by Joel G. Robertson
14 days and counting until All Hallows Eve (and the official launch of this site), so I present to you yet another list of movies to make your October nights a little more uneasy. Today’s Forgotten Flix Recommends… features all those (literal) ankle biters who’s make even the most tolerant child care worker run screaming from the daycare. Yep, it’s killer kid movies. I also thought this list could use a little pint-sized support from the Devil’s toy chest. So, I’m including those creepiest of inanimate objects come to life… killer dolls!
1. Magic (1978): Written by William Goldman, this creepy yarn is a slow burn starring Sir Anthony Hopkins well before he became a “Sir” or chowed down on liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti. It’s a subtle study in madness that’s definitely worth checking out if for no other reason than the caliber of talent involved.
2. The Good Son (1991): Macaulay “Home Alone” Culkin as the Bad Seed. Along with a pre-Frodo Elijah Wood (although he’s about the same height here), I remember watching this in theaters and really digging it. A re-watch a few years back proved that, although a bit of a guilty pleasure, still entertaining nonetheless.
3. Child’s Play (1988): Honestly, if you haven’t heard of this one… well… there may be no hope. Seriously, this is a horror classic that perfectly balances horror with gallows humor. Special effects master Kevin Yagher’s creation, Chucky, holds up exceptionally well, and proves that well-done, practical animatronic effects will trump CGI every time (God help us when the recently mentioned remake arrives…). Directed by Tom Holland who also brought us the always awesome Fright Night (1985).
4. Mikey (1992): This killer kid movie stars Brian Bonsall, who played the “jump-the-shark” role of Andy on Family Ties, as (you guessed it) Mikey, an orphan whose birth parents died in an “accident.” When he’s taken in by a new family, people start dying. Predictable, guilty pleasure. Also stars Ashley Laurence, star of Hellraiser (1987).
5. Dolly Dearest (1991): I’ll be completely honest about this one. It’s predictable, a little cheesy, and I love it. There’s just something about the high-pitched shriek of Dolly that creeps me out. Also, it stars Denise Crosby who starred in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Pet Semetary (1989), and Eliminators (1986).
6. The Offspring (“The Magistrate”) (1988): Anthology film notable because it stars Vincent Price as a librarian in a small, Tennessee town who tells a visiting reporter three tales of terror that all take place in and around the town. The final one, The Magistrate, is a Civil War-era story about a Union soldier trying to get home. He’s taken in by a family of children. Note to everyone everywhere: If there’s a large clan of children, who appear to be living on their own in the woods… RUN!
7. Puppetmaster (1989): Full Moon released this picture in the late-80s and it was followed by ____ sequels. This is the strongest entry and while the puppets are a little cheeseball, there’s something endearing about them. And yes, I do realize I just referred to killer puppets as “endearing.” What can I say, I got issues.
8. Children of the Corn (1984): A pretty bleak telling of the classic Stephen King story. Awesome for the following three reasons: 1. It stars Linda (Sarah “Freakin'” Connor) Hamilton. 2. It’s based on a Stephen King story and 3. The kids, especially red-headed actor Courtney Gains, are creepy as hell. ‘Nuff said.
9. Dolls (1987): From director Stuart Gordon (Reanimator, From Beyond, and Fortress). This is a more subdued effort from Gordon. And honestly, it’s one of my favorites. It’s creepy in all the right places, plays against expectations, and is truly a grimm, adult-level fairy tale. Do yourself a favor and check this one out.
10. The Children (1980): Full disclosure. I’ve never seen this one. Other than some stills and word of mouth, I’ve had minimal exposure to it. I just tried to add it to my Netflix queue, and it’s only available as a “Save.” This means I have to track down a VHS copy! Anyway, this film’s biggest claim to fame isn’t so much its blatant rip-off of the plot from Children of the Damned (1963), but rather Henry Manfredini’s score that bears a striking auditory resemblance to another score he composed that same year… Friday the 13th.
11. Demonic Toys (1992): Another Charles Band produced, low-budget frightfest. This one is cheesy, (relatively) harmless fun. I haven’t seen it since it hit video store shelves back in ’92, but I think it’s definitely worth a revisit. I think it’ll go perfect with wine and crackers…
12. Who Can Kill a Child? (1976): Yeah. This one is just this side of disturbing. No seriously. It’s a messed up movie. Of course, I mean that in the nicest sense of “messed up,” but that’s what it is. The film opens with a montage of images depicting the atrocities committed against children throughout the 20th century. Then we cut to present day Spain where a husband and his pregnant wife take a boat to a nearby island. Well, let’s just say the kids on the island make the ones from Children of the Corn look like a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears latchkey kids. I’m not going to say anything else other than I warned you…
13. Trilogy of Terror (1975): The oldest movie on the list, but definitely worth remembering. This was actually an anthology movie that played as an ABC Movie of the Week on March 4, 1975. It was directed by Dan Curtis (the man behind two classic television series: Dark Shadows and Kolchak: The Night Stalker), and based on stories by horror masters William F. Nolan and Richard Matheson (my favorite author along with King). Actress Karen Black starred in each episode. Black was most recently seen in Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses, but her early career consisted of such classics as Easy Rider and (the far superior) Five Easy Pieces. The best segment was “Amelia,” which is based on the Matheson story “Prey.” It features Black alone in her apartment with the creepiest Zuni Fetish Doll I’ve ever seen (see poster at top of this post). When the charm that was keeping the doll in stasis comes off (of course it does!), the little bugger goes on a hunting trip of sorts.The final image is uber-creepy and you won’t soon forget it!
Well, that wraps up this edition of “Forgotten Flix Recommends.” With the next list I’ll be bringing you a menagerie of beasties that’ll leave you quakin’ in your skivvies.
Until next time, remember, a flick is only forgotten if you’re not talking about it!