Kids in horror: far from child’s play

children-of-the-dammed[1]Kids are an intergral part to horror, so here’s my list of children you’d need a little bit more than the naughty step for…

Cole from The Sixth Sense

He’s behind you!

We all want our children to make friends, er just not perhaps the dead kind. At least birthday parties wouldn’t be expensive although pass the parcel might become a little tiresome. You might also have a few issues if you have Nene’s 99 red balloons playing at any parties as well; read being the harbinger of death throughout the film.

Charlie from Firestarter

She’s a Firestarter , a twisted Firestarter. No she’s not she’s Drew Barrymore. This little moppet might get you hot under the collar as a parent down to the fact that when provoked she can quite literally have a fiery temper – I blame all those E numbers. Think Carrie on heat, so to speak!

Carol Ann from Poltergeist

To be fair she’s a sweet kid and it’s not really her fault that she is most haunted, not by Derek Acorah or anything, now that would be bad.

They say that children watching TV can have a bad affect on them and never has this been truer than with Carol Ann Freeling who speaks through the dead through the static on your TV (at least it’s better than The Zone: QVC and signed repeats of Country File I suppose).Having a graveyard in your back garden might be good for the plants but to be honest it doesn’t really help the situation. Soon to be featured on an episode of DIY SOS…probably.

Michael Myers from Halloween

Knife to see you, to see you knife. Young Michael sure did like his dressing up but clearly this was ‘masking’ other problems. Talking of which if they did the remake today would they use a Chris Pine mask?

He, that’s Myers, grew into a strapping young man and that superhuman strength would come in handy for removals and those trips to the shops. I can see him now in those overalls with his bags for life.

Esther from Orphan

There’s something wrong with Esther, so screamed the posters for Orphan, well there must have been something about her stare as it used to send our Jack Russell potty when she saw the posters. Essentially a reworking of sorts of The Omen where a well to do family adopt a child only to find out everything is not as it seems. As the body count rises so do the doubts. Comes with an interesting twist that helps stop it being a run of the mill shocker.

Malachi from Children of the Corn

If the whole Dexy’s Midnight Runners look of dungarees does it for you then Malachi might be right up your street…or strip of field.

Leader of the Children of the Corn, the original based on a novel by Stephen King short story but now a never ending stream of uneven direct to video sequels, Malachi is probably not likely to be the apple of your eye for long as he and his minions want all adults dead. Clearly they haven’t thought this through as they won’t get pocket money and end up living of all the wrong kinds of food.

The children from The Children                        

Bugs can be nasty, especially when they turn innocent children into rampaging killers. This is a nasty piece of British horror that has massively effective moments and manages to conjure up some wonderful look away now if you don’t want to see the results death scenes.

Two families spend the Christmas holidays at a remote (of course) house and after a seemingly horrific accident where one of the adults dies in a tragic sledge accident (more you’ve been maimed) it isn’t long before other adults start dropping like flys and end up being outnumbered by their butter wouldn’t melt sons and daughters…well worth a look.

Regan from The Exorcist

Shut it! No, not John Thaw in The Sweeney but shut it you potty mouthed pea-green splutter! We all hope for beautiful children that turn people’s heads but rarely one that turns its own 360 degrees.

Steer clear of pastel colours as vomit may well be a serious problem although to give her credit she does have a strong grasp of languages, mostly the dead or disgusting kind. She is undoubtedly a fast learner but could perhaps do with some sex education lessons as well, try explaining those splinters!

Village of the Damned

Most people might be rather pleased for kids for kids with blonde hair and blue eyes…but less so if it is the whole bloomin village of the little tykes. Remade to a lesser effect in 1994 by John Carpenter even Superman, Luke Skywalker and Mikey’s mum from Look Who’s Talking couldn’t even stop them! Gives a whole new meaning to ‘Are you smarter than a (collective) ten year old?’

Damian from The Omen

The original devil child, Damian comes complete with his own devil dog accessory and 666 birthmark in his hairline – at least you won’t get him mixed up with the other kids! Keep out of reach of three-wheeled trike, goldfish and he’s none too keen on churches either.

Damian shows promise and ingenuity with the way he despatches of those who come in his way, the real reason Cameron kept the toddlers milk running. Specialities include Reverend skewered by spire and decapitation by sheets of glass, oh and the Christening and visits to the zoo may also cause something of a problem.

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Here be monsters: toons with bite

drak-pack_L14[1]Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, True Blood and Teen Wolf might all be popular modern spins on classic monsters but for us people in our 30s the site of folk with fangs and sprouting hairs at the first sign of a full moon was commonplace…in our Saturday morning cartoons.

Fangface
Every 400 years, a baby werewolf is born into the Fangsworth family. And so when the moon shined on little Sherman Fangsworth, he changed into Fangface; (Ooowooo! Grrrrrr…) a werewolf. Only the sun can change him back to normal. And so little Fangs grew up and teamed up with three daring teenagers: Kim, Biff, and Puggsy. And together they find danger, excitement, and adventure. (Grrrrrr… Ooowooo!) (Ooh! Ooh! Grrrrrr!) Who can save the day? Who can wrong the rights, and right the wrongs? None other than Fangface! (Ooh! Ooh!)

So booms Mr Voiceover man at the beginning of each episode which practically combines the characters of Scooby Doo and Shaggy in one! The show even had its own ‘hip’ vehicle, the wolf buggy. Amusingly, Fangface, with his one large fang, can even turn all hairy at the mere sight of the moon, or anything resembling it!

The Funky Phantom
Essentially yet another riff on Scooby Doo and Co, The Funky Phantom featured three teenagers — Skip, April and Augie — and their dog Elmo. While trying to get out of a storm, they entered an old house where they found a clock telling the wrong time, which, upon being set to midnight, released two ghosts: a Revolutionary War-era ghost named Jonathan Wellington “Mudsy” Muddlemore (who sounds exactly like Snagglepuss as he’s voiced by the same man) and his cat, Boo. The pair hid from the British inside the clock during the War, but then couldn’t get out and died inside – cheery! Ever since being freed, Mudsy and Boo have acompained them on mysteries, always giving an invisible helping hand…and of course they had some smart wheels as well.

The Real Ghostbusters
This series made more of a thing of Slimer, resulting in him turning up in the film sequel, the series actually featured good storylines and monsters that would have made a better starting point for a story than what we saw in Ghostbusters 2.

Interesting fact is that Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman role was voiced by the man who also did the voice of Garfield in the cartoon and that several years later Murray went onto voice Garfield in the film. Life imitating art imitating art or something like that.

Scooby Doo
The king of the cartoon crypt keepers is Mr Doo, even though these aren’t essentially monsters just men, generally janitors, in monster outfits. The fun is in spotting the clues though and, of course, earning those all important Scooby Snax. Always viewed better when he was part of the Mystery Machine team than when his pesky little nephew, Scrappy Doo, was with him. This scaredy cat dog has been spooked since 1969.

The Drak Pack
Now this really was something and was great 70s kitsch which essentially cast those who had always been seen as villains as the heroes of the piece for a change

The Drak Pack was made up of the teen-age descendants of Hollywood’s most popular monsters. Drak Jr. (a vampire), Frankie (a Frankenstein’s monster) and Howler (a wolfman) formed a crimefighting squad in order to atone for their forefathers’ misdeeds against humanity. To show that the teens had the blessing of the previous monsters, they usually received their assignments from Drak’s great-grandfather, Dracula himself (known as Big D to the Pack), who always ended up trapping his fingers in his coffin.

The gang’s nemesis was the evil Dr. Dred, who from his flying “Dredgible” would hatch many an evil scheme along with assistants Vampira, Mummy Man, a Peter Lorre-esque Toad, and Fly. In order to defeat them, the Drak Packers would clasp their hands together and shout, “Wacko!” a secret word which gave the teens the super powers to succeed.

Captain Caveman
Looking like a throwback from one of the Dingles, Captain Caveman (how the Captain came about is beyond me). This magic club flying (er, again clueless) crimefighter was the same every week as part way through he gave chase in the air and (what a surprise) his club would run out of power…and it was the same week in week out. He did have three nice young ladies helping him though, a sort of Caveman’s Angels so to speak. Caveman himself was clearly some sort of relative of the Slag Brothers from The Wacky Races, both coming from the Hannah Barbara stable of animation of course.

Casper
Was friendly and a ghost. Probably died of boredom. More of a wet blanket than a white sheet. Also, post Chucky, his “Hi, I’m Casper, can I be your friend?” was somewhat sinister in a you just know he wants to turn into those demons at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, you know he does, type way.

Count Duckula
Like Mork from Ork was a spin off from Happy Days, our green feathered friend started out as a nemesis for none-other than Danger Mouse, with both characters voiced by David Jason of course.

With a reincarnation ritual that replaces blood accidently with tomato ketchup, thank you Nanny, the latest in the long line of vampirac ducks is not a blood-sucking vampire, but a vegetarian one. He is more interested in juicy carrots than hunting for victims. Naturally, Igor is appalled at this and even worse, his “new” master is obsessed with pursuing wealth and fame as an entertainer.

The stories often centre around Duckula’s adventures in search of riches and fame, assisted by the castle’s ability to teleport around the world. Another regular theme is Igor’s attempts to turn Duckula into a proper vampire. Some episodes feature Duckula’s nemesis Doctor Von Goosewing (an obvious play on Van Helsing).

King of Kings: The best Stephen King Adaptations

salems.lot_.barlow[1]On page he has terrified for decades but on both the big and small screen the results have sometimes been decidedly mixed, but here – in no particular order – is my ten fave Stephen King translations to film and TV.

10. The Dead Zone (1983)

This sterling adaptation is one of Director David Cronenberg’s more mainstream, accessible films. Christopher Walken excels with a haunting performance as school teacher Johnny Smith who is involved in a car accident and awakes from a coma several years later to discover he is ‘blessed’ with the ability to see a person’s secret or future by touching them.

It’s got an uneasy, claustrophobic feel throughout in everything from camera shots to lighting and especially Walken’s off-kilter turn. A fantastic psychological thriller with more than the odd jumpy moment which also sees fine support from Herbert Lom, Brooke Adams and Martin Sheen. A great ending.

9. Stand By Me (1986)

King isn’t just all about horror. Stand By Me is an adaptation from one of his novellas, The Body, and it’s a life-changing film that is right up there with It’s A Wonderful Life in the timeless classic stakes.

Semi-autobiographical, it recounts the tale of four young friends as they spend a summer holiday searching for a dead body. They set out eager to get a peek at the corpse but each of them grows and changes along the way.

The ending is now all the more poignant since the death of River Phoenix and those dullest tones of Richard Dreyfuss scattered throughout add gravitas. With dialogue like, “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”

8. Salem’s Lot (1979)

Made for TV in two parts but released theatrically in a shorter form in the UK, it’s the two-part version that is getting the thumbs up here. Directed by none other than Tobe Hooper this has to be one of the most jump inducing things to have ever graced TV screens.

Vampires taking over a small town are the order of the day as a best-selling author (David Soul) returns home but all is not as it seems. James Mason is kooky and his business partner, Mr Barlow, is clearly Nosferatu inspired and frankly disturbing. The scene where a floating vampire child appears at a window scratching and beckoning its next victim, with smoke and shot backwards to complete the eerie effect, still holds up as a classic scene to this day. You’ll never leave your curtains open again.

 

7. IT (1990)

Another made for TV adaptation, this time directed by John Carpenter alumnus, Tommy Lee Wallace. Tim Curry is electric as Pennywise the Clown. The first part is brilliant stuff, part Stand By Me, part your worst nightmares. It’s just a shame about the really lame giant spider in the (anti) climax.

Soon to get the remake treatment. Keep Curry and the storm drain; squish the spider in a giant tissue.

6. The Shining (1980)

Stephen King has never had much time for this adaptation but this is the ultimate haunted house (well, hotel) movie. It’s not so much scary per se but with its astounding visuals, it being one of the first films to fully utilise the steadicam, symbolism and uneasy foreboding it certainly leaves you breathless. Added to that Kubrick really makes you feel the coldness and isolation.

Nicholson defines bonkers with his splendid turn, whilst his son, played by Danny Lloyd, criminally in his only film role, manages to make his finger one of cinema’s scariest things ever. Redrum, redrum, redrum. Lifts and indeed triple Grand National winners were never the same again.

5. Misery (1990)

Kathy Bates even outshines Jack Nicholson here and is the only actor to pick up an Oscar for a role in a Stephen King film as the ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly as nice as pie’ Annie Wilkes. Dirty bird. Simple, terrifying and almost primeval in its horror.

James Caan’s character is ‘rescued’ from a car crash by his number one fan, just turns out she is a tad loopy and none too pleased he has killed off his lead character. Features one of the most wince-inducing moments in cinema, a tour de force, essential viewing and far more horrific than all of King’s possessed cars, vampires and children with strange powers put together.

4. The Green Mile (1999)

After The Shawshank Redemption this is Frank Darabont’s second stab at a King adaptation and for me is the better, more absorbing of the two. I know for many they find it overlong and over sentimental but you cannot deny its power to grab you, to fall in love with a mouse, to hate that guy who played Tooms on The X Files, swear at the television as you release his actions and fall in love with the gentle giant of Michael Clarke Duncan.

Once again Tom Hanks proves why he is this generation’s James Stewart and is therefore rather fitting that although it deals with death row inmates and supernatural undertones it has a distinct Capra-esque feel to it. I defy you not to cry.

3. The Mist (2007)

Also directed by Darabont this dark tale was pretty much ignored upon theatrical release, which is a crying shame as it’s a blinder. A small town is effectively cut off after a mysterious mist descends on it. Much of the town hole themselves up in the local supermarket until something starts attacking people and dragging them into the mist.

Essentially a classic 50s B-movie monster movie this has scares and effective special effects aplenty. To underline this fact it was even released on DVD in America with the option of you watching it in black and white, which it works in fantastically well.

Many of the towns folk are as terrifying as the creatures themselves and it has a real post 9/11 feel about it in places, as ever King showing us that people can be just as monstrous as actual monsters themselves. It could also be viewed in many ways as the anti-War of the Worlds and has a truly dystopian ending that will leave you reeling. An effective piece of film making that never loses your attention.

2. Pet Sematary (1989)

The film boasts some genuinely scary scenes, possibly the most frightening flashback sequence ever and Hermann Munster!

It’s undeniably creepy and raises some interesting questions about morality, death and how we deal with grief. Kings own screenplay adaptation, he even has a cameo at a funeral, blends supernatural horror with the ultimate real life horror of losing your family. The person you bury may return to life, but they aren’t the same person, there is something missing, something evil about them.

It also has an ancient American Indian burial ground, which is never, ever a good sign in a horror movie, even though it looks brilliant thanks to some excellent production design, a zombie cat, a murderous toddler with a scalpel that makes Chucky look like Maggie Simpson, and one helluva an ending. As former Munster, a fantastic Fred Gwynne, utters, “sometimes dead is better”.

1. Carrie (1976)

Fittingly both the first novel penned by King and his first ever film adaptation, helmed by Hitchcock super fan, Brian De Palma. The split screen technique may have dated it all somewhat but that still doesn’t deny the film its power and ferocity. Nobody likes a bully and Sissy Spacek ensures we have a character that is both likable and much misunderstood.

A high school revenge coming of age horror, Degrassi Junior High was never like this; Carrie is note perfect in showing that bullies never prosper. The pig’s blood scene is truly iconic and disturbing whilst the scare the bejesus out of you ending has been oft-imitated but rarely bettered. With its soft focus at times it has a dreamlike feeling to it, but don’t fool yourself this is bonafide horror.

King of cameos: Stephen King

pet-sematary-stephen-king-560[1]Stephen King has long been the number one name in horror but over the years his face has turned up, mostly in cameo appearances, in many of his adaptations long before the likes of Stan Lee was mugging in the background of the latest Marvel release. King may not have been spotted stacking shelves in Haven or Under the Dome just yet but Dean Newman takes a look back at the King of cameos.

Pet Sematary (1988)
This was the first of his books that King adapted for the screen. As well as scribing duties King also wound up popping up in the graveyard, how apt, as the minister giving the service at a funeral. It was a clip that was also heavily used in the trailer and King really looks to be relishing the role and is certainly my favourite appearance and so very apt to be surrounded by all that death with King as much the master of ceremonies as he is the master of horror.

Stand By Me (1986)
Okay so King himself doesn’t actually appear physically but the film, based on the short novella The Body, is semi-autobiographical and clearly King as the young writer to be. So essentially King is Wil Wheaton and Richard Dreyfuss, the latter who mostly appears as a voiceover apart from at the very end in perhaps one of the greatest most poignant endings in film history. King still has the marks left by the leeches scene…

Creepshow (1982)
Less of a cameo as King appears in one of the segments In Creepshow. Stephen King plays Jordy Verrill in the segment entitled “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill.” Jordy Verrill, a country bumpkin, discovers a meteor on his property and soon finds himself, and his entire home, consumed by some sort of meteor fungal that first takes over his house and then him – can’t wait to see what Dr Pixie makes of that on Embarrassing Bodies!

King also played a Truck Driver in Creepshow 2 during the segment, The Hitchhiker

The Stand (1994)
For many The Stand is regarded as King’s magnus opus and as such he delivered a script for an epic in scope television adaptation. It was perhaps only fitting then that King kept on popping up, just to keep an eye on proceedings you understand, as Teddy Weizak throughout this land mark mini-series

Maximum Overdrive (1986)
If it wasn’t committed to celluloid then King probably wouldn’t even remember his turn as an irate man at a cashpoint who swiftly gets his comeuppance due to the fact, by his own self admission, that he was pretty much off his face on drugs during this period. A curio more than a classic.

The Shining (1997)
No, not that one. Although the Kubrick version is hailed as a classic of horror cinema, King hated it, so, as you do, he had it remade closer to the original novel as a two part TV movie. In this adaptation King has a turn as the band leader.

Quantum Leap (1990)
Oh boy! In this horror tinged edition of the time travelling do-gooder Sam Beckett, which takes place on October 31st 1964 and sees him end up meeting a young boy who just so happens to have a dog called Cujo. That’s right, a young ‘Stephen King’. Allusions to other King books include Christine, Carrie and The Dark Half. And the episodes title? The Boogieman.

The Simpsons (2000)
Appeared as himself signing books in the episode Insane Clown Poppy, obviously a riff on IT. As an interesting side note, one of his more recent books, Under the Dome, was reminiscent of certain elements of The Simpsons Movie, not the Spider Pig I should imagine though.

The X-Files (1998)
King cameoed off screen as a writer of one of the shows fifth season episodes, Chinga, that dealt with witches, possessed dolls, random acts of violence (seeing as you ask people gouging their own eyes out), all of course set in Maine (where else!)

Sleepwalkers (1992)
He was the cemetery caretaker in ‘Sleepwalkers’ – perhaps he should have buried it before it was released. It’s rather shonky to say the least with only the rather lovely Madchen Amick as its redeeming feature. Good company of Clive Barker.