Oct. 18, 2012 at 9:24 AM ET
Aw, kids. Charming and cute and fun to be around and -- who are we kidding? If you've ever seen a horror movie (or babysat) you know that even the littlest among us can be terrifying little demons. Here are our picks for the creepiest little buggers in film (and one very famous TV episode). If any of them come trick-or-treating at your home, give them all the candy and quickly move away.
Damien, 'The Omen'
Before describing just why this particular horror flick instills a major case of the kiddie-heebie-jeebies, let's be clear about one thing: this is the classic, 1976 creeper we're talking about. The 2006 do-over just doesn't pack the same power -- nor do the sequels to the original recipe. There's just something about the performance from then-little Harvey Stephens, who first brought bad seed Damien to life on the big screen, that tops them all. No one else captures the quietly scary tyke the same way. I first watched Stephens' demon-child performance when I was still a young one -- perhaps a few years earlier than I should have -- and even as a kid, it left me scared of kids (and nannies … and graves). Heck, after the oh-so-memorable mother-menacing scene, in which (old-school spoiler alert!) the wee antichrist drove his adoptive mom right over the second floor landing, tricycles seemed a bit suspect too. --Ree Hines
Regan, ‘The Exorcist’
If you’ve ever referred to your child as a “little devil,” hopefully it wasn’t because she reminded you of Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.” Often called the scariest movie of all time, the 1973 horror classic set the mark for the evil kids can do on film. Blair’s Regan spits, spews, scratches and screams through every vile thing you could imagine a 12-year-old possessed by the devil would. The shaking bed not scary enough for you? How about a head that swivels 360 degrees? Or maybe the bent-over-backwards spider crawl down the stairs does the trick. In an age of scantily clad teens at home alone with their jittery hand-held cameras, Regan puts a demonic face on what makes a horror film truly frightening. No trip to investigate a noise in a child’s room has ever been easy thanks to what we saw in “The Exorcist.” --Kurt Schlosser
Carol Anne, 'Poltergeist'
She’s cute as a button (even when covered with slime), and she has a sweet disposition (when she’s not screaming her head off), but the question remains, is “Poltergeist’s” Carol Anne a victim of spectral hauntings, or of her parents? By all accounts, the first five years of Carol Anne Freeling’s life were normal, that is until her father plopped the family into a house smack-dab over a graveyard. Dad himself picked out the spot so the creepy old tree (that would later try to eat her brother), would be in the backyard. It’s true that Carol Anne announced the “TV people’s” arrival, “They’re heeeeeeeere,” but was it the storm that brought them, or her pinchable cheeks? The spirits centered their considerable interest around Carol Anne, kidnapping her to another realm, with her mom quite literally going through Hell to get her back, only to be placed back in the same room, with the ghostly gateway still in her closet. As the only character whose name is called or screamed out more than 30 times, there’s no doubt that the cute little blonde girl had enough spirit to carry the scary film, plus two sequels. Sadly, the young actress, Heather O'Rourke, died in 1988 at age 12, six years after co-star Dominique Dunne was murdered by her boyfriend. Sometimes real life is the scariest thing. --David Gostisha
Samara, 'The Ring'
There's a chilling moment in "The Ring" when everything changes. Just when the audience is feeling horribly sorry for Samara, who apparently was pushed into a well by her adoptive parents, young Aidan reveals the truth with one horrible sentence: "You weren't supposed to help her." It turns out that it was Samara, not the adoptive parents, who brought the evil into their family, and by bringing her corpse out of the well, Aidan's mother has unleashed horror. And in a famously gruesome scene, hair swinging in her face, a decaying Samara crawls out of the television. Hey, at least it wasn't Honey Boo Boo. --Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
Anthony, 'Twilight Zone'
Children are often portrayed as sweet and innocent, but until they grow up and learn some manners, many are amoral little monsters. That’s literally true in the classic 1961 “Twilight Zone” episode “It’s a Good Life,” based on the terrific short story by Jerome Bixby (read it here). Freckle-faced 6-year-old Anthony Freemont (played by a pre-“Lost in Space” Billy Mumy) can make things happen simply by wishing for them – and like any 6-year-old, he hates being thwarted. Cross Anthony and he’ll “wish” you into the cornfield … and that’s if you’re lucky. He affects the weather, turns off the electricity (except for select TV shows), creates and destroys a three-headed gopher … and just possibly managed to wish the entire universe away except for his little town of Peaksville, which is running out of supplies. Parodied on “The Simpsons,” “Good Life” is considered one of the top “Twilight Zone” episodes ever, and has been re-made at least twice: In the 1983 “Twilight Zone” movie, where the bleak ending got tweaked; and in a 2003 “sequel” with Mumy reprising his role as the grown Anthony. For this story, it’s been a very good life indeed. --Randee Dawn
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Copyright 2013 Thomson Reuters.