This August, England erupted with madness. A nation of prepubescents suddenly decided to re-enact the plot of The Crazies using their own streets as a stage. No bag of Basmati rice was left unturned and suddenly the library was the only safe place to be. Panic on the streets of London, panic on the streets of Birmingham. Dublin, Dundee and Humberside seemed okay though. Sorry, that was both lazy and (given that Mr. Morrissey is hardly in vogue nowadays) in bad taste. But at least I didn't predict a riot, unlike half of facebook.
Watching the news, you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd accidentally switched onto 28 Days Later or the Dawn Of The Dead remake, with various sources crying “Armageddon” and demanding that the military rock up and start shooting. There were a lot of people of diverse ethnic and social backgrounds, but one couldn't help but notice a lot of children and youngsters. 22% of the rioters weren't even old enough to drink. I suppose that would explain why Birmingham looters hoofed the window of a sweet shop in. A whopping 52.1% were aged 18 – 24 (thanks, The Telegraph, for turning this into 8 Out Of 10 Cats). Suddenly, a whole slew of movies proved themselves remarkably relevant and prescient. Hug these hoodies, Cameron.
Cinema has always enjoyed turning our children against us. It's a disturbing concept; your own children coming for you, bloody garden trowel in hand. And as anyone who has ever witnessed a child at play can attest, the young mind has a great potential for cruelty. When I was a child, I threw a Pepsi can at a swan's head. Just because.
Amongst the earliest kiddy horror flicks are The Bad Seed and Village of the Damned. Neither are particularly scary, certainly not nowadays, but the Village people presented us with classic blonde hair blue eyes movie imagery, and Bad Seed has its diminutive killer told that there are special pink electric chairs for little girls like her. Supernanny's naughty step, eat your heart out.
There's a little girl zombie in Night Of The Living Dead, who trowels her mother to death, and a little boy zombie in Pet Semetary. That little sod dispatches the great Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne) with a scalpel and an equally horrid cat. The idea is chilling, turning diseased child against devoted parent. Could you kill your own child come zombification? Not unless you go for Burial Ground: Nights Of Terror. The “child” in that film is played by a middle-aged dwarf and is infinitely more horrifying than any ruddy zombie.
The most famous bits of supernatural brat horror are classics like The Omen and The Exorcist. In both cases, it's the Devil's fault, with Damien being The Antichrist and Regan possessed by some sweary manner of entity. Both stand the test of time with genuinely unsettling scenes and potfuls of pea soup to pass around. Rosemary's Baby follows suit, with poor Rosemary giving birth to Satan's seed. Iffy eyes, apparently. It's easier, I suppose, to blame the Devil or Pacman or Child's Play for your horrible children than it is your own bad parenting.
Doing what it says on the tin is The Children, a gritty Brit flick in which holidaying adults find their toddlers suddenly turn against them. There's stomach churning violence involving a sledge, and surprisingly good acting from not only the children but a girl from Hollyoaks too. A virus might be responsible, but the film shows enough crap parenting and videogaming to cast doubt in our minds.
There's no sign of viruses, zombies or Satan in A Clockwork Orange, Eden Lake, Cherry Tree Lane or Ils, just horrible children. I would use Eden Lake to advertise condoms. It has Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender as a lovely young couple terrorised by a gang of truly horrible children – including a slimy Jack O' Connell and Thomas Turgoose. It emerges that the parents are as nasty as their children, and leaves you feeling sad and dirty inside. Ils is essentially the same, but more French and less cruel. Cherry Tree Lane takes the battle onto the adults' turf, being a home invasion movie in which the yobs steal Rachael Blake's duct tape, thieve her biscuits and critique her bourgeois DVD collection. They're waiting to give her son a kicking, only he takes ages to arrive. It's almost existential, like Waiting For Godot with hoodies. It's a thoroughly depressing movie, and makes me never want to answer my front door again.
F turns its hoodies into ninjas, silently dispatching the movie's ineffectual adults in increasingly violent and cruel ways. It's not very original or scary, although it does show how scared us Brits have become of our own young. I've seen all of these movies and more, but I find myself far more troubled by the likes of Kidulthood and those who would attempt to glamourise not speaking properly.
And you certainly don't want to go adopting anyone else's spawn, if Case 39 and Orphan are anything to go by. In the former, Rene Zellweger picks up a spooky child who ends up having Ian McShane murdered by animals. All she wants though, is to be loved, so I wound up sympathising with her. The latter is a thoroughly unpleasant movie in which the adoptee winds up being a thirty-year-old Russian crone. Both demonic daughters end up in the bottom of a lake, rejected by a mother they aggressively loved too much. Be they your own children or someone else's, cinema has taught us that children are horrible little fuckers who are not to be trusted.
The two most soul destroying books you'll ever read feature young children as villains. Mendal Johnson's Let's Go Play At The Adams' sees a gang of brats hold their babysitter hostage and keep her that way for the forseeable future. It's a visceral, miserable book. These children can't be reasoned with, and nor can those in Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door (subject to an equally depressing adaptation). The children are amoral and alien, with no thoughts other than childish destructiveness. Like they would wings off a fly, the children tear the victims of Adams' and Girl Next Door to shreds. Adams' Barbara hasn't a hope of escaping because she doesn't have that childish amorality. I'd recommend both books, especially if you enjoy crying and feeling sad.
In the worst case scenario, we'll end up with Children Of The Corn, where not even Linda Hamilton stands a chance against a society of ill-behaved little bastards. Who Could Kill A Child? Visit the Mediterranean and you'll find a small island where the kids have murdered their parents. Travel into space, and you'll find a planet populated only by children. This was one of the best episodes of Star Trek, with the crew of the Enterprise trapped on a planet full of hostile children. Captain Kirk saves the day by flirting his way out of trouble.
With their Sith hoodies, disgusting trainers and horrible taste in music, our kids have become the great 'other' – inspiration to horror writers and filmmakers everywhere. HP Lovecraft was scared of black people. We're terrified by our own offspring. The Daily Mail doesn't like either. Maybe it's because you're not allowed to punch your kids anymore. There's a feeling (mostly from The Daily Mail and those who read it) that since smacking and national service were aborted, children have grown out of control and become a completely different entity. Maybe that's true and maybe it's not. But all I know is, some of the most disturbing films I've seen have starred children.
To be fair, have you seen Justin Bieber? Children are far weirder than anything Cthulu. Never mind looting or rioting, I've seen Never Say Never.* Who could kill a child? Well, maybe that one...
* Statement made for comedic purposes. I have NEVER seen Never Say Never, and in this case I certainly can.