Saturday, August 22, 2009

Coffee...? Tea...? Pea Soup...?

In this post, we are going to deal with a subject that some may consider taboo when creating a horror and/or crime tale, but this subject has been integrated very successfully in certain tales and/or movies involving horror or crime. Now, what could that almost controversial subject matter be? Well, believe it or not, it's children. You might be thinking at this point, that there are children in just about every movie, whether it be horror or crime, and why the mention of controversy. It's because we're not going to be discussing the peripheral use of children in stories. We're going to explore the use of children as focal points in tales of terror and/or mayhem, sometimes even portrayed as the initiator of same. Children, terrifying? Children, dangerous? Children, capable of violence? Oh, you bet. That, and then some. Let's explore some outstanding examples.

You might think that when a story or movie has dealt with a child in the genres of crime or horror that the subject matter was treated in a highly sensitive manner. Well, you would be very wrong. Consider The Exorcist, the story of a young girl possessed by a demon, implied to be The devil himself. If you've seen the film, you will agree that there was nothing sensitive about it. The girl was violent, profane, and terrifying. The film was too, but I'm specifically talking about the child herself. They pulled no punches with this one and scared the socks off those of us who saw it in the theatre and then had to drive home alone down a succession of dark streets. Oh mama...

Others I personally have really enjoyed that used children as their focus were Children of the Corn (where the sweet, innocent [hah] children sacrifice adults), Blue Heaven (a novel that involves children witnessing a brutal murder and then are pursued by the killers), Child's Play (where a killer possesses a child's doll), Poltergeist (where a small child is literally physically taken by evil spirits from a house built on an ancient burial ground), Pet Sematary (a child brought back from the dead who stalks and murders), The Good Son (one nice brother in the family and the other a violent killer), The Omen (the child of Satan himself is born into the world), and Rosemary's Baby (another birth of Satan's son--I'll never forget that line 'What have you done to its eyes?').

So many stories, so many films, all use children in some fashion. At times, they are the ones who terrify and murder; at other times, they are the victims of a seen or unseen force, and find a strength within that surpasses that of most adults. Either way, they are all remarkable characters and make for a very interesting read or viewing.

How the times have changed though. There is one film that I regard as the ultimate classic example of a disturbed and extremely dangerous child. That film is The Bad Seed. Yes, it is in black and white--it is that old, but worth seeking out and watching. It introduces the theory that violent behavior in children could possibly be genetic and shows a mother's pain trying to resolve demons from her own past and, at the same time, trying to save her young daughter from a life in an institution or prison. It is an emotional roller coaster ride and extremely well written. The acting is top-notch and looking into that child's eyes will absolutely horrify you. Then, the movie ends, and no--I won't give it away. My point in bringing this up is after the movie ends, the entire cast goes before the camera and smiles and acts SO normal. I read somewhere that, considering when this movie had been made, they didn't want anyone leaving the theatre with dark thoughts or actually believing anything evil had occurred. Yes, times certainly have changed, haven't they.

While things are most assuredly more out in the open these days and filmmakers and authors do want you to end up with dark thoughts and actually believe that the evil events did occur, as writers, we still have to use caution and common sense when incorporating children into our plotlines. Children can be brutal, but if they are to be brutalized, we must be careful to make sure we are not exploiting that somehow. Children are, after all, children--they are innocents--and whatever role they play in our storyline, we must tread cautiously. They can be killers or they can be victims. However a child or children figures into your particular story of crime or horror, just remember to use a little bit of common sense, and always let your heart guide you along the way.