson and Stabler, or giving Bobby Goren a run for his money? What’s entertaining is not just how calculating and cold-blooded she is, but how in some ways she’s still a naive little girl. Both those sides are best captured during Rhoda’s conversation with the caretaker Leroy. When he tells her about how blood can’t be washed out, he successfully rattles Rhoda’s cage. Bad plan. There are two made-for-TV remakes as well: the god-awful 1985 version, and the Lifetime one with Rob Lowe from 2018 that I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch…yet.

So there it is, yet another list. I’ve been doing these with some frequency. Maybe at some point I’ll set a little time aside for a Lists Only theme. Thoughts? Suggestions? Hit them Comments.

 

 

Horror 365, Movie 131: Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte

There’s a handful of movies I can sit and watch over and over and over again. Some of these I’ve been known to watch a couple times back to back. Psycho definitely but also What Ever Happened To Baby Jane, Double Indemnity, The Maltese Falcon, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and for sure Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte. I do love me a big ol’ heapin’ heppin’ of chicken-fried Southern Gothic Grande Dame Guignol.

What Ever Happened To Baby Jane, Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte, and How Awful About Alan were originally all fiction by Henry Farrell. He also wrote the screenplay for What’s The Matter With Helen. My wish is that he’d somehow been involved with Whoever Slew Auntie Roo. Sadly he was not. So much for everything about my world existing in complete harmony with the music of the spheres. But I digress.

So first of all, Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte is a treasure trove of heavy hitters. Everyone is in this thing! Not just Bette Davis in the title role (that alone constitutes reason enough to watch pretty much anything). There’s Olivia De Havilland who plays the viciously evil Miriam. Her co-conspirator is Drew (Joseph Cotten). Bruce Dern, Victor Buono, and Agnes Moorehead all join the party as well. Hell, Mary Astor and George Kennedy even show up.

The Faulknerian southern gothic storyline is so full of intrigues and mini-plots it becomes convoluted on an impressively giallo level. To provide a summary is nigh impossible. But I’ll try. Oh, and for added effect, anything in bold should be read like Keith Morrison on Dateline. Lessee…Charlotte is the crazy ol’ local recluse living in her big ol’ decrepit southern manse. Everyone thinks she’s batshit and has ever since someone decapitated her married lover way back in 1927. No proof was ever found, but everyone knew it was Charlotte. Wasn’t it?

Back in the present, Charlotte’s house is slated for demolition to make way for a new interstate (cuz progress). Charlotte claims ignorance of all this and refuses to be put out of her home. She even tries to kill a bulldozer with a rifle. As one does. But Charlotte has an ally…her cousin…Miriam. Miriam was poor and brought up with Charlotte, and it seems they were close…but then Miriam…left…and went to New York to make her own way.

Charlotte is looked after somewhat by her housekeeper, Velma (Agnes Moorehead), and the aforementioned local doctor, Drew Bayliss. Ultimately, the sheriff comes and has to lay down the law. Things aren’t looking good. But just when it seems that Charlotte is set to lose everything…who should arrive? Why, cousin Miriam. She’s come to help…but it turns out that help can mean many different things. To all appearances…it looks as if Miriam is there to help save Charlotte’s home…but is she?

Okay that was exhausting. Sheesh. Anyway, Miriam is pretty much only there to help Charlotte get her shit together and get the hell out. But obviously not really. Clearly there’s more to it than that, but if you’ve never seen this, I totally do not want to spoil it for you. It’s twisted. It’s disturbing. It’s got a surprising amount of gore for an early 60s production by 20th Century Fox.

The performances are delightfully watchable. Bette Davis gives nothing but over the top Bette Davisness. Olivia De Havilland is not only evil but deliciously mean-spirited about it, at one point even slapping the crap out of Charlotte. It takes a good second to recognize Moorehead while she gnaws away at the scenery, but once you do, you’re like “Hey that’s Sam’s mother from Bewitched!” And Victor Buono, I mean, what can one say? King Tut opposite Adam West’s Batman aside, how I would love to have seen him get a chance to play Big Daddy in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. Check him out as Charlotte’s father then imagine him saying “There ain’t nothin’ more powerful than the odor of mendacity.” *chef’s kiss*


SKULLS-13
BODIES- 4 onscreen, 2 off
For rent on Apple TV, Google Play, Prime, Vudu, YouTube

Horror 365, Movie(s) 130: 10 Of My Favorite Horror Directors

Seems like I’m doing lotsa lists lately (and apparently using a lot of alliteration along the way). I’m also somewhat surprised it’s taken me this long to talk about my favorite horror directors. Let’s take a few minutes and correct this rather egregious oversight.

 

#10 Rob Zombie

I’m a big fan of House Of 1000 Corpses, 31, and The Haunted World Of El Superbeasto. And Devil’s Rejects is one of my all-time favorite movies. It’s sick. It’s violent. It’s like Tobe Hooper meets Quentin Tarantino. What I love most about Rob Zombie is how he so clearly wears his love for classic horror on his sleeve. Both in terms of his films and his music, I feel like he spent many a late Friday and Saturday night as well as Saturday afternoon watching the exact same stuff I did.

#9 The Soska Sisters

I love all their movies, but my top two are American Mary and their remake of Rabid. I don’t know who these misogynistic gatekeeper fuckwits are who try to get all dismissive about women in horror, but they need to be smacked with a trench shovel and left bleeding in a drainage ditch. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that with one Cronenberg remake under their belts, I’d love to see them take a stab at Shivers. Seems right up their alley. Plus I don’t mind admitting that I think they’re gore-juice.

#8 Jordan Peele

Only two movies so far but oh what a beginning. I was happy to see Get Out garner its best original screenplay Oscar a few years ago, but I think it might shoulda done a little better than that. I was believin’ for best director. It’s been a long time since I’ve gone to see a movie, left the theater when it was over, bought another ticket, and went right back in to see it again.

#7 Ari Aster

Also two feature-length films thus far but, again, good god damn. Hereditary made me more tense than any movie I’ve seen since Alien, and Midsommar was an awesome answer to the question “How can we take the concept behind the original Wicker Man even more horrifying?” And if you haven’t seen his short, The Strange Thing About The Johnsons, well sweet long-haired jeebers, do yourself a favor and go watch it right now. I’ll wait.

Yeah, see? Told ya.

#6 Ken Russell

For those slow, quiet evenings around Castle Blogferatu when I wanna kick back in my smoking jacket with a nice Peterson briar full of Cornell & Diehl Haunted Bookshop pipe tobacco and watch and absolute mindfuck acid trip of a film, I dig into my Ken Russell section. Lair Of The White Worm, The Devils, Crimes Of Passion, Altered States, hell even Tommy, Russell always puts me back on the warped, twisted ground on which I feel most at home.

#5 Guillermo Del Toro

I’ve been hooked on this guy since Cronos. When he gets it right, he knocks it out of the park, like with Pan’s Labyrinth and The Shape Of Water. But even when he doesn’t, I have yet to be disappointed. I know a number of his movies like Hellboy and Crimson Peak got panned, but so far I think the man can do no wrong. I also hope to one day make enough money off a book or screenplay that I can buy a house and fill it, or at least one floor of it, with weird shit like he does.

#4 Tim Burton

Jack Skellington is my hero. Or one of them. So is Sweeney Todd. I’m in awe of how funny Burton is when he’s being dark and how dark he is when he’s being funny. Think about Beetlejuice: possession, threatened suicide, depictions of hanging and wrist cutting, summoning demons, murder, and all hilarious. Sleepy Hollow is darker, but Ichabod Crane is caricature-like as a bookish, intellectual detective.

#3 William Castle

Castle was the undisputed master of gimmickry and marketing. Percepto, Emergo, Illusion-O, The Fright Break, The Punishment Poll, Coward’s Corner–when it came to cinematic hucksterism and showmanship, the man was the cinematic equivalent of P.T. Barnum. John Waters cites Castle’s influence and has a great story about looking for the Percepto buzzers when they showed The Tingler in Baltimore and getting his “ass buzzed” all day.

#2 And speaking of John Waters…

If you don’t think John Waters is a horror comedy director, then you haven’t been paying attention. Look at Pink Flamingos. Yes, it’s definitely shock shlock, especially that notorious last shot, but how is it not a horror comedy? Cannibalism, possession (of sorts), and a baby breeding ring that makes Law And Order: SVU look like feel-good family fare.

Honorable Mentions

These folks are here mainly because they’ve only got one horror movie. Anna Biller (Love Witch), Kathryn Bigelow (Near Dark), Bill Gunn (Ganja & Hess).

#1 Alfred Hitchcock

Surely you knew he was gonna top out this list. I even have a tattoo of the above image. To be fair, much of Hitchcock hinges on suspense rather than straight up horror, but I still count him here. Psycho, of course, is a mainstay, as is The Birds. But there’s also Babs’s murder in Frenzy, undertones of necrophilia in Vertigo, Mrs. Danvers–one of the creepiest individuals ever written, and countless Charles Addams kinds of moments everywhere.

And there ya go, 10 directors for y’all. Rest assured there’s more a-comin’ soon. As always, drop some of your faves in the Comments.