So I recently watched the movie Sinister (2012), a horror film starring Ethan Hawke as a failed true-crime writer who moves his family into a house where an entire family was murdered – a small fact that he keeps as a secret from his wife and children — so that he can be inspired to write a new book. If that ain’t a Husband of the Year I don’t know what is. While moving in, Ellison (Ethan Hawke) finds a box in the attic containing 8mm film footage of not only the deaths of the family in the house his family currently lives in, but the violent deaths of several other families going about to the mid ‘60’s. In each of the murders, one of the children of the families has gone missing.
Now I need to stop right here because I was entranced by Ellison’s sweater throughout the movie:
I loved this sweater and I can’t find a good picture of it. Nor is there a pattern for it on Ravelry.com. Leave it to a knitter to love a sweater while watching a horror movie that turns out to ….
Oh, wait, there’s LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD. Stop reading now if you’re one of those pissy people who don’t like spoilers and get all whingy if you aren’t warned. Sheesh.
Anyhoo. So it turns out that the murders are all related, as the missing child from each family in fact killed the rest of their respective families while under the influence of a demon called Buguuhl (aka Mr. Boogie):
Aren’t Kids Who Kill adorable? In Sinister, one of the kids (a girl, even) killed the rest of her family by running them over with a lawnmower. A lawnmower, and not one of the riding ones either, but a push mower. That is some major payback for having to clean your room.
Kids Who Kill must be one profitable plot point because so many movies use it. We know that kids are rotten little rat bags. Yes, they are! They can be devious little shits who manipulate every situation their advantage because they know that there are no real consequences for what they do. Unless they actually break a law, a misbehaving child will not get fired, jailed, or deported like an adult would. However, how many movies actually feature a child that is in fact rotten (or mentally disturbed), as opposed to a kid being influenced by something else (a demon, aliens, too much sugar)? I’m going to pull a few movies out of the air to break down.
So in Sinister, we have Ashley:
Ashley is Ellison’s daughter, and she gets possessed/whatever by Buguuhl /Mr. Boogie and she joins the legion of Kids Who Kill when she drugs Mom, Dad, and brother Trevor and dismembers them with an axe, and then paints the walls with their blood. As this film also had the Lawnmower Girl, it has one freaky kind of “girl power” happening. I mean, the boys just drowned and immolated their families. Anyway.
Rotten Kid Verdict: Demon Possession, so Ashley is acquitted of “Rotten Kid” standing.
In Pet Semetary (1989), we have Gage:
If this movie taught us anything, it was that Fred Gwynne wasn’t dead yet. The other thing it taught us is that you don’t want to bury your dead children in a demonic Native American burial ground. Dead Native Americans are pissed. I mean, centuries of disease and genocide and exploitation and forced servitude and relocation to really crappy land will do that to a person. Unfortunately, grieving parents don’t think about these things, so they get back a bad-tempered little knife-wielding zombie. A cute zombie, but, still, a zombie.
Rotten Kid Verdict: Reanimation trumps naughtiness every time.
In the same vein, Wake Wood (2011) gave us Alice:
I recently made snarky comments about this one, so it’s still fresh in my head. Alice is fatally mauled by a vicious dog. Her grieving parents Patrick and Louise inadvertently learn that their little Irish village is the epicenter of reanimation, although the resurrected will only be around for three days. There are a few more rules as this is a pretty complicated process, and it’s the details that cause Alice to come back a little … different? Odd? Oh yeah, murderous, that’s the word. Oh, these darn Kids Who Kill and their knives.
Rotten Kid Verdict: Again, reanimation forces the court into an acquittal. The law can’t keep up with this voodoo/Frankenstein/weird Irish celtic shit.
Let’s go back in time to Rhoda, The Bad Seed (1956):
I love this movie. I love this book. I love this play. Rhoda is one Rotten Kid with a capital R. Out of jealousy, she beats a kid to death with the heel of her shoe and chucks him in the lake in order to steal his spelling medal. 1956 was the time of spelling medals and other prizes for actually achieving something, and I guess a spelling medal was the most coveted. Anyhoo, over the course of the story, it turns out that Rhoda not only killed this kid but an old lady, but that her missing-from-the-story-father is a serial killer. Rhoda’s mother decides that Nature will triumph over Nurture, so she gives Rhoda an overdose of sleeping pills and Mom goes off to shoot herself in the head. In the book and the play, Mom dies, but Rhoda survives to kill another day. However, movies in the 1950’s weren’t going to have a Kid Who Kills but Didn’t Get Her Comeuppance, so Rhoda ventures out to the lake to retrieve the spelling medal from the water, where she is struck dead by
God lightning. I’ll bet that blew those perfect freaking braids right off her head.
Rotten Kid Verdict: Rotten little Ratbag right to the little worm-filled core.
Let’s look at Macaulay Culkin playing against type as Henry in The Good Son (1993):
Henry’s cousin Mark (Elijah Wood), comes to live with Henry’s family after Mark’s mother dies and his father is sent to Japan for work. Henry’s little brother has also recently died and Henry is a bit obsessed with their deaths. No wait, he’s more crazy-eight-bonkers obsessed with death, dying, and, oh, murder. It turns out that Henry was not only responsible for his baby brother’s death (baby brother played by Rory Culkin) Henry also has a yen to kill his sister Connie (played by Quinn Kay Culkin), and just about anyone else, really – but I’m left to wonder if the director got a discount for hiring so many damn Culkins. Did a Culkin family member do the craft services? Be the key grip? Anyhoo, in a neat little twist, the two boys get themselves in a fight and are both hanging off the cliff for dear life, and Henry’s mom can only manage to hang on to one of the boys, so she chooses her nephew Frodo, so that he can fulfill the quest to carry the One Ring to Mordor in the future. Poor little Mac gets dashed to the rocks below, bringing the Culkin family down to only 748 members.
Rotten Kid Verdict: Henry’s a Psychopathic Kid Who Kills, yes, but the Rotten Kid Court does not recognize the plea of insanity. Guilty!
Let’s wind up for today with Orphan (2009) and the lovely Esther:
Kate and John are suffering from the loss of their third child, who was stillborn. On a whim, they decide to visit an orphanage, and on a really stupid whim, decide to adopt the freakiest kid there: the maladjusted, friendless, oddly mature 9-year-old Esther. Yeah, that’s not going to cause problems. Esther doesn’t mesh well with the other kids: she locks herself in the bathroom, never removes her choker, refuses all trips to the dentist, and, oh yeah, tries to kill a few people. Through a series of events it is revealed that Esther is actually 33 and suffers from a hypopituitary disorder (I already called No Way! on that one, so there) and in one very creepy scene tries to seduce her adoptive father. Okay, ewwwwwww. The movie ends with a huge fight between Esther/Leena and Mom that culminates in the line, “I’M NOT YOUR MOMMY!” and a boot to the face for Esther.
Rotten Kid Verdict: Well, she’s not a kid, sooooooo …. MISTRIAL!
This only scratches the surface of Kids Who Kill. There are so many others … Acacia, Children of the Corn, Village of the Damned … I think we will have to revisit this subject again soon. Help me out with some other titles?
Today’s Rotten Kid Tally:
Children of the Really Rotten Ilk: 2
They’re Not Bad, They’re Just Misunderstood: 3
Simply Trying to Channel Their Inner Evil Child: 1