Whenever a creepy child appears in a horror film, that’s when you know that something seriously frightening is about to go down. With their wide-eyed, innocent expressions and secretly sinister motives, the best horror kids seem completely harmless on the surface – but deep down, as soon begins to dawn on the adults around them, these kids are just waiting to do something unspeakable. Here are twenty of the creepiest horror movie kids who still give us nightmares today. (Beware of spoilers ahead.)
20. Gage from Pet Sematary
Unlike some horror movie kids, Gage starts Pet Sematary as a perfectly normal and sweet toddler, complete with chubby cheeks and angelic blonde hair. However, when the desperation of his father to bring him back to life this leads to a truly horrific transformation, and suddenly Gage is toddling around like a knife-wielding vampire, his dialogue made even more threatening by his adorable lisp.
Gage goes on to kill his own mother, Rachel, after encountering her in Jud’s house. He stabs her with his father’s scalpel before hanging her body from the attic. He ends up ‘dying’ (again) after Louis stabs him with a morphine syringe. All in all, Gage is definitely one of the creepiest horror movie kids ever to grace the silver screen.
19. Damien from The Omen
If you want to become the scariest kid in horror, then being the son of Satan is a pretty good start. Everything from his blank but knowing stare to his pint-sized suit and tie combine to make him one truly malicious demon-child. With that said, the most heart-stopping thing about Damien is that he doesn’t have to do a thing. Horrifying events simply unfurl around him, while he watches silently on.
Towards the end of the film, Damien is ultimately taken to a church and laid on the altar by his father, Robert. Just as Robert is about to stab Damien, the police shoot him dead. The film ends with Robert and Katherine’s joint funeral, attended by the President of the United States. Damien then shoots one final, creepy smile at the camera – truly the stuff of nightmares.
18. Mercy and Jonas from The Witch
It’s pretty obvious from this list that the only thing scarier than one creepy horror movie kid is two creepy horror movie kids, and that spookiness gets ramped up even more when you’re dealing with twins. However, the creepiness of Mercy and Jonas in The Witch stems from the fact that most of what they do can be explained as just normal kid behaviour.
In the film, the twins vanish after spending a night in the barn with their big sister Thomasin and the goats. It’s unclear what really happens to them, but we’re left to assume that they were stolen away and killed by the witches just like their baby brother Samuel was. Their mother Katherine ultimately blames Thomasin for the tragedies.
17. The Grady twins from The Shining
The Shining’s twins together make one of the most iconic visuals in the whole horror genre, and they prove that you really don’t have to do much to become legendary nightmare fuel. These two sinister little girls have managed to make audiences’ hearts jump without doing anything more than standing perfectly still and delivering their chilling plea for playtime in eerily sweet voices.
The Grady twins are spooky enough as it is, but what’s even more chilling is their freaky, tragic backstory. It’s ultimately revealed that the twins were murdered with an axe by their father Delbert Grady while he was possessed by the hotel’s ghosts. We get a glimpse of the scene of their horrifying death when Danny experiences a vision of their bloodstained dead bodies. It doesn’t get much creepier than that!
16. Rhoda from The Bad Seed
You know a performance is genuinely creepy when it’s enough to earn the kid in question an Oscar nomination, and Patty McCormack’s portrayal of The Bad Seed’s Rhoda did exactly that. Rhoda is sickeningly sweet around the adults in her life, but her blonde pigtails and tap shoes are only to distract from the blood on her hands, since she manages to skip her way through a whole host of chilling murders before finally being caught.
At the end of the film, Rhoda goes looking for a medal (stolne from one of her murder victims) that her mother threw into a lake to destroy the evidence. She pokes around the lake using a large metal pole until a bolt of lightning strikes, electrocuting her and killing her instantly. It’s chilling stuff – Rhoda has certainly earned her place on this list.
15. Marco from Shock
Shock is a pretty obscure Italian horror movie, so there are a lot of people out there who have never heard of the film’s titular creepy kid. Nevertheless, Marco’s stilted dialogue and prolonged eye contact is haunting no matter which language you view the film in, and David Colin Jr portrays the character of a child possessed by a vengeful lover with chilling maturity.
In the film, Dora, her son Marco, and her new husband Bruno move into the house where Dora used to live with her late ex-husband Carlo. Marco ends up possessed by Carlo and terrorises his mother – who, it is later revealed, actually killed Carlo and hid his body in the basement of the house. All in all, it’s a pretty twisted film.
14. Isaac from Children of the Corn
Stephen King has written a few lovable child protagonists in his time, but he’s also written his fair share of creepy kids. Children of the Corn features a whole bushel of brainwashed child-demons, but their ring leader Isaac is definitely the worst. With his strange charisma and penchant for dressing like an elderly evangelical preacher, it’s no surprise that he’s able to manipulate a whole town into committing unspeakable acts.
In the film, 12-year-old Isaac indoctrinates all of the children from the fictional town of Gatlin into a religious cult that worships a god called “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.” Isaac goes on to convince all the children to murder all the adults who live in Gatlin by poisoning and butchering them. He’s certainly earned his place on this list!
13. Elias and Lukas from Goodnight Mommy
Creepy twins are without a doubt the pinnacle of horror, especially if they are identical, and doubly so if they seem to have the uncanny ability to communicate without speaking. Elias and Lukas tick all of these boxes, and up the creepy factor by being absolutely merciless with their mother, unswayable in their belief that she is an evil imposter.
At the end of the 2014 film, it is revealed that Elias has been hallucinating and Lukas has been dead the whole time. Unable to accept that his brother has passed away, Elias glues his mother to the floor, burns down the house and kills her after she insists that she cannot see Lukas. It’s a horrifying watch – not for the faint-hearted.
12. Charlie from Firestarter
Drew Barrymore was already a horror veteran when she came to the role of Charlie McGee, so it’s not surprising that she pulls out a stellar performance as the tantrum-prone terror of Firestarter (another Stephen King adaptation). Charlie’s emotions can change on a dime, and her outbursts can have seriously explosive consequences: she is a pyrokinetic, able to create and control fire with her mind.
Charlie’s literally fiery temper, as well as a seemingly complete lack of remorse, are what make her one of the creepiest kids in horror. At the end of the film, she avenges her father by killing the entire security team of the Department of Scientific Intelligence and bringing down the facility. While she’s not as evil as some of the other kids on this list, the fact that Charlie apparently has no qualms about killing people in cold blood makes her especially creepy.
11. David Vellaby from Village of the Damned
The Village of the Damned follows the residents of the British village of Midwich after they all mysteriously lose consciousness one day. Two months after the strange incident, all of the women in the village realise they are pregnant, and they eventually all give birth to their children on the same day. It soon becomes apparent that these are not normal children: notably, they all share a telepathic bond with each other and can control other people’s actions.
David Zellaby is effectively the leader of the children and uses his powers for doing evil deeds, like forcing his mother to scald her own hand and making a man set himself on fire. Ultimately, David is killed when his mother’s husband manages to detonate a bomb with all the evil children gathered in the same building.
10. Regan McNeil from The Exorcist
12-year-old Regan MacNeil is arguably the scariest kid to ever come out of a horror film. After playing with a Ouija board and spending time with her imaginary (read: paranormal) friend ‘Captain Howdy,’ Regan becomes possessed. She hurls abuse at priests, vomits soup, and kills several men while under the spell of the demon Pazuzu.
Regan is finally transformed back into her sweet, innocent self after a priest called Damien Karras urges the demon to possess him instead. Before the demon has the chance to wreck havoc, Karras throws himself out of the window, defeating the demon once and for all. Regan ultimately has no recollection of what happened to her.
9. Virginia from Spider Baby
Spider Baby wasn’t a huge success at the time of its release, but it has since achieved cult status. The film’s protagonist, Virginia, certainly deserves her place on this list as she is extremely creepy. Virginia suffers from the fictional ‘Merrye Syndrome,’ which causes her to act like a spider: at first she starts off by eating bugs, but soon progresses to trapping human victims in a ‘web’ made of rope and stabbing them to death.
Ultimately, Virginia and her equally creepy siblings are brought down after Peter, a distant relative of the Merrye family, lights a bundle of dynamite which causes the house to explode with all the family inside it. But it’s implied Virginia’s craziness may live on, as at the end of the film the camera pans to Peter’s daughter – who looks suspiciously like Virginia – admiring a spider in its web.
8. Henry from The Good Son
When most people think of creepy kids, they probably don’t think of Macaulay Culkin, unless they have a serious phobia of the Home Alone franchise. However, Culkin’s ability to play against type as a violence-obsessed, family-murdering preteen is exactly what makes 1993’s The Good Son so horrifying to watch, since nobody can look quite so angelic while pushing people off cliffs.
In the film, Henry plots to kill his sister Connie by launching her into icy water. He also pushes his own mother off of a cliff edge, and is revealed to have killed his younger brother Richard by drowning him in the bathtub. Evidently, Henry is a far cry from Culkin’s portrayal of the relatively innocent Kevin McCallister in Home Alone.
7. Samara from The Ring
The Ring is undoubtedly one of the creepiest films ever, largely due to the sinister supernatural antagonist. The film revolves around a cursed videotape that kills the viewer seven days after they’ve watched it. The tape is cursed by Samara, a demonic little girl who was thrown into a well and left to die by her adoptive mother Anna.
One of the film’s most chilling moments sees a clip of Samara climbing out of the well and through the TV screen to enact vengeance by killing Noah, another victim who had watched the cursed tape. The haunting image of Samara, sopping wet, shockingly pale, and with her long black hair in front of her face, is truly the stuff of nightmares.
6. Esther from Orphan
The eponymous character of Orphan is Esther, a 9-year-old Russian girl. But Esther is more than just any old orphan, and her adoptive parents soon realise this too after she injures a classmate and kills a pigeon. Their suspicions are confirmed when the head of the orphanage, Sister Abigail, visits the household to warn the family that horrible events seem to happen around Esther.
Ultimately, it is revealed that Esther is actually a 33-year-old Estonian woman named Leena Klammer. Due to a rare hormonal condition, her physical growth is stunted, causing her to appear like a young girl. It comes to light that Leena has posed as an orphan for years and murdered multiple people. She is killed at last when Kate breaks her neck.
5. Dalton in Insidious
Released in 2010, Insidious follows the Lambert family – father Josh, mother Renai, their sons their sons Dalton and Foster, and baby daughter Cali. One day, Dalton mysteriously falls into a coma. After Dalton fails to respond to treatment, his parents make the decision to bring him home. This is when things start to get weird for the Lambert family.
Renai starts to hear things over Cali’s baby monitor even when there is no one in her room and Foster claims he can hear Dalton sleepwalking. Ultimately, it is revealed that Dalton is possessed after astral projecting in his sleep. His father manages to save him – but at the end of the film it’s revealed that Josh has also become possessed in the process. A creepy film from start to finish.
4. Karen from Night of the Living Dead
The Night of the Living Dead begins with siblings Barbra and Johnny trying to visit their father’s grave when they are attacked by a walking dead man. While Johnny is killed, Barbra manages to hide in a nearby farmhouse. She then finds a group of people also hiding in the house from the zombies – including a young girl called Karen who was injured after being bitten by one of the zombies.
Naturally, Karen goes on to become a zombie herself after succumbing to her injuries and then reanimating. She ends up eating her father’s corpse and stabbing another woman to death with a trowel. Karen is ultimately killed when armed forces arrive and begin shooting at all the reanimated bodies. There’s nothing creepier than a zombie kid, that’s for sure!
3. Brandon in Brightburn
A dark ‘what if?’ reimagining of the Superman story, 2019’s Brightburn sees childless couple Tori and Kyle Breyer decide to adopt a child they find inside a crashed spaceship. The couple raise the baby, naming him Brandon, but eventually realise that he harbours supernatural powers and evil tendencies. He goes on to kill his classmate’s mother and his uncle, before killing his ‘dad’ on a hunting trip.
When Brandon’s mother realises his true nature, she tries to stab him with a piece of his old spaceship (the only thing that can injure Brandon, à la Kryptonite). However, he preempts her attack, and goes on to kill her by dropping her from a great height. The film has a rather bleak ending: essentially, Brandon wins and begins his mission to destroy the world as the credits roll.
2. Kevin from We Need To Talk About Kevin
We Need to Talk About Kevin follows the eponymous teenager Kevin, played by Ezra Miller, who goes on to become the perpetrator of a gruesome high school massacre. Unlike most of the other creepy children on this list, Kevin is not possessed or a supernatural being. But that’s what makes his evil tendencies so much more chilling.
In the film, Kevin murders his classmates by locking them in the gym and shooting them with a bow and arrow. When he returns home he then murders his father and sister, Franklin and Celia. The film ends with Kevin’s mother, Eva, visiting him him in prison and asking why he committed the murders – to which Kevin responds that he’s not sure. It’s harrowing, especially given the context of school shootings in the US.
1. Claudia from Interview with the Vampire
Kirsten Dunst first established herself as a formidable actress at the age of 12 when she starred as Claudia in Interview with the Vampire. In the film, Claudia is changed into a vampire after two more of such creatures – Brad Pitt’s Louis, and Tom Cruise’s Lestat – find her dying on the streets of New Orleans in the 18th century.
Claudia kills almost every human she comes into contact with, including her piano teacher. She eventually becomes resentful at the fact that she will never grow up, and kills Lestat (Cruise) by slitting his throat. She’s ultimately brought down after another vampire, Armand (Antonio Banderas), exposes her to sunlight which burns her to ash.