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The five creepiest children in film

Ah, children. They’re so sweet, so innocent.

Or are they?

Many a scary movie has used a child to up the fear factor. Maybe it’s a demon child, or a satanic baby, or just one creepy-ass kid.

I’ve learned some very practical things from a lifetime of watching scary movies. One of them is this: if your child suddenly strikes up detailed conversations with an invisible person, never assume it’s an imaginary friend. EVER.

Without further ado, here’s my list of the creepiest kids in movie history. (WARNING: HERE LIES SOME SPOILERS.)

The five creepiest children in film.

1) Damien from the original The Omen (1976), played by Harvey Stephens. Who could forget that creepy smile? That complete lack of remorse? The lesson here–if someone is pushing you to adopt a child of unknown origin, Just Say No.

Five creepiest children in film.

2) Kyra Collins from The Sixth Sense, played by Mischa Barton.

Kyra was the ghost who scared Haley Joel Osment’s character several times. She first showed up vomiting in his tent, and later grabbed his ankles from under the bed. Now, Kyra’s story is quite sad, and we’re supposed to feel sorry for her. But did anyone not jump when she lunged out from under the bed? That was one creepy ghost-kid. (Note to kids in the same situation as Kyra–if you inexplicably get sick every time your mom gives you something to eat, you might want to question what she’s putting in your food.)

The five creepiest children in film.

3) Joey Scavello from Servants of Twilight, played by Jarrett Lennon. Was Joey an innocent, persecuted kid, or was he truly evil? He keeps you guessing right until the very end, and even at his most charming, he is creepy beyond belief. Brr!

The five creepiest children in film.

4) Danny Torrance from the original The Shining (1980), played by Danny Lloyd. Danny is another character we’re supposed to feel sorry for. He’s snowed in at a haunted hotel where the ghosts can actually hurt you, his dad is going crazy, and his mom is one of the scariest-looking women to grace the silver screen. It’s not his fault that he can see dead people, is it? Perhaps not, but Danny is so unrelentingly creepy that if that kid woke me up screaming “REDRUM!” in that annoying voice of his, he’s the one I’d be running from.

The five creepiest children in film.

5) And my award for the ultimate creepy kid goes to…Aidan from The Ring, played by David Dorfman. Why does no one in this movie ever acknowledge how strange Rachel’s kid is? It’s like the white elephant in the room no one talks about. For one thing, he calls her Rachel–is she his mom or not? It’s hard to tell–he seems so removed from her. You may be surprised that I chose Aidan–the little boy in potential peril–for this award over Samara, the undead girl who was thrown in the well, but if you ask me, Samara was by far the lesser of the two evils. The scene where Rachel awakens the creepy Aidan to tell him that she’d put Samara to rest and his eyes widen as he says, “You helped her? Why did you do that? She never sleeps.” It still gives me the shivers.

There are some obvious omissions from this list–namely Regan from The Exorcist and Rhoda from The Bad Seed. Why? Well, for one thing, I seem to be the one person on the planet who doesn’t find The Exorcist remotely scary. Regan’s character is gruesome, but she doesn’t scare me, and Rhoda is too campy to be terrifying.

Who would you nominate for this list? And why do you think children are so often used to scare us in horror movies?

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40 Comments

  1. I don’t watch very many scary movies as I get freaked out very easily (over active imagination)! I’ve seen Sixth Sense, which I agree should be on this list, and the Exorcist, which I didn’t find campy at all.

    I feel like children are used in horror movies because they’re supposed to be innocent, and it’s the loss that of innocence that is so darn creepy.

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  2. Thank you for choosing Danny Torrance and not those dead twin girls. The live kid was much creepier!

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  3. Isaac from Children of the Corn (a bit older but still scary).

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    • I immediately thought of Children of the Corn too =)

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    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Children of the Corn is one spooky movie. Stephen King is the master! Too bad the movies they make from his books usually suck.

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      • The boy,( who’s name I don’t remember) in Turn of the Screw, starring Deborah Kerr is very creepy.

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  4. My pick for creepy children in film would have to be Heather O’Rourke, who played Carol Anne Freeling in the original “Poltergeist” movie. The scenes where she talks to the “TV people” late at night and innocently answers their questions always manages to creep me right out. I didn’t care for the sequels, but the original movie definitely left its mark on me. A remake is on its way next year, apparently.

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    • J.H. Moncrieff

      True, she was very eerie and still managed to be adorable. So sad what happened to her.

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  5. Oops… sorry Holli! My bad. That’s what I get for reading so early in the morning! 🙂

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    • J.H. Moncrieff

      No problem at all, Crystal. All comments are welcome.:) If you watch The Bad Seed, you’ll see what I mean. I’m sure it was scary in the ’50s, but it hasn’t stood the test of time…IMO.

      Reply
  6. J.H. Moncrieff

    Thanks for your comments, ladies. I appreciate the feedback.

    @ Crystal–I said the girl in The Bad Seed was campy. I don’t find The Exorcist campy–I just don’t think it was scary. I agree with you about why kids are used so often, though.

    @ Elle – SO agree! After the 100th “Redrum!”, I would be ready to abandon him and try my luck with the snow.

    @ Lisa – He almost made the list. He was pretty darn creepy, as were the kids in Village of the Damned.

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    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Hi Elsie, and welcome to my blog! Thanks so much for commenting. Culkin was damn creepy in that movie–I always thought he was creepy in all his movies, so I found that performance quite believable. He almost made this list.

      I like the name of your A-Z Challenge blog…Hooligan was my nickname in high school. 🙂

      Nice to meet you. Hope you come back again!

      Reply
  7. No one mentioned Gage in Pet Semetsry,Syephen King!whew,that kid was creepy!

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    • JH

      Oh, good one, Cindy! He was creepy for sure.

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  8. I’m so glad you mentioned Aidan! I always find him way creepier than Samara and people look at me like I’m mad when I say this. It’s good to know I’m not the only person who sees it!
    Lilith from Case 39 is also pretty creepy – I think what makes her creepy is she doesn’t start out this way at all
    Debbie

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  9. As a parent, I do not think I would want my child, if an actor, being in one of these films. Just too creepy. My first thought was ‘The Bad Seed’ since it came out when I was a kid. I never liked Patty McCormack because of it.

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  10. I did a search and Buzzfeed also ranked Aidan as the creepiest kid in a movie.

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  11. Wait, how did the actual spawn of Satan, Damien of “The Omen,” not get included here? Maybe he’s not a “child”? (Of course, he does grow up to be Sam Neill, who is swoony even when evil.) Also, Macaulay Culkin in “The Good Son” and Rhoda of “The Bad Seed” are definitely up there as well. Poor Danny and Kyra — they would be good, they’re just … well, distracted.

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  12. OK, I didn’t read closely enough & you do mention some of those. Ah well. Good list, of course. Too many bad kids out there in movies to include ’em all…

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  13. Ah, Pet Sematary! And ya, Macaulay Culkin. I think they pick particularly cute-looking kids to be evil because that is the best way to creep you out. That angelic look and smile is the perfect foil for the opposite of what one expects. And like you, I did not find Linda Blair scary at all. I thought she was quite sad–as if someone was forcing her to do what she did. Which, in a sense is true…still. I am just waiting for some company to go see IT the movie. But of course Stephen King’s books are far more exciting!

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  14. The Bad Seed is a great movie, though. Good list. I can’t think of any others at this time. (You’ll like the play I’m reviewing today, The Nether, a psychological thriller about the fantasies people live out on the internet.)

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  15. I can’t think of any off the top of my head, other than ones already mentioned, but I am totally with you on why we should not always assume children are talking to “imaginary friends.” 😮

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  16. Aidan from THE RING was the one I thought the creepiest, as well! He was so “detached” from reality and his “mom/Rachel”, that HE was the one I felt had something wrong with him. (He was even creepier in the sequel)…

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  17. Those little faces give me chills. Some of these I’ve seen, but others I’ve missed–maybe avoided!

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  18. I thought the twins in The Witch were beyond creepy. And annoying as hell.

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  19. This is a great list and the kid from The Shining is creepy especially when he talks to Danny. I would pick Rhoda who is one bad ass nutbar and love the spanking at the end. I would pick both children from The Innocents with Deborah Kerr and i would pick the young girl in The Others. Village of the Dammed-All those platinum haired kids gave me the creeps. The best is actually Billy Mumy in A Hitchcock episode where he takes a real gun, thinking it was a play toy, and proceeds to want to shoot up all the people he meets. His most creepy was from a Twilight Zone episode called “It’s a Good Life” where he can do anything he wants and reads the minds of everyone. He is psychotic and sends people to the cornfield…ughhh….shudder

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  20. Birgit got there before me – I was going to say the kids in Village of the Damned. Kids are meant to be innocent and angelic, and that’s why making them creepy works so well because it’s unnerving.

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  21. The P.D.James ghost story “The Turn Of The Screw”, made into a movie in 1961 entitled “The Innocents” features an amazing performance by 12 year old Martin Stephens as Miles, who may (or may not) be acting under the malign influence of a dead former valet who had acted as a surrogate father to the boy.

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  22. “The Shining” is probably the eeriest novel I’ve ever read – and the movie version of it was always going to be a letdown as it would be next to impossible to recreate that cloying claustrophobic atmosphere on celluloid. But why did Kubrick omit so many key scenes from the novel? (such as Jack’s time spent with the scrapbook) and why change the ending altogether? I found the movie as scary as Sesame Street!

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  23. Children are used to scare us in movies because we just want them to be cute, cuddly, and innocent. Like the dolls we leave under the bed or in the closet. Kyra totally freaked me out!!

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  24. These scary movies freak me out big time. And I always wonder how ever these kids manage to act in them. Scary!

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  25. Those are some really creepy kids! I wonder what the casting process is like knowing you’re not searching for cute and adorable, but for kids that can scare the living daylights out of people.

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  26. I remember the movies “The Sixth Sense” and “The Shining”, but not necessarily for the creepy kids. Great picks, though. I’d have to watch some of these movies again in order to agree or not with all of them.

    I do think there is something really scary about kids behaving a certain way, on screen or in real life, because you really have no idea of where they will stop and whether they have/know boundaries. The evil stare in a certain 10-year-old boy made me wonder whether he would turn into a criminal as an adult (we will have to wait and see about that one), and, I have a cousin who was not just a brat as a kid, but really terrifying, destructive, mean and deceiving. He almost killed his own mother with violence. She ended up in the hospital for weeks, and sadly died of other reasons a few years later. Just mind-blowing!

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  27. Samara is very creepy, and yet I find myself drawn to her. She’s kinda cool. LOL Aidan when Samara possess him is pretty creepy, too.

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  28. You’ve chosen some really creepy kids there, JH! I also nominate the kids in Village of the Damned. They were so sinister. I also agree that I think kids can be particularly scary because they are just not supposed to be.

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  29. Very spooky choices. I know its not a movie, but the X-Files TV show had a bunch of creepy kids in some of their episodes as well. I hope they have therapists for all these children who have to play psychos for our entertainment. 🙂

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  30. That’s a creepy list indeed. I think children are used in scary movies because the idea that someone so small and “innocent” being evil is hard to accept. It goes against the status quo and is a perfect device for causing viewers unease.

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  31. Creepy children have creeped me out since the kid from Twilight Zone who controlled his family and town with his psychic powers. I’d also like to add the boy who played Lucas in the Netflix horror comedy movie “Little Evil.”

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  32. The Exorcist is still the scariest movie for me, so I’d have to put Regan in. The twins from The Shining were creepier than Danny. The boy vampires in the 1970s movie version of Salem’s Lot gave me nightmares.

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