The creepy child character has become something of a trope in film, and it’s especially common in horror films. Perhaps it’s the fact that children are generally viewed as naïve or innocent that makes them so disturbing to do disturbing and violent things. Inevitably, it’s human nature to protect young people, so disturbing complications eventually arise in horror movies when a mischievous and naughty child affects another character’s safety or even endangers their life.
Horror movies have plenty of scary kids who aren’t necessarily evil, though. But it’s the ones that go the extra mile in making kids the bad guys that the following 10 examples aim to highlight. Also, to keep things interesting, while many of the following movies are horror movies, a few aren’t, which will hopefully show you don’t need to make a movie horror to terrify audiences with young villains.
“The Omen” (1976)
It’s hard to get badder than the literal Antichrist/Devil, and in the classic 1976 horror flick, the omen, the devil himself is reborn in the body of a newborn, which the main characters of the film adopt and try to care for. This turns out to be easier said than done, and violent events plague the family and everyone associated with them, becoming horrifying and intense as the film progresses.
It’s hard to think of a kid in movie history who’s meaner than Damien, to be honest. The fact that the film had a supposedly cursed production only adds to the weirdness of the omenand helped make it a classic, if not legendary, horror movie.
“The City of God” (2002)
city of god is an excellent crime drama set in Rio de Janeiro in the 1960s and 1970s. It focuses on a group of children who become teenagers throughout the film, and how they adapt and survive the world violent and hostile in which they find themselves.
It’s a film that’s sympathetic to the majority of its characters and doesn’t seek to demonize most of them for doing what they need to do to get by and stay alive, largely avoiding a clear moral in black and white. That being said, the closest person to being the movie’s villain – Lil’ Zé – is terrifying. He was shown to be far more violent than the other children (he embarked on a series of motel murders during his pre-teen years) and escalated as he became a teenager. As for non-horror films, city of god certainly has one of the most violent and ruthless child characters of all time.
“The Exorcist” (1973)
Technically, the villain of The Exorcist isn’t actually Regan, a 12-year-old girl. The real villain is Pazuzu – a demonic entity that takes over Regan’s body and makes her say and do horrible things, leading the girl’s mother and a pair of priests to do whatever they can to exorcise the demon from her body. .
However, since it’s possessed by an invisible demon, the villain at least has the appearance of a young girl for the entire movie, which is one of the things that makes The Exorcist one of the scariest horror movies of all time. Possession or not, Regan – under the control of Pazuzu – is just too disturbing to omit from a list of iconic child villains in movie history.
Slasher movies tend to be pretty predictable. One killer, many victims, many die, and then the last victim usually overpowers the killer, who will return for an almost inevitable sequel. Mike aims to shake up that formula by asking, “Okay, but what if the killer was a 9-year-old boy?”
And this is the movie. The main character has been abandoned by his abusive family of origin, and thus moves from foster home to foster home, murdering those who he feels don’t show him enough love or attention. As silly as that sounds, on paper some of his actions are pretty gruesome – he hurts animals and people in equal measure – making the main character a Mike a fine example of an antagonistic child.
‘Village of the Damned’ (1960)
A classic British film that’s both sci-fi and horror, Village of the Damned is about a town that suddenly finds itself with many women giving birth to nearly identical children. They grow up at a strangely rapid rate, and the film is all about solving the mystery of who they are, where they might come from, and ultimately what they want.
They take on the appearance of children and are young, so even though they are different from “normal” children, they are still considered naughty children. And their looks alone are horrifying and unsettling enough, not to mention what they’re capable of throughout the film.
“The Good Son” (1993)
the good son focuses on a pair of cousins. One of them (Macaulay Culkin) is seemingly evil and takes pleasure in terrorizing and tormenting the other. The other (Elijah Wood) tries to do everything he can to let others know about this torment, but people don’t seem to want to believe him.
It’s a film that aims to show that children aren’t always sweet, innocent, or good at heart, and does so without any fantastical or supernatural elements (unlike many other horror/thriller films with malicious children ). It might not be a great movie, but it’s a good example of a movie with a really monstrous on-screen kid.
“Toy Story” (1995)
toy story is the feature film that started it all for Pixar, as it spawned a string of successful sequels, garnered critical acclaim, and revolutionized the animation industry with its groundbreaking CGI. It also gave audiences perhaps the most monstrous kid ever found in a children’s movie: Sid.
Sid essentially tortures, torments and murders toys throughout the first toy story film. Sure, you could say he couldn’t have known they were sentient, but his treatment of his younger sister shows that it’s not just toys that Sid alarmingly enjoys hurting. He gets what happens to him, of course, but not without doing a lot of damage (and potentially giving young viewers nightmares) beforehand.
“Interview with the Vampire” (1994)
Interview with the Vampire is a solid adaptation of the famous novel of the same name. It centers on two vampires and their rocky relationship over many years as they struggle with their condition and each other, resulting in a lot of violence and bloodshed.
Part of the film involves Lestat (Tom Cruise) turning a very young girl into a vampire, which spirals out of control when it turns out that she is even more bloodthirsty and murderous than any of the other vampires. Watching a young girl murder people and feast on blood is unsettling, and perhaps even worse considering she’s a very strange 12-year-old. Kirsten Dunstin one of his first major roles.
“Let the Good In” (2008)
Even though Leave the one on the right in focuses on a young boy and his bond with a vampire girl who looks like someone his own age, she’s not the bad guy. Rather, it’s the bully gang that mercilessly bullies the protagonist (Oskar) throughout, who is dealt with at the end of the film by Eli (the vampire).
Their complicity is one of the most memorable parts of the film and is quite shocking. Yet their treatment of the main character is equally shocking, and to some extent they bring them down on themselves. The realistic and quite brutal behavior of bullies is something that makes Leave the one on the right in so memorable, and perhaps one of the reasons it’s getting another adaptation (this time for TV).
“The Bad Seed” (1956)
Hollywood wasted no time adapting The bad seed on the big screen, with the novel released in 1954 and the film released in 1956. It’s a slow-burn horror film about a seemingly innocent girl who gradually begins to show more and more signs of sociopathic and violent behavior.
It should be noted as one of the earliest well-known examples of a naughty child character, and therefore likely inspired many other iconic examples in film history. It’s a well-made horror film for its time and earned several Oscar nominations for the year it was released.
NEXT: Kids’ Halloween Movies That Were Unexpected & Creepy