Hellspawn: 10 Classic Killer Kiddie Films

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

The world of horror cinema focuses on many kinds of twisted and scary characters. From supernatural ghouls, vampires and werewolves to science fiction inspired creatures to slasher villains that are more grounded and realistic. One of the most entertaining subgenres is the "Killer Kiddie" film. These mad, macabre movies focus on children who are psychotically deranged in some way. There's nothing better than watching these brats cause trouble on the screen. In honor of these little troublemakers, we've selected 10 of our favorite classic fright titles that showcase them wreaking bloody havoc on all those that get in their path.

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It’s Alive (1974)

Frank Davis (John Ryan) and his wife Lenore (Sharon Ferrell) have a baby that, upon exiting the womb, goes on a killing spree as it makes its way to back their home. Frank along with the local police try to stop it as it leaves a bloody trail of bodies behind. I’ll say right now this thing is the ugliest baby in cinema history. The hook of the movie is the fact we don’t really see it, just quick shots of its face or the aftermath of its mayhem. The score by famed composer Bernard Herrmann who was famous for working with Alfred Hitchcock brought another aspect to the film that increased its suspense and gave it more shock value. An interesting bit of trivia about this 70s low budget horror film is that Director Larry Cohen's girlfriend at the time actually played the deformed mutant baby. The special FX for the mutant baby were created by the great artist Rick Baker who would go on to work on a variety of hit genre movies. The film had two sequels: IT LIVES AGAIN, IT’S ALIVE III: ISLAND OF THE ALIVE as well as a remake in 2008.


Devil Times Five (1974)

When the bus they’re riding in crashes, five mentally deranged kids make their way to a lodge in the mountains. They soon become the guests of some unsuspecting vacationers who are partying and having flings. Each of the youngsters have bizarre personality disorders such as the military obsessed Brian (Tiere Turner), a wannabe nun (Gail Smale), a creepy crossdressing snot David (Leif Garrett) and two other severely psychotic girls. The kids appear to a bit eccentric but soon they wreak bloody havoc on the adults by murdering them in graphically violent ways. The movie’s score by William Loose is an eerie childlike melody which contrasts perfectly with the horrific sequences taking place. FILM GEEK NOTE: The film was released under several titles including: Peopletoys, Horrible House on The Hill and Tantrums. TRIVIA: Unknown actress Gail Smale ("Sister Hannah") was alleged to be original director Sean MacGregor's under-aged girlfriend at the time of production, and her character's Nun's Habit costume with rose colored glasses was partly an attempt to conceal her natural albinism. "Peopletoys" remains her only known screen credit.


The Brood (1979)

An interesting blend of the classic creature feature with a paranoid social satire, The Brood shrewdly hides a lingering fear of psychological medicine beneath an eerie and disturbingly violent monster movie. What makes it stand apart is that it works so well on both accounts. Fearing for the safety of his young daughter, Frank Carveth tries to keep her from visiting her disturbed mother, Nola, who just so happens to be a current resident at the Somafree Institute of Psychoplasmics. Led by Dr. Hal Raglan (played to the gills by the great Oliver Reed), patients at Somafree let their rage out through bizarre role-playing and intense emotional exercises. Unlike her peers, Nola's inner rage is not only coming to the surface verbally, but through procreation, spawning inhuman dwarves that act out the desires of her subconscious mind and kill those who tamper with her "healing process." Much like the sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet, The Brood depicts the harm that can be caused by the unfettered human "id," and poses interesting questions concerning psychiatry and its effect on the mass consciousness. Although this feature is quite early in director David Cronenberg's career, it keenly depicts his usual fascinations (physical deformity, mind overcoming the body or vice versa, the family unit) and takes what on paper looks like a sordid little tale and transforms it into intelligent, socially pertinent art.


Alice Sweet Alice (1976)

Alice Spages (played by Paula Sheppard) seems like a normal 12 year-old girl (Sheppard was actually 19 when she played the role) who we first meet when, along with her mother Catherine (played by Linda Miller) and her 9 year old sister Karen (played by Brooke Shields), she's paying a visit to Father Tom (played by Rudolph Willrich). Father Tom is the head priest of St. Michael's Parish Girls' School that they both attend and he's invited the family over as he wants to give Karen a present on the eve of her First Communion. The gift he gives Karen is his mother's crucifix and this is kind of the catalyst for all of Alice's weird behaviour from here on out, starting with her donning a plastic mask and raincoat. TRIVIA: The film premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival under the title Communion in November 1976, and was released theatrically as Alice, Sweet Alice in 1978. It was re-released a third time as Holy Terror in 1981, marketing upon the popularity of Brooke Shields after her notorious performance in Louis Malle's Pretty Baby (1978). The film is ranked #89 on Bravo's The 100 Scariest Movie Moments for the scene when Alice scares Karen in the warehouse.


Bloody Birthday (1981)

Three kids from Meadowvale, CA, Curtis (Billy Jayne), Debbie (Elizabeth Hoy) and Stephen (Andy Freeman) were born during a unique solar eclipse in 1970 and ten years later they have suddenly become the epitome of evil. The terrible trio begin killing their neighbors, parents, siblings and schoolmates in a variety of ways, most of which look like accidents. Like Devil Times Five, the film does an especially good job of showing how children can get away with murder just because of their innocent appearances and that what is perceived as normal rascally behavior can actually be something much more dark and deadly. I really like how the film mixes shades of black humor with the acts of terrorism the kids commit. Look for an early film appearance by Julie Brown (MTV, Earth Girls Are Easy) as Debbie’s older sister who loves looking at herself in the mirror. TRIVIA: Despite popular belief that the film was shelved for five years after being shot it has been confirmed that it was shot in early 1980 and released the following year. The astrology book Joyce consults is "Linda Goodman's Sun Signs." None of the material she supposedly reads out loud is from the book, however.


Village of The Damned (1960)

One day in the British village of Midwich all of the adult citizens lose consciousness. When they later reawaken they learn that the women of child bearing age have suddenly become pregnant. When their babies are born they grow at an unusual rate and have albino like features with pale skin/white blond hair. The kids turn out to be highly intelligent, prove to possess telepathic abilities, and stay together at all times. They also seem to have no conscience or ability to care for the people they come in contact with. In simple terms: they’re damn scary freakazoids. When the children later are accused of murdering different villagers and are feared to be evil (who knew?), a professor, Gordon Zellaby (George Sanders) tries to use a mental trick to block the children from seeing his plan of destroying them. The film was remade in 1995 by John Carpenter. The glowing-eye effect, when the children used their mental powers, was achieved by creating animated overlays of a bright white iris; this created a bright glowing iris with a black pupil when optically printed into the film. This technique was used mostly on freeze frames to create the required effect; the only sequence of live motion processed in this way was the scene in which David tells Alan Bernard to "leave us alone" where the eye effect appears as David speaks.

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Children of the Corn (1984)

Based on the 1977 short story by Stephen King, a young couple Vicky (Linda Hamilton) and Burt (Peter Horton) who are moving out West, find themselves the sole pair of adults in the small town of Gatlin, Nebraska. They soon learn that it has been overtaken by a cult of children led by an evil preacher named Issac (John Franklin). Along with his brainwashed followers who worship the demon “He Who Walks Behind the Rows”, the self proclaimed Voice of Law, Isaac and his second in charge Malachai (Courtney Gains) make sure all outsiders and adults are executed or sacrificed. Burt and Vicky begin to investigate what happened while evading the murderous wrath of the youths who are out to get them and armed with sickles and other deadly weapons. The two also try to convince the children that Isaac is just a false prophet but little do they know that the supposed spirit that lives in the cornfield is in fact actually real. TRIVIA: On the dashboard of Burt and Vicki's car is a copy of Night Shift, the Stephen King short story collection in which Children of the Corn originally appeared.


The Pit (1981)

A Canadian production (which was actually filmed in Wisconsin) about a 12 year old boy named Jamie (Sammy Snyders) who is an outcast and disliked by his classmates. Jamie’s only true friend is his teddy bear who talks to him (nice, eh?). Jamie’s way of getting back at the other kids is to bring them to a secret pit he found which is inhabited by mysterious creatures. Jamie lures his victims to the edge of the crevasse and after they fall in they’re eaten by the “Tra-La-Logs” (as he calls them). When Jamie’s parents go on a business trip he’s left with a babysitter Sandy (Jeannie Elias), a pretty young college student. Since he’s starting to go through puberty Jamie develops a heavy crush on Sandy and begins to flirt with her. He decides to bring her to the pit, but she accidentally falls in and Jamie lowers a rope down to try to help her, but this lets the creepy Tra-La-Logs escape after which they go on a rampage through the town. TRIVIA: Ian A. Stuart's original screenplay was considerably different from the final film. In his screenplay, Jamie was 8 or 9 years old, and the Tra-la-logs were figments of his imagination. When Lew Lehman signed on to direct, he made Jamie older, the monsters real, and added more humor to the original script. Stuart has expressed dissatisfaction with the final result.

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The Other (1972)

In 1930s New England, a young boy named Niles Perry (Chris Udvarnoky) and his twin brother Holland (Martin Udvarnoky) are always talking and playing games around the farm house where they live. What’s odd about their relationship is Niles seems to only communicate with Holland in secret, whispering things and bickering with him. Niles and Holland appear to be All-American kids, but as we later learn, there is something wrong. An evil poisons the idyllic family life Niles and his twin have and the manner in which it occurs is more disturbing than most hardcore horror movies I’ve seen. I’ve always felt psychological thrills (if executed right) are much better than the most bloody, Special FX driven kind. This is a prime example of the type of movie that draws you with its innocent whimsy then suddenly pulls the rug out from under your feet. The film was shot entirely on location in Murphys, California and Angels Camp, California. Director Robert Mulligan had hoped to shoot the film on location in Connecticut, where it takes place, but because it was autumn when the film entered production (and therefore the color of the leaves would not reflect the height of summer, when the story takes place) this idea was dropped.


The Children (1980)

In the fictional New England town of Ravensback, two chemical workers leave the plant for the day. What they don’t know is there’s a gas pipe leak, causing a large yellow cloud to form. A local schoolbus with only a few children left onboard passes through the toxic cloud. The police find the schoolbus empty and begin to search for the driver and kids. When the children later reappear they have black fingernails and are in a zombie like state. To make matters worse, whoever they come in contact with they burn to crisps because of their highly radioactive infused bodies. These little brats give the term “microwave” a bad name! MUSIC: The Children has the same composer as Friday The 13th, so the films' scores sound similar. SOUND FX: The noise made when the possessed children are killed is created from the sound of cats in heat. TRIVIA: Co-writer / producer Carlton J. Albright struck several deals in the course of making this film. One involved giving to the favored charity of the cemetery caretakers in order to use the cemetery seen in the film. Another involved hiring a local girl as a production assistant so her father would agree to the use of his house.


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