Tuesday, October 03, 2006

HORROR MONTH: Kids can be so cruel

I'm trying to make October into horror month here on DVD Panache, which means I am committing to posting more than I did in September. Since Horror Month is in its infancy, I will begin it by taking a look at the younger creations in horror movies, specifically the kids who have made life a living hell for some unfortunate souls. (Note: Stereotypical youthful horror characters -- Children of the Corn, Poltergeist, Exorcist, et al -- were mostly avoided for your protection.

John and Pearl (The Night of the Hunter)
The original lil' basteds paved the way for
countless other tikes who would foil the villain in the end. Like I am known to say, 'Hunter' is truly one of the greatest American movies ever made, and certainly one of the all-time bests in the horror genre -- but that's for another post (possibly this month), because what we're focusing on here is its child stars. After their father is hanged for robbery, only John and Pearl know where he hid the loot. They never planned on having to contend with Robert Mitchum's Rev. Powell, a terrifying creature who believes he is doing God's dirty work. After resisting Powell's inquiries about the money for the first act, the action really kicks up when the children set a trap for him in the basement and escape on foot. In a shot that would be repeated in countless slahser movies decades later, John and Pearl just barely escape into a boat, just as Powell sinks into the mud, his prey just beyond his reach. In a ploy that would again be repeated in horror movies, Powell's character never tires -- seemingly getting stronger as the chase goes on. In a movie full of polarizing shots, we see John waking up in a barn -- apparently safe -- only to see the silhouette of Powell riding a horse on the horizon (singing a creepy hymn), to which John wonders, 'don't he ever sleep?'

Miles and Flora (
The Innocents)
Maybe the most chilling of any black and white horror movie, 'The Innocents' remains the prototype of subtle terror, and still one of the most eerie portrayals of ghosts ever seen on screen. When Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr, who recently turned 85) takes the job of governess at a sprawling estate, she doesn't count on the former masters of the house still having a hold on the grounds, and it doesn't help matters when the two 'innocents,' Miles and Flora, insist she's crazy. The first times we see a spirit, it's merely a shadowy figure atop a tower -- but we get better and better glimpses of them as the movie goes along, and apparently Miss Giddens is the only person to see them. One of the first horror movies to use the invincible nature of youth, whereby an adult has to keep themselves from simply slapping around a child.

The Children (
Village of the Damned)
While 'The Innocents' focused on the seemingly pure nature of children, 1960's 'Village of the Damned' twisted the imagery of innocence to create an all-new monster. An extremely low-budget production, 'Village' is set after everyone in a small English hamlet falls unconcscious for some strange reason. After they awake, all the women are pregnant, and give birth in rapid succession to blond children with piercing eyes. The group of children do everything together, and their powers of persuasion soon become apparent. An obvious metaphor of conformity and loss of individuality, 'Village' is a powerful monster movie because its villains are unflinchingly evil and horrifying. In addition to the hypnosis eye effects, all the kids are voiced by adult actors, giving them a hyper-intelligent and eerie nature. Like many great horror films, no explanation is given for the evil phenonmenon (unlike John Carpenter's inferior remake).

Charlie (
Parents just don't understand, especially when their participation in a government experiment gives you the supernatural power to create fires. I hate it when that happens. Drew Barrymore and her dad (piss poor telekinetic) are captured by the feds who hope to turn her powers into WMDs ('Send in the little girl!'), but when things get nasty, watch out. This movie is pretty boring up until the end, which seems to have used about 80 percent of the budget. Charlie (Barrymore) finally realizes that if she wants these government types off her trail for good she's going to have to get mad, and you won't like her when she's mad. After a lifetime of lighting hay on fire and boiling water with her mind, Charlie gets wise and starts creating fireballs and generally makes things go boom. Perhaps even scarier than Barrymore's character is that the movie tries to pass off George C. Scott as a Native American sniper.

Monster Squad (The Monster Squad)
Again, this gem is still unavailable on DVD, this remains the best youth-empowering horror movie to date (as in, if the monsters come, only kids will know what to do about them). Watch as Horace slaps Dracula with a garlic-heavy slice of pizza or when he rips a shotgun out of a dead policeman's hands and lays the Creature to waste. Be amazed with the most ingenious disposal of a mummy ever conceived (he's literally nothing without those bandages) and some of the most brutal treatment of a werewolf (not just a kick to the 'nards,' but a stick of dynamite in his belt). These kids know how to get it done, and can only laugh when the army finally shows up at the end, prompting this wonderfully predictable ending dialogue: 'Who are you kids?' 'We're the Monster Squad.'

Note: The above picture is actually yours truly in 2nd grade, clothed in my most successful Halloween costume


Mike Sheffler said...

In a shot that would be repeated in countless slahser movies decades later, John and Pearl just barely escape into a boat, just as Powell sinks into the mud, his prey just beyond his reach.

I must not be watching the right slasher flicks!

Adam Ross said...

Shame on my editor! By "shot" I meant "tehnique" -- getting away at the very last instant from knife-wielding madman.

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