Polished and improved for this Halloween season, here’s my list of the top ten most evil children in movie history! (I had yet to pick up a certain gimmick at the time.)
– No possessed or mutated pseudo-children, and no actual monsters just posing as children. Kids with superpowers are okay, but they have to be human beings acting evil on their own accord. (If anyone was ambiguous on this one, theyâ€™ve probably been left out because of it.)
– Teens are allowed, but young adults (18+) donâ€™t count.
– Nobody who was questionable as a child and then started doing evil stuff when they grew up. They have to do more than “think about” terrible things to make the cut, and it only counts if they do it as kids.
– Only movies with at least some type of theatrical release are eligible.
– There will be spoilers
With that out of the way, letâ€™s begin the countdown!
10. Christine Hargensen (Carrie):
Most of us know the story of Carrie White, the shy and nerdy girl secretly developing psychic powers, until her tormentors push her too far and she unleashes them on an auditorium full of prom-goers, bullies, and her deranged mother. But the proverbial true monster in the movie, besides said mother, is not Carrie but her lead tormenter, Christine.
The prankster-types wouldnâ€™t be too impressive on a list that includes slasher villains, as several potential placers found out the hard way, but Chris takes it to a level beyond the ordinary little brat. Sadistically bullying poor helpless Carrie, who doesn’t even understand that her period does not in fact mean that sheâ€™s dying, is cruel enough, but what does she do when sheâ€™s caught and reprimanded? She decides she’s so the opposite of sorry that she’d rather miss the prom than accept punishment. In fact, she recruits her boyfriend to take revenge on Carrie forâ€¦ existing, I guess. And if it wasnâ€™t bad enough to drench her hapless victim in pigâ€™s blood of all things, she stages her trap to happen while Carrie is taking the stage in front of the school as the prom queen, thinking sheâ€™s in the happiest moment of her miserable life.
So what do you do when your prank spawns a bizarre explosion of death and destruction? Run from the guilt? Get as far away from the scene as possible? Follow it up with a second degree murder attempt by trying to run over the same victim in your boyfriendâ€™s car? Whichever one the tenth most evil kid in movie history would do.
9. Darla Dimple (Cats Donâ€™t Dance):
Well, Chris was beyond the level of almost any little brat. But up against a girl who made her whole career on being one, she pales in comparison. To the movie going public, this blond little cherub is Shirley Temple with extra dimples. But with her cast and crew, the tantrum-throwing animal hater hardly bothers with the facade, ruling everyone on set with an iron fist and crushing the dreams of anyone who could possibly upstage her. Not to mention she managed to enslave a man (I think) as big as a house for a butler, whom she always keeps nearby just in case she needs to break someone quickly.
Just being as hateful as she is scores points. (Gene Siskel said in his review, â€œI know we werenâ€™t supposed to like her. I didnâ€™t even want to spend five minutes in the same room with her.â€ ) When flipping out on Danny the cat (as well as the whole crew) and summoning Max the butler to inflict soul-crushing fear on him doesnâ€™t stop the cat from trying to make his name in Hollywood, she turns cunning. Similar to Chris and Carrie, she lures Danny and friends into a trap, making them think theyâ€™re about to get everything they ever wanted, except no effort is required on Dannyâ€™s part for mass destruction. Darla just wipes out their big premiere with a giant flood that leaves them blacklisted and in despair. (Later, she wishes that sheâ€™d set it up to drown all of them instead.) Her downfall is that she really has a tough time with subtlety, but if youâ€™re caught in the middle of her wrath, thatâ€™s all the worse for you.
8. Anthony Fremont (Twilight Zone: The Movie):
This kid is easy enough to explain; he was born with the power to make pretty much whatever he wants happen. He uses it deform his sister, do who-knows-what to his parents, and separate people he wants to use as family members from the rest of the world, leaving them in fear of any moment heâ€™s unhappy.
Actually, the Anthony from the show probably would have placed higher. While itâ€™s hard to totally buy the movie Anthonyâ€™s pleas of â€œI just want people not to be afraid of me!â€ heâ€™s still less â€œevilâ€ than he is â€œconfused.â€ True, he pretty much ruins the lives of 7+ people, but if they could see his TV show counterpart, they (most of them) probably wouldn’t believe how good they have it. And we see at the end that itâ€™s actually a pretty easy fix. Still, presumably having a body count puts him above Darla on the list.
7. Junior Healy (Problem Child and Problem Child 2):
Among the classic Dennis the Menace-type pranksters, Junior is the evil king. True, these characters arenâ€™t usually blood-thirsty or truly sociopathic, but if Junior were either of those in addition, heâ€™d probably place 1st. Junior has all the tricks the Home Alone movies could ever need up his sleeve, but he doesnâ€™t need burglars as an excuse to play them. If causing pain and misery isnâ€™t what he lives for, itâ€™s still what brings him the most joy. Having a serial killer for an idol doesnâ€™t hurt his standing either.
Sheer quantity racks up Juniorâ€™s score in spades. This kid got himself returned to the orphanage full of nuns dying to get rid of him no less than 30 times. Thereâ€™s nobody he canâ€™t outsmart. Some of his tricks are relatively harmless, like blowing up cakes and taping bullies to chalkboards, but his biggest stunts are disturbingly mean. Over the course his two theatrical releases, heâ€™s destroyed a familyâ€™s mobile home with a bulldozer, knocked his adopted grandpa down the stairs, set his house on fire, attacked a rival baseball team one by one with a bat (aiming for the groin every time), tricked a woman into getting a Pinocchio nose through plastic surgery, knocked his adopted grandpa out a window, blown up a manâ€™s grill literally in his face, left his adopted grandpa in a tree, projected a live recording of his babysitter having sex to the whole neighborhood, teamed with a female counterpart to beat the tar out of his adopted grandpa, and tricked girls into selling his urine as lemonade. The movies do go through the motions of trying to make us not like the people he hurts, but letâ€™s face it: We wouldnâ€™t wish Junior on anyone short of Freddy Krueger.
6. Henry Evans (The Good Son):
His pranks in Home Alone might not hold a candle to Juniorâ€™s sadistic stunts, but Macaulay Culkin took off the kid gloves and one-upped him as a sociopath named Henry in The Good Son. He may have the extra advantage of living in a house full of oblivious morons, and he may sometimes play like an unironic Stewie Griffin, but thereâ€™s no doubt about it; this kid was spawned without a shred of decency in him. Before we even meet him, heâ€™s gotten away with drowning his baby brother in a bath tub. He spends the rest of the movie trying to top himself.
When his cousin Mark comes for a visit, Henry introduces him to the joys of shooting neighborhood pets with homemade crossbows and causing pileups on the highway. When it turns out Mark isnâ€™t on board, Henry decides itâ€™d be more fun to get a move on killing the rest of his family, just because Markâ€™s starting to like them. Admittedly, the move on his sister was a pretty weak attempt, in the middle of a skating rink full of witnesses, but he was pretty clever in dealing with his mom via a conveniently placed cliff. Still, in the end, his body count not including the pets stayed at one, and if anyone in the house besides Mark had a clue, he probably would have been stopped a lot sooner. But though heâ€™s not always the brightest entry, thereâ€™s no denying he had his heart in the wrong place.
5. Angela Baker (Sleepaway Camp):
Who knows whatâ€™s really going on in the mind of Angela Baker? We get all of one glimpse. Otherwise, she mostly just sits and stares. Through most of the movie, nobody knows howÂ troubled she really is. While she more or less has our sympathy, the sole survivor of a boating accident that killed her immediate family members runs this slasher movie well enough to give Jason Voorhees a run for his money. See, this is how you do it, Henry.
Angela led a pretty antisocial life before being sent to Camp Arawak. Understandably, she doesnâ€™t fit in too well, though she does have a cute fling with her cousinâ€™s best friend. So what does she do when she doesnâ€™t like the way some of the other campers treat her at first? What else? Kill them, and use methods far from quick and painless. Sheâ€™s pretty clever about it too, and until she gets a little reckless at the end, sheâ€™s not even suspected by anyone, apart from the entire audience. Itâ€™s true sheâ€™s another example of a child whoâ€™s really more tormented and confused than downright evil, but the largest personal body of anyone one the list racked up in one movie has to count for something. Plus, like I said, her means make some of the previous entries seem downright considerate.
4. Rhoda Penmark (The Bad Seed):
Anyone who knew her name probably knew she was coming. The original and possibly still the scariest, Rhoda is everything Henry was trying to be, with one key difference: She knew how to get away with it. Even a director explicitly against her coming out on top, as she did in the novel, didnâ€™t actually have a way for anyone to take her down. Angela demonstrated the massive horrors that damaging nurture can bring about, but Rhodaâ€™s case argues that true monsters are born, not made. Nature made her what she was, and nature alone had the power to stop her. Otherwise, she probably would have gone on to do her serial killer grandmother proud.
Having offed a neighbor before the movie even begins, Rhoda doesnâ€™t wait long before drowning a boy her age in a lake to swipe his penmanship medal. But even though she does a decent job covering it up, Rhoda is surrounded by a bright group of people, for horror movie victims that is, plus an unlucky janitor with an unfortunate sense of humor. She plays on her motherâ€™s sympathy when itâ€™s her only way out, then lights a man who knows too much on fire. Her mother slips her a lethal dose of sleeping pills, but the gal is back on her feet not long after, at which point the director strikes her with a deus ex machina bolt and the whole thing, well, abruptly ends.
3. Isaac Chroner (Children of the Corn):
Whatâ€™s worse than becoming a scheming, murderous child? How about recruiting a whole town of kids to join you in your murder spree, killing off every adult within sight of the place and then leading them in worshipping a demon? For what you might ask? Just to make sure the yearly corn harvest is bountiful.
What more can you say about Isaac? He shows up out of nowhere and starts a death cult that makes the folks in The Wicker Man seem rational and merciful, all out of respect for a monster calling itself â€œHe Who Walks Behind the Rows.â€ All adults must be killed. All kids who age to adulthood must be killed. All kids who want to leave the cult must be killed. Eventually, even his own cult canâ€™t take him anymore, so they leave him as a sacrifice for his own precious demon, still ranting and raving about the deadly consequences He Who Walks Behind the Rows will bring down. The next time we see him, heâ€™s worse than ever, though that may or may not count as possession.
2. Damien Thorn (The Omen and Damien: Omen 2):
I did say that demons posing as children donâ€™t count, but itâ€™s at least safe to say that Damien falls into the species of â€œmanâ€ more than anything else, even if he does have the powers of Hell ingrained in him. Heck, he thought he was just an average boy until the second movie. But he isnâ€™t just a boy. Heâ€™s a vehicle for Satanâ€™s will.
Growing up, Damien is a lightning rod for bizarre horrors. First, his nanny gives him the gift of hanging herself with grand showmanship at his fifth birthday party, then a priest trying to warn his parents about him is struck through the neck, and finally, his mom miscarries after an â€œaccidentâ€ involving Damien. Eventually, the dad discovers that his adopted son is nothing more or less than the antichrist. From then on, anyone who makes a move against Damien, or just doesnâ€™t like him, drops dead in tragic accidents or for no reason at all, until Damien learns the truth and accepts his destiny (and starts killing people he doesnâ€™t like with his mind). Maybe heâ€™s not as sadistic, or even as cruel, as Henry or Rhoda, but he doesnâ€™t need to be. Like them, if in a different way, Damien was born as a vessel for evil, and no proir entry, holds a candle to the amount contained in him. On that note, you may be wondering who could possibly one-up the antichrist? It takes someone bizarre.
1. Clifford Daniels (Clifford):
Hey, the winner is a prankster-type after all! Sort of. Clifford, both the movie and the boy, is the type of horror only a warped sense of humor could invent (which makes sense, since the story was intended as a comedy). I said that if Junior was bloodthirsty or truly heartless, he might have made number one, and Clifford could very well be both. But his pranks alone put even our problem child to shame. Clifford is all the callousness of Rhoda and all the craftiness of Junior mixed with the unhealthy obsession of the cable guy. His uncle, at first, sees him as a doofus ten year old boy. But since heâ€™s played by 40 year old Martin Short, made shorter with camera angles, the audience can see exactly what he is: A psychotic freak of nature.
We first see 10-year-old Clifford on a plane ride to Honolulu with his parents, who have long since been struggling just to hold on to their sanity. Before pulling his first stunt, he kills time by shoving his toy dinosaur up his dadâ€™s nose and running up the aisle like an airplane, smacking the elderly passengers in the head as deliberately as possible. Clifford wants to land in Los Angeles so he can visit the object of his obsession, “Dinosaur World.” So he sneaks into the cockpit and shuts off the engines. This is just the set up for the movie.
The plane does not crash and kill the hundreds of people on board, unfortunately for Uncle Martin, who the parents dump Clifford on before continuing their flight to Honolulu. Martin wants to convince his darling fiancÃ©e Sarah that he is good with children, so he makes the mistake of telling Clifford heâ€™s taking him to Dinosaur World. The poor, doomed man is then forced to reschedule, and, well, killing him just wouldnâ€™t be satisfying enough for Clifford, who can make anything happen. When they attend an anniversary party for Sarahâ€™s parents, Clifford starts by slipping Martin a hot sauce drink and ends by framing him for making a bomb threat, getting him arrested in front of everyone. He then tricks Martin into boarding a train to San Francisco, throws a giant party in his house, and deals the deathblow to his engagement by tying himself up and calling Sarah over to â€œrescueâ€ him from Martin (andâ€¦ hitting on her). Enough? Of course not; Cliffordâ€™s having too much fun. The next step is to plant a bomb that blows Martinâ€™s dream project to pieces in the middle of his presentation, and if this kid sounds more like a blackmailing terrorist than a prankster, you can see why I don’t take many points off for the fact that he somehow didn’t end up with a body count. (Blame that PG rating.)
After naturally being fired and not arrested for attempted murder, Martin thinks up a way to put his ruined life to good use in a revenge scheme on Clifford, and the destructive climax resolves with Cliffordâ€™s miraculous turnaround, leading him to become a priest. This actually sort of makes sense. I mean, the human body must have a maximum capacity for evil in one lifetime, right? If Henry or Rhoda had been able to reach adulthood, they might have closed in on the level reached by Clifford (well, maybe crossed the half way point). But Clifford packed it in to his first ten years to become the most evil child in movie history. Antichrist? This kid was like Damien’s delinquent older brother.