John Carpenter’s second sci-fi horror remake (following The Thing) is an enjoyable B-movie that makes up for its almost complete lack of scares and tension with a sense of go-for-broke abandon; the director is obviously having a blast with such hokey material, and he gets some memorably over-the-top performances out of his cast. The late, great Christopher Reeve plays it straight, though, as a small town doctor trying to make heads or tails out of an incident that left the entire population knocked out and some of the women folk knocked up; the subsequent offspring are white-haired, glowing-eyed emotionless freakazoids looking to take over the world. Village of the Damned is JC letting his hair down, and he actually delivers some of his best-ever widescreen compositions here; Kirstie Alley hams it up as a chain-smoking government agent with need-to-know knowledge of all this intergalactic weirdness, though hers is the most subtle performance in cinematic history compared to Mark Hamill’s take on the town priest, a man of God not afraid to get on the roof with a sniper rifle to take out the children of Satan. The electronica score comes courtesy of Carpenter and, of all people, Dave Davies of The Kinks.
Yes, this is the “Evil Macaulay Culkin” movie, and what a delightful treat it is. A tasteless yet rather effective casting gimmick puts the ultra-cute star of the Home Alone movies into the role of a preteen psychotic named Henry Evans, a pint-sized cuckoo bird who unleashes a reign of terror when his cousin Mark (Elijah Wood) comes for a visit. Tremble and gasp as lil’ Henry kills a neighbor’s dog with a crossbow and tosses a dummy off a bridge, causing a multi-car pileup! Wonder why such an angelic-looking boy would shove his little sister onto thin ice during an innocent afternoon of iceskating, and seethe in rage as he twists it all to seem like it’s his cousin who’s the murderous loony! Wood’s eyes bulge out of their sockets more than they ever have before at such maddening injustices. The Good Son is more of a stunt than a film, playing its novelty casting for all it’s worth (and then some), making for a crass yet undeniably entertaining “so bad it’s good” crowd-pleaser (well, crowd-amuser, at least). The poster is especially brilliant in its shameless subversiveness, featuring an innocent-looking and sweetly-smiling Culkin with the tagline, “Evil Has Many Faces.” Sure does!
“The Bad Seed is the Big Shocker!” Beware the rage of Rhoda, a prim, proper and pigtailed little demon-child who isn’t beyond using her tap shoes as lethal weapons when she wants to get a penmanship medal that she believes is rightfully hers. It seems so innocent (and ridiculous) now but, back in the day (1956), The Bad Seed was pretty shocking stuff in its portrayal of a devious little girl who drowns a classmate and sets fire to a janitor; the subsequent controversy got the attention of the Academy, which nominated the film for four Oscars (including a Best Supporting Actress nod for Paddy McCormack, who’s a total riot as the bratty yet brutal villainess). The film was based on the play of the same name, which in turn was based on William March’s 1954 novel; just don’t reveal the movie’s own unique ending (talk about a shocker!), or else you could be in for a spanking at the hand of Nancy Kelly (also Oscar-nominated as Rhoda’s poor mother), as featured in the rather bizarre scene at the end of the closing credits. Don’t worry, though, parents; if your own kid ends up being a murdering psychopath, it isn’t because of your poor parenting skills — it’s actually all genetic, you see.
Ah, no “Evil Children” list is complete without at least one of the three hundred Children of the Corn movies. Who ever thought that Stephen King’s so-so short story about “He Who Walks Among the Rows” would spawn such a cinematic legacy of rural young ‘uns wrecking havoc with various farming tools? For the record, The Gathering is the first (of many) straight-to-video Corn movies — and the one that has the distinction of starring Naomi Watts, post-Tank Girl but still several years before her breakout role in David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. Part IV tells the chilling tale of several children in a small Midwestern town (the Corn movies don’t quite work if they’re set in big cities, after all) being possessed by the spirit of a wrongfully murdered child preacher seeking revenge from beyond the grave; it’s up to a medical student (Watts) to save her “infected” sister and neighbors from being violently besieged by the overalls-wearing, scythe-wielding whippersnappers. Hey, it is what it is, and worth watching if just to see Watts acting her heart out in a movie where almost everyone else (including genre veteran Karen Black) doesn’t seem to give a shit.
Back in 1913, the Carlton Mine of Carlton, Pennsylvania was run by an evil man who cruelly exploited his immigrant children workers; an explosion left many of poor tykes buried alive, and now, in the present day, they roam the land as zombies, ignoring direct blood relatives but chomping down on all others. A family consisting of a recent widow (Lori Heuring, a little too young for the part) and two daughters (Scout Taylor-Compton and Chloe Moretz) move into this idyllic little community, the residents of which live in mortal terror of “the children” who come out at night and, you know, eat brains and stuff. Could their reign of nocturnal terror be somehow linked to William Carlton, the greedy and corrupt land developer who’s also the last surviving heir of the Carlton Estate? As wretched as most of the movies are in the annual “8 Films to Die For” series, Wicked Little Things actually isn’t too bad; it moves along at a steady pace, features some decent kills for the gore hounds and manages to conjure a creepy atmosphere, particularly in the night scenes when the little monsters come out to play. Both Taylor-Compton and Moretz would go on to star in better horror films (Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies and Let Me In, respectively), but this one’s far from being an embarrassment on their resume. Directed by J.S. Cardone, who also called the shots on the not-bad 2001 vampire flick, The Forsaken.