It's never a good idea to go poking round in the dark. Scene from The Haunting in Connecticut 2
Kids of Horror
'Family' is a concept familiar to us all. It represents togetherness, love and security – all notions that the genre of horror sets out to not only disturb, but make wet their pants and run home crying. As most of us can identify with the idea of 'family', it has naturally been used as a popular device in horror to manipulate our emotions and evoke fear. As such, children have become a fixture of horror in many forms, ranging from the traumatised witness, the creepy kid and the pure evil devil spawn.
In the terrifying The Haunting in Connecticut 2, child actor Emily Alyn Lind (J. Edgar) puts in a fantastic performance as Heidi Wyrick, a young girl with a special, supernatural gift. To celebrate the film's release on DVD & Blu-Ray on 3rd March, we take a look at some of the most memorable kids of horror.
THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT 2 (2014)
Andy Wyrick (Chad Michael Murray; House of Wax) and his wife, Lisa (Abigail Spencer; TVs Mad Men) are over the moon when they find what seems to be the ideal location to bring up their young daughter Heidi (Emily Alyn Lind) – an old house situated deep in the woods of rural Georgia that used to be a staging post for escaping slaves on the underground railway. But soon after the move, as Heidi begins to witness a number of disturbing supernatural events, the ghostly spirits of the house's past return to unleash terror on the present owners.
Emily Alyn Lind turns in a scene-stealing performance (at the tender age of 11) as Heidi – an innocent girl plunged into a dark world due to her ability to communicate with spirits.
THE SHINING (1980)
Stanley Kubrick's The Shining tells the story of Jack Torrance, a struggling writer who gets a job as an off-season caretaker at the beautiful Overlook hotel – which just happens to be buried over an Indian burial ground. He brings along his wife and young son Danny and just as they settle in for a few months of winter solitude, Jack promptly starts feeling all murdery.
Danny is "gifted" with the eponymous 'Shining' (telepathy to the uninitiated) and is soon haunted by horrifying visions. Danny is a sweet kid – bar a few unsettling conversations with his little finger – and the young Danny Lloyd gives an iconic performance with the film remembered as one of the finest horrors of all time.
When Josh and Renai Lambert's young son Dalton inexplicably falls into a coma, it takes a heavy toll on the pair. Soon afterwards, disturbing supernatural events start to occur. Fearing their house is haunted, the family moves away. But when the terrifying events simply get worse in their new house, they realise it may not be the house that was haunted after all...
That's right, the boy was haunted! With all manner of demons and spirits jostling to possess Dalton's physical form, Insidious managed to terrify audiences without resorting to the cheap make-you-jump tricks that have tended to plague modern horror.
THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)
When child psychologist Dr Malcolm Crowe's new patient Cole claims he is haunted by his ability to see the dead, Crowe is sceptical to say the least. However, it soon becomes apparent that Cole is telling the truth, so Crowe encourages him to communicate with the spirits to solve their unfinished business so they may rest in peace.
Cole was another sweet kid tormented as a result of his supernatural abilities. M. Night Shyamalan's breakthrough was the definitive word-of-mouth movie, making Haley Joel Osment a child star in the process while coining one of the most quoted movie lines in horror history - "I see dead people".
THE OMEN (1976)
After a couple's son dies at birth, the grief-stricken father decides to secretly replace their lost son with an orphan in the hospital. They name the child Damien and his origins remain secret to his mother. Soon afterwards, mysterious events begin to take place with increasing regularity – bizarre deaths, ominous dogs stalk the building and downright disturbing behavior from young Damien. Is it a really, really bad case of ADHD? Or something more sinister..?
Damien 'The Anti-Christ' Thorn is quite possibly the creepiest child ever depicted on film. So much so, that it would be no great surprise to discover that the birth rate dropped significantly after The Omen first hit cinemas.
See? Told you it wasn't a good idea to go poking round down there. Scene from The Haunting in Connecticut 2
THE EXORCIST (1973)
Chris McNeill (Ellen Burstyn) and her daughter Regan (Linda Blair) have a great relationship. Regan is a dream of a daughter – sweet, caring and funny – until she plays around with a Ouija board (WHY?!) and of course, things go downhill. Regan's behaviour grows more bizarre by the day - saying very rude things, exhibiting superhuman strength... the list of solutions shortened to 'exorcism' in no time.
William Freidkin's The Exorcist quickly garnered a reputation as one of the most infamous films of all time. From barf bags in cinema screens to urban legends shrouding the film's production, undoubtedly the most controversy surrounded the performance of young Linda Blair. The contrast of the fresh-faced little girl to the profanity-spouting, vomiting demon proved too unsettling for some, with Blair in particular unable to shirk the towering reputation of the film from her own life.
Signs follows Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) and his family on their Pennsylvanian farm. Hess is a recently retired priest, whose faith has been shaken by the loss of his beloved wife and mother to his two young children. After a huge crop circle appears on their farm, theories of its origin start to form. Within days, crop circles have appeared across the world. Is it an elaborate hoax, or a sign that we are not alone?
Hess' two young children Morgan and Bo watch the coverage of the crop circles on the news fervently whilst their father readily dismisses the signs as hoaxes. The kids are smart, and prove pivotal in solving the looming disaster facing the world.
When Kate and John Coleman took their newly adopted daughter Esther home, what followed was far beyond what anyone could imagine. As her behaviour becomes increasingly worrying, Kate tries to protect her other children, daughter Max and son Daniel as she can sense something wrong. As Kate and John delve further into Esther's past, they discover that there's more to this 9 year old girl than meets the eye.
What makes Esther particularly disturbing is that she uses the disguise of a young girl in order to execute her murders. Her perfectly angelic and innocent appearance covers up a troubled middle aged woman who is a danger to all who become close to her, especially men.
Tobe Hooper's Poltergeist centres on the Freeling family who live in a planned community in California. When strange things start to happen such as breaking furniture, the disappearance of their daughter Carol Anne and the iconic involuntary TV static, the family begin to research the history of their house which unravels a string of secrets.
Carol Anne was the youngest of the Freelings who was originally to be played by Drew Barrymore. However Steven Speilberg wanted someone more angelic to increase the audience's dread at her disappearance. As she is targeted by one of the spirits, 'the Beast', it becomes clear that she has been chosen due to her strong life force.
PET SEMATARY (1989)
Based on Stephen King's novel of the same name, Pet Sematary focuses on a family who relocate to Maine. When they befriend an elderly neighbour, Judd, he tells them the story of a local legend of 'Timmy', whose corpse reanimated after he was buried in a particular local cemetery. After their son, Gage, passes away in an accident, his father buries him in the cemetery which starts a sequence of strange events.
The majority of the film frames Gage as evil, however the little that we do see of him as a regular child he can certainly be classed as sweet and undisturbed. As Pet Sematary mixes a concoction of terrifying factors such as the cemetery and local legends, it is the role of Gage that is truly chilling and brings this film to life.
The Haunting in Connecticut 2 is out on Blu-Ray and DVD on 3rd March