When it comes to film there is maybe nothing more taboo than violence towards children (and dogs) and rightfully so. No reasonable person likes to see kids (or dogs) being violently attacked. In most cases it is highly disturbing and even in the most mundane situations it can be extremely unpleasant. Despite the ugliness associated with it, children have often found themselves the victims of some sort of menacing evil. And this especially rings true in the world of horror.
It, one of 2017 biggest hits, just recently crossed the $700M threshold at the box office and that film is all about kids doing battle with Pennywise, a clown that wants to murder them dead. Another recent example would be Netflix’s Stranger Things. Much like It, Stranger Things revolves around a group of children so it only makes sense that most awful things that occur in the town of Hawkins would be directed squarely at them.
Part of what makes the kid-centric violence in properties like It and Stranger Things work is that in both cases the perpetrator is some sort of supernatural being. Seeing little Georgie get pulled down into the sewer by a shape-shifting clown is one thing, but seeing him get abducted by a real life creeper adds an entirely new dimension of terror. When you’re dealing with a supernatural entity it’s a lot easier to find room for humor and fun, even in a genuinely scary movie like It, than it can be when working with something based in reality.
The same supernatural logic applies to kids versus kids. Brutal fights between kids can be unsettling, sure, but at the end of the day they’re all kids. It’s when adults and kids square off that things can get a little shaky.
Mom and Dad, the new film starring Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair, is now available via VOD and it boldly tackles the battle between kids and adults head on. It’s a film about parents violently turning on their own children. Using that as a basis for your plot while still managing to deliver a fun film is a tricky thing to pull off, as the film’s director, Brian Taylor, recently told me.
“So I was searching for a concept I had never seen before, so of course when you find concepts that haven’t been done before sometimes there’s a risk that you’re going to find out really quickly why it has never been done before,” Taylor told me when asked about how the film came to be.
“And so to a certain extent you run into that in this one too. I mean, where is the line? When the logline is this movie’s logline, where is the line you cannot cross? And how close can you get to the line to have a movie that is still fun and doesn’t make people hate you too much? So that was the line that we had to toe for the whole movie. You want to have this sort of like glee in the absurdness of the situation, but at the same time you can take it too far and then quickly drain the fun out of the situation.”
Taylor manages to pull off exactly what he was going off. Mom and Dad takes a concept that should be appalling in many ways and manages to make it a lot of fun. Taylor’s success is largely due to his ability to keep the film balance. It’s serious without ever being a downer and is absurd without ever becoming silly.
“A good example of that is the delivery scene. You know five percent in either direction and that scene becomes unwatchable but hopefully, I think we found the exact balance that makes it very watchable and a lot of fun even in the face of the absolute horror of it. But I guess audiences will be the judge of that.”
Despite the taboo nature, Taylor isn’t the first director to pit children and adults against one another in a battle to the death — one unique factor with Mom and Dad, however, is the fact that the kids are the heroes and that typically isn’t the case. In case Mom and Dad doesn’t quench your weird thirst for adult on child violence, I have put together the following list of films that will surely help get the job done.
Village of the Damned — 1960 — Dir. Wolf Rilla
One of the first films to feature evil kids squaring off with adults was 1960’s Village of the Damned. The residents of a small British village suddenly follow unconsciously one day. When they awake no one can explain what happened but then discover all women of child-bearing age have become pregnant. The women all give birth on the same day to children that develop at a rapid rate. This creepy kids sport glowing eyes and prove to have frightening powers. Village of the Damned is a genuinely chilling horror film that zooms on by. Perfect for late night viewing.
Children of the Damned — 1964 — Dir. Anton Leader
In an attempt to capitalize off the success of Village of the Damned, MGM returned with the sequel Children of the Damned. Despite a relatively lean runtime of 90 minutes, this film feels much more bloated than its predecessor. For this go around the kids are morphed into more a hero role but the end result is the same — kids and adults fighting one another. Children of the Damned has some decent atmosphere and isn’t bad, but it’s just not as good as the first film.
Who Can Kill a Child? — 1976 — Dir. Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
Who Can Kill a Child?, sometimes referred to as Island of the Damned, is the story of a British couple going on one final vacation before they give birth to their first child. Their vacation takes them to a small island where the only inhabitants are kids that act strangely. Soon the couple realizes the children are violent and have murdered all the adults on the island. Their survival comes down to one simple question — who can kill a child?
This movie has its fair share of problems, but I love it dearly. Rumor has it a Blu-ray is coming later this year from Mondo Macabro.
The Children — 1980 — Dir. Max Kalmanowicz
The Children is a low-low-low-low-low-budget horror movie about five children in a small town that are transformed into zombie-like creatures due to some toxic waste. The children begin a murderous rampage and the adults must do everything in their power to stop them. This was originally released on VHS by Vestron Video back in the 80’s and about 15 years ago Troma picked up the distribution rights. It’s currently streaming on Prime. There is a reason Troma picked it up. If Troma appeals to you, you’ll likely enjoy it.
Children of the Corn — 1984 — Dir. Fritz Kiersch
When it comes to evil little kids Children of the Corn may be the cream of the crop. In this case cream of the crop means most popular and longest running franchise rather than best. This Stephen King based story is about a small town in Nebraska where all the children join forces to murder the adults as a ritual sacrifice to corn…or something along those lines. The movie is pretty mediocre and feels like it was made-for-TV even though it wasn’t. Problems aside, it’s easy to see the appeal and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy watching it. I mean it does start Linda Hamilton and Courtney Gains. Also it has an absurd number of sequels.
Beware: Children at Play — 1989 — Dir. Mik Cribben
Beware: Children at Play is the second Troma film to appears on our list after The Children. Like that first film, it’s easy to know what to expect because it’s Troma. In this masterpiece, a teen with some mental issues kidnaps a bunch of small children and brainwashes them to turn them into killing machines. Parents try to reason with the children but when talking doesn’t work they must get physical. The ending of this movie is bananas and you should watch it. I have conveniently posted the video below for your viewing pleasure.
Village of the Damned — 1995 — Dir. John Carpenter
I wrote about Village of the Damned a couple years ago when the new Blu-ray was released by Scream Factory. A remake of the original 1960 film of the same name, Carpenter movies the story from England to a more modern setting in Northern California. The plot is basically the same with 9 babies being born on the same day. As the babies grow into children it becomes clear that they are not normal and they begin to use psychic abilities to take over the town. The film is problematic and not nearly as good as the original, but it does feature a great Carpenter score, creepy children and Mark Hamill as a Reverend.
The Children — 2008 — Dir. Tom Shankland
The Children is one of the great direct-to-video horror movies we got in the late 2000’s and you could make a case for it being the best film on this list. Christmas holiday goes horribly wrong when bratty little kids turn into brutal little kids and begin to attack their parents. This one isn’t for the squeamish, which means Bloody Disgusting readers everywhere should have a soft spot in their heart for this splatterfest.
Come Out and Play — 2012 — Dir. Makinov
Come Out and Play is a Mexican remake of Who Can Kill a Child? Remake might not even be the right word though because this is basically a shot-for-shot carbon copy of the original. The gore is graphic and the acting ain’t bad but this doesn’t do anything to set itself apart from the film we already know. But if you’re looking for a more modern version of murderous Island kids this will do the trick. Also, it has nothing to do with The Offspring song of the same name.
Mom and Dad — 2017 — Dir. Brian Taylor
Is it a bit of cheat to put Mom and Dad on this list since it was just released? No. It’s my list, so my rules. Deal with it. Plus, the premise of this movie is literally parents attack their children! You can’t have a list without this movie! This movie is bonkers from start to finish. Adults murders kids but it’s done in a loving way that makes you laugh. It has everything you love about Brian Taylor and everything you love about Nic Cage. And Selma Blair rules.