October is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “31 days of horror.” Don’t bother looking it up; it’s true. Most people take that to mean highlighting one horror movie a day, but here at FSR, we’ve taken that up a spooky notch or nine by celebrating each day with a top ten list. This article about the best horror movies where they actually kill the kid is part of our ongoing series 31 Days of Horror Lists.
Next to dogs, kids are the most precious cinematic commodities. Push one or both through a meat grinder on screen, and you’ll lose half the audience instantaneously. The other half are probably snickering. These are the sickos. These are the folks reading this article (they’re certainly the weirdos who wrote the article).
Horror has always explored/shattered taboos. It’s the genre where filmmakers and viewers bash against society’s rules, suggesting a conflicting perspective on cultural truth. Kids are darling little angels. They represent tomorrow’s possibility, our hopeful offering to the future. Killing one of these buggers on screen is an F-U to the present. The world around us is spiraling into despair, and we must express our roaring rage. To hell with the future; into the fire it goes. John Carpenter, please scream for us.
The ten movies listed below were assembled by Rob Hunter, Anna Swanson, Chris Coffel, Jacob Trussell, Valerie Ettenhofer, Meg Shields, and yours truly. These are the flicks where the filmmakers do the unthinkable and kill the kid. Maybe you thought they had a chance. Maybe their doom was foreshadowed from frame one. Either way, the moment never fails to raise eyebrows and send half the crowd running for the exit.
10. The Blob (1988)
Eddie (Douglas Emerson) nearly makes it. He survives his movie theater encounter with the Blob, but the haul through the sewer proves too strenuous. Even with Meg (Shawnee Smith) diving into the muck after him, the boy never stood a chance of making it through the runtime. His final scream garbles through a wet, mushy face, and it’s a gorehound’s delight. His death is there to challenge the survival rate of everyone else around him. If he can go, little bro Kevin (Michael Kenworthy) can go, and street-tough boy-toy Brian (Kevin Dillon) can go. The Blob doesn’t discriminate. We’re all meat ready to melt. (Brad Gullickson)
9. Kill List (2011)
The thing about Kill List that everyone who’s ever seen it will do their best not to tell you is that a kid definitely dies. Oh boy, does a kid ever die in Kill List. This is a fact that the Boo Crew has purposely been vague about during the dozen or so times we’ve recommended Ben Wheatley’s paranoid folk horror-tinged thriller over the years, but since it’s also what this list is all about, I suppose the cat’s out of the bag now. Or, more accurately, the kid’s out of the cloak.
To say anything else about this would fully ruin the viewing experience of this mysterious slow-burn movie about two soldiers-turned-hitmen (Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley) who end up ensnared in a cult-like conspiracy when they take on a new contract. For much of its runtime, Kill List is a disturbing but fairly scare-free action thriller, but when its final scene hits, it veers into supremely messed-up and bone-chilling territory. (Val Ettenhofer)
8. The Orphanage (2007)
If you’ve never seen The Orphanage before, apologies for this massive spoiler. But knowing the fate of Simon won’t blunt the impact of J. A. Bayona’s emotionally devastating haunted house story. As a mother comes to terms with the disappearance and assumed death of her own son, she uncovers a long-lost secret about the orphanage she once called home. Is Simon’s disappearance linked to the supernatural activity haunting the orphanage, or is it something even more lamentable? Even though Simon’s fate isn’t confirmed until the film’s final moments, he is but one dead kid in a mystery-driven horror film about many dead kids. It engages with similar themes of lost innocence that producer Guillermo del Toro layered into his own work, especially The Devil’s Backbone, which also used the structure of archetypal haunted house ghost stories to tell a tale that’s far more tragic than merely frightening. (Jacob)
7. Frankenstein (1931)
There are several kid deaths on this list that illicit a demented smile or chuckle, but there are a few others that devastate. Little Maria (Marilyn Harris) and the Monster (Boris Karloff) find a quiet moment together by the lake. They’re friends. They’ve known each other for seconds, but they already adore each other’s company, pulling petals from flowers and tossing them into the air. When they run out of petals, the Monster is not ready to stop their game, so he tosses the young girl into the lake. She sinks and stays there. The brute knows not what he did, but the town sharpens their pitchforks and comes for his head. It’s a scene that won’t really climax until The Bride of Frankenstein, when he utters his brokenhearted, “We belong dead.” The world is an impossibly confusing place to suddenly awaken inside. Escape from it is wretchedly understandable. (Brad Gullickson)
6. Jaws (1975)
There was already enough evidence of a shark in the water to rouse suspicion, but Alex Kintner’s death was what made it all real. This was no longer hypothetical. This was a dead boy and a mother’s grief and the all too real knowledge that there’s a predator just a few feet out at sea. It’s a bold move to give a kid a death this brutal, but it’s also the most pivotal. And Steven Spielberg makes sure we feel the devastation of it. Sure, this is our fun shark movie, but when the movie hits you with real anguish, it hits hard. (Anna Swanson)
This list of the best horror movies that kill the kid concludes on the next page…
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