The violent death of a child on screen is not something easily incorporated into a film. The death of a pre-pubescent in a thriller or horror film can almost guarantee an R or NC-17 rating from the regulatory board of the MPAA. And any classification outside of a PG-13 can thwart almost all hope of a film coming out of the box office fog with a back-end profit.
Still, killing a child on film has been displayed in some great work by some great directors. Steven Speilberg and Guillermo Del Toro are two such household names that have bucked the safety of censor’s scissors for the chance to violently kill a pre-teen. It’s risky, but can be done either overtly or through various quick cuts and off-camera sound effects that can be just as penetratingly effective.
We looked back on all the examples our craniums could muster to amass our list of The Most Effective and Memorable Child Deaths on Film. We didn’t really set out too much criteria for our choices other than A. They had to be 14-years of age or younger (so all the Friday the 13th and Nightmare movies that kill off 20-year-olds pretending to be teenagers was out) and that B. The deaths had to come as a shock or illicit a sense of ‘WTF’ from its audience. Absent therefore from our list are movies such as Battle Royale and Who Can Kill A Child? Although they were both filled with children who end up on the wrong side of living their deaths were more comical than shocking.
Shark Attack, Jaws (1975)
This horror classic from the master Steven Spielberg had many scenes that left audiences talking long after witnessing a sharks attack on a vacation community in Amity. The shark first gets a taste for human flesh in the opening skinny-dipping scene. But the shark solidifies our horrors when young Alex Kintner is the lone snack in a buffet of swimmer’s one summer afternoon. The scene is not overly graphic, but blood sprays with the splashing water and a washed up air mattress with a large shark bite chomp is all that remains of Alex Kintner’s existence.
Boy Through Windshield, Dead Calm (1989)
This hidden gem starring a very young Nicole Kidman and Sam Neill starts with a bang. Kidman’s character is driving while singing to her son who sits in the back seat of the car. But when the car is involved in a head-on collision the child is ejected from the back seat and through the windshield. With the film barely a few minutes in the scene grabs you with a boa constrictor’s might and keeps you breathless long into the grieving couple’s sea voyage.
Father Kills Son, The Mist (2007)
Giant bugs, deadly spiders, mutated mosquitoes. Stephen King’s The Mist had it all. It also had a surprise ending that catches you very much off guard. After being holed up in a supermarket while a mysterious mist providing camouflage to some deadly bug mutations, a group of survivors make it to a vehicle in a daringly bold move to escape. But when the SUV runs out of gas, the five remaining survivors, including a father and his young son, look to the gun and four bullets left in their arsenal as their only solution. The father loads the gun and we get a wide shot of four gun flashes inside the vehicle. We cut back to inside the truck where the father is emoting his grief over having just shot his son to save him from the horrors outside the car. The scene is powerful and is trumped by an even more revealing event that occurs mere moments later.
Gage Gets It Twice, Pet Semetary (1989)
The youngest member of the Creed family just can’t catch a break. First, Gage Creed is hit by a speeding truck outside of their new home. Then, after being brought back to life by his father via a supernatural Semetary, Gage is sedated and set on fire by his own father. Ouch. Both scenes provide maximum impact. The truck scene is more implied with flashes of the truck and Gage cutting to a bloody sneaker rolling on the street. The second death of Gage is more explicit with Gage looking every bit the cute boy he did before the accident as daddy sets him ablaze to keep him from furthering his rampage.
Father Shoots Son and Wife, A Serbian Film (2010)
So much of Srdjan Spasojevic’s A Serbian Film was disturbing. It is a film that almost defies coherent description. Scenes of incredible cruelty and degradation litter the film’s DVD chapters. Everything leads to the revolting ending where a drugged and unknowing father has sex with his unrevealed young son. It’s an act that can silence just about any screening crowd, but Spasojevic has one more card up his sleeve and uses it in the film’s final scene where the father, his wife and son are in bed after the traumatic unfolding still agog from the unspeakable act. The father takes a gun and positions the revolver so that all three family members will meet their fate together rather than suffer the psychological burden of their actions. Bang. And just when you think the worst is over, one of the thugs in the room looks at the three bodies on the bed and suggests that they take the dead young boy as he is still warm. Ouch.
Vampire Feeds on Baby, Stakeland (2011)
This particular disturbing scene happens in the film’s first reel. It’s a flashback scene where a family consisting of a mother, father, teenage son and infant baby are in a barn. While the teenage son goes outside in the rain after his fleeing dog, something suddenly attacks his family. His return to the barn reveals a dead mother and a bloodied near-dead father. As a flashlight illuminates parts of the darkened room he reveals a vampire creature that is feasting on his sibling. The creature then drops the lifeless baby from the second floor loft and we are left with a ‘WTF was that?’ feeling.
Sister Meets Shotgun, Amityville II: The Possession (1982)
Very little about Amityville II: The Possession is worth mentioning. The original film was eerie and regarded as based on some fact. The second film which acted as a prequel was just pure nonsense. The film would hardly have mention at all had it not been for one scene where the young teenage son of the family loads up a shotgun and begins mowing down his own family. Seemingly possessed by evil spirits he goes room by room through the house with the biggest surprise occurring when he blasts a hole in his young sister. In a movie devoid of any real horror, this scene captures your attention and gives you the strength to make it through what is left of the film.
Bad Son Falls to his Fate, The Good Son (1993)
Macaulay Culkin’s turn as evil Henry Evans in The Good Son holds the distinction of being the only child to be killed in our list that actually deserved it. For 80-minutes we watched as Henry (who is staying with his aunt and uncle after his mother dies tragically), does some unspeakable acts leading to the deaths of others. While attempting to kill his aunt atop a ragged cliff, his cousin of the same age appears and the two tussle atop the plateau. As both boys roll off the edge, they are saved by the mother figure in the film who stretches out to grab both kids with each arm. The weight of the children is too much to bare and the mother is forced to make a decision. She releases Henry to the perilous rocks and water blow and pulls up her biological son to safety. See ya!
Bug Destroys Kids, Mimic (1997)
Two kids who set out in restricted and condemned areas under the city looking for rare bugs are confronted by their worst nightmare – a six foot cockroach mutation that doesn’t take too kindly to their presence. The scene is only memorable in the fact that deaths of children are so rare in film. Deaths of two children at the violent hands (pinchers?) of a giant bug, even more so.
Young Girl Gets Blown Up Real Good, The Untouchables (1987)
Brian Da Palman’s The Untouchables is recognized for many reasons. The memorable Ennio Morricone score, Sean Connery’s Academy Award winning performance, and a cast that included the young faces of Kevin Costner, Andy Garcia and Patricia Clarkson. But the film is also remembered for an early scene where a gangster leaves his carrying case in a local corner bar. A young girl notices the man has left his belongings and grabs the bag heading outside in an effort to return the item to the fleeing mobster. The bag then explodes and the entire block corner is engulfed in a bomb blast which kills the young girl.
Home Invasion Boy Gets Shot, Funny Games (1997)
Yet another off-camera kills, Funny Games is able to kill their young character and still maintain a large shock value. With a home invasion in progress, a mother, father and small son are held captive by two dastardly clean-cut boys that torment the family with no clear motive or objective. While the mother is off screen we hear a gun shot. We are accustomed to younger children not being murdered in films so we expect to cut back and see that the father has been shot. Instead, we see the father in great emotional pain withering on the floor while his son’s blood is shown dripping on the television set.
Eddie Gets Blobbed, The Blob (1988)
This remake written by Frank Darabont was a footnote on the 1988 box office results calendar. Trying to update the Steve McQueen starring B-movie classic of the same name, The Blob came and went with hardly a notice. Still, the sewer scene is one that is quickly referenced when any horror fan discusses children being killed on film. In this instance, young Eddie has just fled the movie theatre with his friend Kevin just as the blob is consuming everything in its path. They take to the sewers but they run into the blob underneath the streets and the mass of blobbishness devours young Eddie while horrified Kevin looks on.
Boy Gets Run Over, Mad Max (1979)
In the original Mel Gibson classic, Max has yet to become truly mad when a motorcycle gang runs over policeman Max’s wife and young son. Yet another example of an implied kill we never get to see the child being run over. Quick cuts and the ball to which the young child was playing with bouncing on the road tells the horrifying tale.
Baby Toss, Feast II: Sloppy Seconds (2008)
This straight-to-DVD holds no punches. It ups the ante of the original Feast film in terms of violence and body count. All done in unstylish CGI fashion. Feast II was not a good film. But the scene where a baby is thrown by an adult to the oncoming monsters so that they might survive was good for a naughty chuckle. It would be more devastating had it not been for the Chariots of Fire theme being played at the same time.
Ice Cream Death, Assault on Precinct 13 (1972)
John Carpenter’s classic cult film was most noted for the death of a young girl who returns to an ice cream truck because she was given the wrong flavor cone. Unfortunately, she happens to arrive back at the ice cream truck just as a group of thugs are about to kill the driver. Without so much as an emotion, the gang member with the gun shoots the girl with his Han Solo style gun. It’s a classic scene that still draws up disturbing memories decades later.