The children are our future.

The evil child is a staple horror movie trope – but a lot of the time, it just falls flat or just comes across as silly. At its best, though, creepy children subvert our expectations of the natural order of things in the best way. So I’ve gathered a list of the characters who scare me the most.

I should mention that I explicitly didn’t choose Danny or the Grady Twins from The Shining. Sure, their scenes are creepy because they indicate something is very wrong, but the characters themselves are victims, not monsters. If I got locked in a room with Danny, I wouldn’t be afraid that he’d murder me – though I might think it’s weird that he talks to an imaginary friend.

5. Damien Thorn (The Omen)

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He’s the original Antichrist / Satanic child. What really sells it is Damien’s sullen indifference to the Final Destination-style deaths that keep happening around to people who threaten him, like Keith’s decapitation. Whether or not he’s actually the Antichrist, something is not right with this child. This movie keeps getting sequels and / or remakes, and Damien Thorn is a big reason why.

4. The Midwich Cuckoos (Village of the Damned)

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At exactly 11 AM one morning, everyone in Midwich falls unconscious. When they wake up, every woman in town is pregnant. The children who are born, “the Midwich Cuckoos”, are all platinum blond with distinctive physical features, mature extremely fast, and share a telepathic bond. When one learns to do something, they all do. And, even scarier, they can control minds. And just look at those eyes. Now that’s creepy as hell.

3. Gage (Pet Sematary)

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An undead child is creepy enough. But an undead toddler? That’s really crossing a line. It’s hard not to see him as innocent and cute even when he’s obviously pure evil. That’s a contrast at the heart of all of evil children, but Gage’s extreme youth just makes it that much creepier when he starts killing people.

2. Samara (The Ring)

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Samara goes beyond a creepy child – she’s a monster in her own right. She combines the big and the little picture of fear. Which is to say, while she’s disturbing in the moment with her jagged, unnatural movements and crawling out of a TV screen, she’s also conceptually terrifying, embodying the ideas of inescapability and the cycle of violence. The fact that she was a child abused and murdered by her parents is just the icing on the creepiness cake.

1. Regan MacNeil (The Exorcist)

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This movie is so scary, so successful in morphing Regan from an innocent young girl to everything that’s the opposite of that, that it inspired pretty much every trope in the now-extensive exorcism / demon-possession genre. Even considering how tired those tropes have become, the film is still effective. That says a lot.

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About The Author

I saw 'Mars Attacks!' in theaters when I was five. I still think it's the greatest horror movie for five year olds ever made.