With Orphan: First Kill now on Paramount+, it continues the niche horror concept of killer children. This is something that is rarely seen since it's often considered too taboo to have children be so twisted and evil. However, occasionally, filmmakers break away from the norm and deliver memorably evil kids.
There is something twisted about seeing kids being depicted as killers; they are supposed to be the inherently innocent ones which makes these movies disturbing to watch. These young villains range from unhinged slasher villains to supernatural forces, with some only taking the form of children.SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY
10 Karen - Night Of The Living Dead (1968/1990)
In both the original Night Of The Living Dead by George A. Romero and Tom Savini's remake from 1990, the young girl Karen provides one of the scariest zombie encounters. While the idea of any undead human is creepy and unnerving, it's much different when it happens to a child: the instinct of feeling sympathy becomes mixed with survival leading to a conflict of emotions. As such, zombie kids have become a bit of a running theme in the subgenre.
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Even though the parents weren't the best characters, it's easy to understand their fear and suffering in the situation. The actors playing Karen deliver the most ominous zombie performances of both films: one feels almost like a cold-blooded killer whilst the other is more akin to an animal. Both kill the mother in horrific ways.
9 The Blondes - Village of the Damned (1960)
This was one of the first times children were the antagonists of a horror movie. This generation of blonde-haired children from Village Of The Damned is led by David Zellaby, who is clearly a precursor for other killer children that would come in later decades.
It's never directly stated what these children with a collective mind and vast intelligence come from. They want to expand and leave the town after they use strange telepathic powers to murder those that get in their way. The mystery of these children and the fact that they all look alike make them an enigmatic threat. It makes the viewer use their imagination as to what's going on and that is arguably scarier than any reveal.
8 Henry Evans - The Good Son (1993)
In the 90s, Macaulay Culkin was the biggest child star in the world and typically, he played the hero. That is not the case in The Good Son; he is a twisted serial killer who gets pleasure out of maiming and killing animals and people in his small town. It's strange to see Kevin McAllister from Home Alone commit such atrocities, dropping F-bombs, and being so smug about it.
Culkin gives a surprisingly sinister performance as Henry Evans with The Good Son. There is the preconceived notion that all children are inherently good. However, darker tendencies can occasionally form at such as young age, which makes Henry Evans not only scary, but one of the more realistic killer children in films.
7 Samara - The Ring Franchise (1998-2019)
Samara (or Sadako in the original Japanese series) was the beginning of creepy ghost girls in white dresses; The Ring turned the character into an icon and so many movies tried to replicate her. That shows the impact that she had as this mysterious entity that would climb out of the television and murder anyone who watched a cursed VHS tape.
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What always made Samara so terrifying is that the viewer never actually sees what she does to her victims. They just see the mangled corpses in the aftermath, leaving it up to their imagination. Of course, the famous VHS tape of Samara rising out of a well and climbing out of the television is the ultimate scare of the film that made people afraid of white noise for years in the 2000s.
6 Isaac Chroner - Children Of The Corn (1984)
Similar to David Zellaby, Isaac Chroner is the leader of a group of killer children. He convinced a town's collection of children to rise up and murder all adults and join a cult of demon worshipers. Even though Children Of The Corn is far from one of the best Stephen King films, Isaac remains an iconic villain due to John Franklin's performance.
Every scene with Isaac is a highlight because of how ruthless and evil he is portrayed; there is no origin story nor any real motivation for why the character is so dedicated to the demon of the crops. Isaac is just evil from start to finish and the viewer ends up longing for the death of a child just in the first act.
5 Anthony - Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
This bigger budget remake of one of the scariest episodes of The Twilight Zone episode "It's A Good Life" takes the concept of a boy who can warp and twist reality in any way he wants even further. Anthony is portrayed in a more sinister light; where the original was more of a child who didn't understand right from wrong, Anthony's actions are darker and full of malice, but he enjoys it.
Much like the original episode, it's meant to show that absolute power corrupts absolutely, turning a boy into a spoiled god-like being. How does one punish a child who can make reality however he wants?
4 Gage Creed - Pet Sematary (1989)
This killer child from Pet Sematary made a certain quote become iconic: "Sometimes dead is better." A mourning father buries his son in a mysterious cemetery in the woods, and he returns from the dead, but not in the way the father hoped. Gage Creed is merely the vessel for something else that lives in the woods. Gage is possessed by the creature known as the Wendigo, who only uses the child to torment and murder people in the area.
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For such a young age, Miko Hughes delivered a terrifying performance as he murders people in slow and painful ways. What makes Gage so hard to watch is that he's just a toddler, and seeing an innocent sweetheart of a child turned into a sadistic killer that the father has to kill again makes him not only scary, but tragic at the same time. Even in his twisted state, Gage still acts like a child in many ways, making the climax an uncomfortable experience.
3 Lilith - Case 39 (2009)
Rather than a demon possessing a person as per usual, Lilith from Case 39 is simply a demon taking the form of a child. She pretends to be a sweet little girl but ends up torturing her adoptive parents mentally, emotionally, and physically until she either kills them or convinces others that they are abusive.
Lilith earns the hatred of the viewer; she manipulates and threatens anyone so she can get joy out of their suffering. She also murders others in dark and gruesome manners, such as cursing someone allergic to bees with to being murdered by swarms of them. As the movie goes on and her inhumanity is revealed, the fear of her true form coming out at any moment echoes in the back of everyone's minds.
2 Damien Thorn - The Omen Franchise (1976-2006)
With the original Damien from The Omen and the 2006 remake, The Omen practically revolutionized the killer child concept. Damien is the antichrist and as a result, he is evil incarnate and can kill people with just a negative thought and a glare, similar to the children in Village Of The Damned. Damien's appeal is largely what helped turn The Omen into a franchise.
The difference with Damien is that his kills look like accidents akin to Final Destination deaths. It's hinted that Damien doesn't exactly know what he's doing, but his sinister looks and the many twisted kills that happen around him make Damien a health hazard, even though he never directly does anything.
1 Esther - Orphan Franchise (2009-2022)
Most killer children have some kind of supernatural twist to them, but not Esther. This Eastern European child played by Isabelle Fuhrman comes off as a sweet and talented young girl, but she is actually a devious murderer who wants to kill or remove anyone from a family and then seduce the father.
Esther doesn't kill a lot of people in her first movie, but she is a violent and brutal child who holds a secret that cannot be spoiled. The twist that comes in the final act of Orphan is one that turned the movie into a cult classic that managed to get a prequel about the horror villain with Orphan: First Kill. Esther has become a new iconic slasher baddie, and she has earned that.