Thursday, January 12, 2017

Terrible Tots!

Rug rats, ankle biters, backyard baboons, and a few other terms that now have a double meaning that could label me as culturally insensitive. But we know what I’m talking about: kids. Children. Those little money- and life-sucking poop factories the take up residence in your life or bewilder and horrify you from a distance. You can’t avoid them unless you live in a sealed bunker and never connect with the outside world again.

Still, I’d bet the little bastards would find a way into your bunker. Once that happens, it’s all over for you. Why? Because they are the picture of innocence masking beings of pure evil. You don’t believe me? Well, let me show my evidence.

Evil children have a long history in film. Most people should be familiar with the first major film that dealt with a child of pure and remorseless evil, The Bad Seed. Of course, since it was made during the era of the Hayes Office Motion Picture Production Code, the original ending from both the novel and the play had to be changed so that “crime does not pay”.

Then you have the original Village of the Damned in which an entire town’s female population find they are all pregnant and ultimately give birth to unearthly children who can kill with the power of their minds.

A more recent title would be The Good Son with Macaulay Culkin.

But this now clich├ęd idea has been explored many times in films. Many of the titles I’ll cover may be utterly new to you. Be warned. If you indulge in watching these films, don’t blame me for the chill that runs down your spine the next time you turn to find a child staring through you as if you don’t exist.

The Godsend (1980)
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont

Not to be confused with the Robert De Niro film with a similar title, The Godsend is the story of a happy family of six (Mom, Dad, and their four children) who decide to be friendly with a very pregnant woman they meet one day during one of their family outings. She repays their kindness by giving birth in their home and then skipping out without so much as a "Thank you", as well as leaving the newborn behind.

The loving parents decide to raise the sweet baby girl. Then their youngest dies while in a playpen with their little foundling, Bonnie. As time goes by, the other children begin dying by way of unusual accidents, and Bonnie becomes more and more possessive of the mother's love.

This is one of those films that would probably pass way under the radar for many modern horror film fans. It has little in the way of scares or blood. Instead, it plays upon parental fears concerning the mortality of their children. The story takes place over a number of years, but the evil nature of Bonnie proves to be a constant threat to the peace and stability of this lovingly family. In a particularly creepy scene, Bonnie finds a way to make sure the father becomes sterile to prevent more children in the family.

To be honest, the family should have realized something was wrong when the pregnant woman, played by Angela Pleasence, set off bad vibes in the household and overstayed her welcome. I guess some people have a higher tolerance for rudeness than I do.

Bloody Birthday (1981)
Directed by Ed Hunt

What could be better than one killer kid? Why, THREE of them, of course! And not just any three kids, but three born at roughly the same time in the same hospital during the same unusual alignment of planets.

They appear to be normal, but they see no harm in killing people, for fun or to hide their deadly after-school activities. Grown ups, other kids, and even their parents make for nice entries in their scrapbook of death. Yup, and these are the kids who will be caring for us when we get older. Comforting, isn't it?

Definitely worth taking a look since it got a decent release on Blu-Ray a couple of years ago. You even get to see Julie Brown, who did "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun", strip down and shake her perky bundles...while her sister collects quarters from the other kids so they can peek through a peephole at the sexy older sister. See? There is just no end to the evil of children.

Oh, and those of you who recognize Jose Ferrer's name in the cast list, don't get too excited. The man has basically two scenes in the entire film. He was just collecting a quick paycheck, or he owed someone a BIG favor.

The Children (1980)
Directed by Max Kalmanowicz
We've gone through 1 kid to three kids, so let's jump to a busload of killer kids. Okay, when you see the movie, you'll realize that the busload consists of roughly 8 kids, at most. Still, more bang for your buck.

The Children tells the story of two bored workers at a nuclear facility who just can't be bothered to complete the proper safety inspections when there's beer to be had at the local bar. Next thing you know, there's a weird yellow cloud floating around and the busload of kids drives through it. Lo and behold, the tykes suddenly have black fingernails and melt anyone they hug, and all the kids want hugs. Lots of them.

Don't get too hopped up. While you get to see a few people get roasted, the movie spends most of its time following around people who are where the kids ain't. Our main characters are the sheriff, some guy whose car keeps breaking down and his pregnant wife, the annoying deputy, and a chatty old lady who runs the local store. In fact, you see way too little of the kids, even as they lay siege to the house of the guy with the crappy car.

The film does include one killing that you don't really expect, lots of hands being lopped off, and a twist that you could have probably guessed less than ten minutes into the movie. Oh, and look for Gail Garnett as the pregnant wife. She had a hit song back in 1964 called "We'll Sing in the Sunshine". This movie is a far cry from winning a Grammy.

Demon Witch Child (1975) (aka The Possessed)
Directed by Amando de Ossorio  
Yes, the director of the classic (depending on with whom you speak) Blind Dead films brings us a rather peculiar rip off of The Exorcist. The leader of a band of Gypsies defiles a Catholic church to steal items for the sacrifice of a baby her group has kidnapped. When the cops catch up to her, she commits suicide during an interrogation. Her followers help transport the old hag's evil soul into the body of the police commissioner's young daughter.

What follows is a bit of a laugh fest, but it does have a very dark opinion of religion and contains a couple of scenes of violence that may leave the audience cringing due to the nature of the acts, not because of the bloodiness. You get the typical scenes of possession with the young girl speaking in the old hag's voice, floating in the air, being tossed around in her bed by unseen forces, a plushy attack, and a nice bit of upside-down wall crawling that would make Spiderman envious.

One of the interesting elements surrounding this movie is the fact that seems to be somewhat openly critical of religion. This being a Spanish film and coming out just as Generalissimo Francisco Franco, president and dictator who ruled Spain for nearly 40 years, was loosening his stranglehold on his country. With the old regime coming to an end, films from Spain began including more nudity and social commentary. This political situation may explain the hostility towards religion, which, in the past, had been a State-mandated obligation.

Politics aside, probably the creepiest thing about this whole movie is the young girl's eyes. They are set so far apart that you almost expect them to move independently of each other, like a lizard's eyes.

The Pit (1981)
Directed by Lew Lehman

Poor little Jamie. He's always being picked on. All of his neighbors think he's crazy. Mom and Dad can't understand why all the women they hire to watch after Jamie tend to leave their employment quickly. After all, Jamie isn't THAT weird, unless you consider having a teddy bear that encourages acts of an anti-social nature and sexual stalking of the town librarian to be weird.

Yes, it's Jamie and Teddy against the world, until the beautiful new babysitter arrives. Both Teddy and Jamie love her, and Jamie even wants to share with her his most prized secret: He knows of a pit where some sub-human creatures live, and he is concerned that they are getting sick because they have nothing to eat.

In-between attempts to express his love/lust for the new babysitter, Jamie tries to feed his furry friends in the pit. He tries buying and stealing meat to take to the creatures, but soon realizes those plans won't work in the long term. What's a troubled young lad to do? Why, Teddy has a great idea: Lure the people who make his life miserable out to the pit and feed THEM to the critters.

The film is a hoot to watch. Jamie is a little creep, yet you somehow end up sympathizing with him most of the time. His adventures in the neighborhood and navigating the rocky path of young love result in many awkward situations that are balanced out some genuinely perverted behavior as well as a rather humorous montage of his leading various people to become pet food.

I will admit that his interest in his babysitter, played by a stunningly attractive Jeannie Elias, is understandable. However, his aggressive sexual fascination with the town librarian does tend to make you less inclined to take Jamie's side. And then we have Teddy, his teddy bear, and its rather dark influence on a boy who is clearly having issues. Is Teddy all in Jamie's head, or does it possess some power of its own? No matter how you slice it, Jamie is not a kid you want to get too close to.

A rather misleading poster for the film

Devil Times Five (1974)
Directed by Sean Macgregor & David Sheldon

Our final stop this posting is essentially The Last House on the Left with kids. If none of the others have convinced you that kids can be pure evil, this one should.

We have three adult couples who drive up to a snow-bound remote location for a weekend of both relaxation and business while a rather nice, but simple-minded, workman does all the basic chores for them. Next, we see a horrific accident in which a van goes off the road and rolls down a hill. From the wreckage crawl 5 young children who then set off to find shelter. I think you can guess where they end up.

But, wait. It turns out that the van was from a mental institution, and all five of the children are deeply disturbed sociopaths. Some time later, we see a sixth survivor of the wreck, a mental health worker, who tries to track the kids down before any trouble arises. Unfortunately, he is the first to feel the wrath of the savage little tykes.

The film was originally meant to be titled Peopletoys, which is fitting as kids are prone to break their toys when they play too rough, and these kids are rough with the adults. Hangings, immolation, hatchet attacks, and beatings are just some of the games the kids like to play. The attacks are mostly sudden and cold-blooded. After a killing, the little bastards act like it's a snow day and enjoy themselves pretty much like any other children.

As added attractions, you get a catfight between two very lovely ladies, bunnies, poor attempts at humor, piranhas, and a young Leif Garrett in drag (he makes a rather pretty girl, to be honest). Ultimately, you are left with a very dark, brutal, and bleak film that takes a little bit to get rolling, but once it does, it doesn't ease up. These kids are truly evil.

Some quick trivia: Leif Garrett, who plays David, and Dawn Lyn, who plays Moe, are related as they have the same mother, Carolyn Steller, who happens to play the role of Lovely, one of the adults who face the terror of the tykes. Not many kids are paid to terrorize their parent; it usually happens for free.

Ahh, aren't they just the cutest little mass murders you've met?
To be fair, I have only scratched the surface of films dealing with creepy, evil kids. But this will support my theory that kids are not the kind of people you want to turn your back on. Since I do tend to enjoy movies with evil children, I don't think it is out of the question to return to this topic again in the future. Heck, I could easily do three or more postings on this topic.

Until next time, remember to keep your eyes on any kids. If they form a group and start heading in your direction, for heaven's sake, RUN!!!

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