There’s always something creepy about a child in a horror film. Whether they are possessed by demons, undead or just plain sinister, these terrifying tots have a way of making our skin crawl.
This formula is executed well in the new supernatural thriller “Insidious,” now showing in theaters, where a couple and their son move into a spooky house already inhabited by evil spirits.
Soon enough, their bundle of joy becomes a sack of trouble when he slips into a coma and becomes a vessel for demonic creatures.
There are others just as creepy. From the waterlogged corpse of a Japanese girl to a boy who sees dead people, here are some of the scariest children in film.
Esther (“Orphan,” 2009 )
This conservatively dressed 9-year-old with a hideous secret has no supernatural powers, which makes her killer instinct all the more terrifying. With her cold stares and 1950s wardrobe — not to mention a bizarre interest in sex — this Russian orphan was portrayed with perfect maliciousness by the porcelain doll-like Isabelle Fuhrman.
Grady Twins (“The Shining,” 1980 )
Who can forget the iconic pair standing at the end of an empty corridor in this Stephen King classic? With matching baby-doll dresses and blank stares, the Grady twins are the quintessential creepy children.
The pair appear all the more unnerving shown to us through the pint-sized perspective of the film’s child protagonist Danny. When the twins say, “Come play with us,” and the scene cuts to their bloody, murdered bodies, we just have to look away.
Sadako (“The Ring,” 1998 )
With her floor-length hair, white dress and halting gait, Sadako remains one of the most frightening child ghosts ever to appear on the silver screen. The film inspired an American remake in 2002, but there’s no doubt the Japanese Sadako is the top ghost. Her slow crawl from inside a well and out of your TV screen never loses its bloodcurdling appeal.
Carol Anne Freeling (“Poltergeist,” 1982 )
“They’re here.” Those words spoken by the angelic Heather O’Rourke can strike dread into audiences’ hearts. When she gets sucked into the spirit dimension, her voice — desperate yet fearsome — is heard through the TV. It gets worse when the little girl comes under the spell of “the Beast,” the film’s supernatural villain. She becomes a conduit of evil and a representation of our anxieties and excitement in the “Poltergeist” trilogy.
Regan MacNeil (“The Exorcist,” 1973)
Linda Blair’s role as a possessed 12-year-old in this legendary horror film made her a household name.
Though the film’s tricks seem cartoonish by today’s standards, there’s no denying the freaky factor of watching Regan’s head spin like a top. She also levitates, projectile vomits, speaks in the devil’s growl and — best of all — descends the stairs on all fours, upside down.
Henry Evans (“The Good Son,” 1993 )
The disturbed and murderous Henry is a terror to watch, mainly because it is light-years away from actor Macaulay Culkin’s naughty but lovable character in “Home Alone.”
In “The Good Son,” Culkin portrays a psychopathic child who loves to inflict mental and physical anguish on others. He kills his younger brother and attempts to drown his sister solely to satisfy his evil urges. By the end of the film, there’s barely a trace of the cute Culkin.
Cole Sear (“Sixth Sense,” 1999 )
In his Oscar-nominated role, Haley Joel Osment superbly plays a disturbed boy who happens to have an ability to converse with — and get hurt by — the dead.
Cole’s character is not threatening, but he still instills a sense of constant dread in the viewer with his perpetual terror.
The beauty of it is that what begins as a psychological thriller soon turns into a moving tale of human relationships. All the ghostly chaos starts when Cole simply whispers: “I see dead people.”