Fifty-some-odd years ago, a woman named Rosemary gave birth to a baby who did not bode well for the future on humanity, what with the baby being the spawn of the devil and all. Many horror movie tropes have been built up over the years: Knife-wielding maniacs, cats jumping out at you at just the wrong time and, of course, scary kids. Spooky, terrifying children pop up often in horror movies. In most films, kids are precocious and harmless, which is what makes the juxtaposition of a horror movie kid being scary truly jarring. Here are 20 of the scariest children in horror movie history.
Rhoda Penmark, "The Bad Seed" (1956)
Rhoda Penmark is arguably the genesis for all the evil little kids who came in horror movies after her. "The Bad Seed" came out in 1956, when the Production Code was still a thing. They even had to add a little credits scene where actress Nancy Kelly, who plays Rhoda's mom, playfully spanks Patty McCormack, who played Rhoda. That's how disturbing a movie like this was at the time. They had to assure everybody that it was all just a movie.
David Zellaby, "Village of the Damned" (1960)
Again, here we have an entire town of spooky kids, this time with bleached-blonde hair and creepy eyes. If you've ever seen "The Simpsons" episode where all the children of Springfield go see "The Bloodening," this is the movie that it's based on. David is the son of the main characters, so he gets special billing among his creepy cohorts.
Virginia, "Spider Baby" (1967)
You may not have heard of "Spider Baby," but the film has achieved cult classic status over the years. Virginia is known as spider baby because, well, she loves spiders. Also, she is regressing mentally and emotionally, which is disconcerting in and of itself. If you are looking for a new horror movie to watch featuring spooky kids, add "Spider Baby" to your list.
Karen, "Night of the Living Dead" (1968)
There are a lot of zombies in George Romero's classic horror movie, although he never called them zombies. Most of them are adults. Karen, though, is a child. Beyond that, she is the daughter of a couple who is holed up in the safe house, which means when she's turns zombie, she's already in there, looking for brains.
Regan MacNeil, "The Exorcist" (1973)
OK, so Regan isn't so much scary as the demon who possesses her is. However, we don't see that demon. We do see a little girl spin her head around, vomit soup and look terrifying. So Regan still makes the list, because "The Exorcist" is one of the scariest movies of all time.
Damien, "The Omen" (1976)
Much like Rosemary's kid, Damien was born evil. In fact, he's actually the Antichrist, which doesn't bode well for his parents or, well, anybody. He eventually grows up in a series of sequels less well-received than the original "The Omen."
Michael Myers, "Halloween" (1978)
Don't forget where Michael Myers started. He ended up institutionalized because as a kid he stabbed his sister to death on the titular holiday. Michael was only six then, and he had already perfected the whole scary-clown act. Then he threw on a weird white mask, and the rest is history.
Grady twins, "The Shining" (1980)
Danny Torrance is not exactly free of creepiness, but he can't hold a candle to these twins. They are barely in the movie, but they have made a massive impact on pop culture. Even if you haven't seen "The Shining," you've seen these two girls in their matching dresses, beckoning you to play with them forever and ever.
Anthony, "Twilight Zone: The Movie" (1983)
What is it with kids who have supernatural powers? Can't they use them for good? Anthony certainly doesn't. He's basically a little god, but he demands the world to bend to his whim, and there are repercussions if you don't.
Isaac Chroner, "Children of the Corn" (1984)
Frankly, all the kids in "Children of the Corn" are creepy little murderers, but Isaac is the worst of the bunch. He's the one who starts the cult in Gatlin, Nebraska, that demands blood for He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Admittedly, that's impressive for a 12-year-old, but it would have been nice if he had put his persuasive powers to better use.
Charlie McGee, "Firestarter" (1984)
Most kids, if you make them mad, might pout or throw a tantrum. Charlie, though, tends to start fires with her mind. Given how unpredictable a kid can be, you'd have to walk on eggshells around her, just hoping not to get caught in a fire. Charlie is certainly scarier than Gertie in "E.T.," another famous child character played by Drew Barrymore.
David, "The Lost Boys" (1987)
There are a lot of young vampires in "The Lost Boys," and they all belong here. Bloodthirsty vampires are certainly scary. David, played by Kiefer Sutherland, is on the older side, but he takes on a leading role among the vampires in town that makes him all the more menacing.
Gage Creed, "Pet Sematary" (1989)
Could nobody in Ludlow, Maine, learn a lesson? Animals got buried at a Micmac burial ground and came back mutilated and evil. One guy buried his son there, and he came back as a violent zombie. Despite that, Louis decided to bury his dead son Gage there. You can guess what happened. Gage didn't start off scary, but he certainly was by the end.
Henry Evans, "The Good Son" (1993)
Honestly, Macaulay Culkin's character in "Home Alone" is pretty scary in his own right. He's awfully happy to light Joe Pesci's head on fire. Still, Kevin McAllister isn't quite as evil, or scary, as Henry from "The Good Son." He takes the violence to a whole new level.
Samara, "The Ring" (2002)
"The Ring" is the American version of Japan's "Ringu," but Sadako/Samara is creepy either way. With her long, stringy hair and penchant for crawling out of wells before killing you, Samara is real nightmare fuel, even if you aren't likely to watch a VHS anymore.
Toshio Saeki, "The Grudge" (2004)
Here's another scary kid you've probably seen, even if you didn't watch "The Grudge." Toshio is pale white and has scary eyes, and he was all over the ads. Sans the context of the film, he's a ghost boy, and he's still creepy. That's powerful horror movie imagery.
Eli, "Let the Right One In" (2008)
Eli is nice to her neighbor Oskar, and she seems like a friendly enough little girl on the surface. The only hitch is that she is a vampire who is more than willing to kill somebody to feed. She may have held off on killing Oskar, but most people weren’t so lucky.
Esther, "Orphan" (2009)
You know you've made a successful little horror film when people are worried it will stigmatize orphans. Esther was the exact wrong kid for Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard to adopt, on account of the fact she's pure evil. Not in the supernatural way, either. She's just an awful little kid, which arguably makes her even scarier.
Lillith, "Case 39" (2009)
Consider "Case 39" something of a reverse "Orphan." Instead of a family adopting an evil girl, a social worker takes a girl, Lillith, away from her family and lets Lillith stay at her house for the time being. Turns out that this seemingly innocent 10-year-old girl is actually a Succubus that feeds on emotion. That'll cause you some problems.
Jumby, "The Unborn" (2009)
"The Unborn" features two things. First, a movie poster that shows the lead actress in her underwear in the most gratuitous fashion possible. Second, the main character's long-dead twin brother who died in the womb, but now has returned thanks to a dybbuk. It's all a little convoluted, but we're talking demons and dogs with upside-down heads, so it's still unnerving.
Photo: Getty Images