At times, Hollywood will entice our curiosity with themes and/or horrifying circumstances that challenge the way we view the world; as well as each other. From my earliest memories of watching films as a child, I recall the likes of Carrie, The Fury, and even Lar Park Lincoln’s character in Friday the 13th Part VII, in serving as a baseline of what I’d come to understand as supernatural powers within the horror genre. We witness these characters deal with their powers in unique ways; some humane, while others are purely brutal. Yet the narrative makes a drastic impression when involving a child – something we naturally observe as impressionable, unknowing, and innocent. Not in these movies.
A recent example is David Yarovesy’s superhero horror film, Brightburn, out now. The premise follows a child from another world crash-landing on Earth. In a similar vein as the Superman story we love, Brightburn poses the question, “What if instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister?”
Subverting the familiarities we think we know about children, as mentioned above, quite a few Hollywood films reveal the grappling and anguish families face when coming to terms with a child’s unknown and uncontrollable abilities. The idea of a child endowed with these unnatural powers is inherently disturbing, as their limiting life experiences renders them susceptible to an unknown and terrifying future. The following are ten films demonstrating children with powers beyond their control.
10. Case 39 (2009)
With the support of a stellar cast (Renee Zellweger, Bradley Cooper, Jodelle Ferland, and Ian McShane), Case 39 tells the story of Emily Jenkins (Zellweger), a social worker who is assigned to care for ten year old Lillith, who has succumbed to abuse from her parents. Soon enough, Emily bears witness to the dark horrors that unfold around her. In time, Emily soon realizes that Lillith’s powers stem from a demonic force consuming her very being. Although Case 39 hasn’t seen the light of good reviews, the cast alone makes this movie venture worth a try.
9. The Girl With All The Gifts (2016)
Perhaps not possessing “supernatural abilities” in the traditional sense, the film’s protagonist, Melanie, does bear the fruits of her hybrid nature; retaining her humanity yet yielding the strength and hunger of her “zombie” half. The Girl With All The Gifts tells the story of a dystopian future in the wake of a fungal disease that wipes out a large portion of humanity, and turns its victims into feral zombie-like creatures; much like Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. Melanie is part of a generation of children who bear the disease, yet are able to retain their humanity; as long as they steer clear of human bodily fluids. Imprisoned on a military base, Melanie is befriended by her school teacher, Helen (Gemma Arterton), who seems to take a close likeness to her. The military base is suddenly overrun by ravenous zombies, also known as “hungries”, Melanie escapes with Helen and lead scientist Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close) in pursuit to not only finding safety, but a cure to save humanity.
8. The Exorcist (1973)
Based on William Peter Blatty’s 1971 horror novel of the same name, The Exorcist changed the landscape for horror films as the iconic interpretation of a demonic possession that invaded a loving, family household. The film follows the demonic possession of twelve-year-old Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) and the terrifying physical and supernatural effects it bore on herself as well as those around her. An unseen, uncontrolled force has transformed Regan into a terrifying and powerful entity. Directed by William Friedkin, The Exorcist’s display of demonic power through a child made Regan a much more menacing and terrifying character.
7. Looper (2012)
On the surface, Looper’s premise is a threefold narrative consisting of time travel, non-stop action, and a supernatural element tying into a straightforward plot that’s surprisingly easy to follow. Contract killer Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) works for a crime organization as a “looper”; killers who are paid to exterminate targets from the future by means of time travel. As Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) is sent back in time for extermination, young Joe is unable to “close the loop” and kill his future self. Turns out, old Joe has motives for returning to the past, which involves murdering a child who possesses unnatural telekinetic powers capable of death and destruction. The child, known as the Rainmaker in the future, becomes a crime boss and is ultimately responsible for killing future Joe’s wife. Directed by Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi), Looper is an impressive work of storytelling. There’s even a death scene in the film very similar to a well-known scene in Scanners (1981).
6. Let The Right One In (2008)
This Swedish horror masterpiece, based on the 2004 horror novel of the same name, became a staple in modern horror. Cited by Ebert as “the best modern vampire movie”, Let The Right One In explores themes of loneliness, love, and isolation. The film revolves around a young twelve-year-old boy named Oskar, who develops a close, and quite unclear, relationship with a young vampire child named Eli. Eli’s bloodthirsty need to kill for survival leads to her isolation and dependency as she, in childlike form, is in need of a companion in assisting her with killings. Directed by Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Let The Right One In delivers on the scares as well as brilliant storytelling.
5. Midnight Special (2016)
Weaving themes of the supernatural and power of a father’s love, Midnight Special conjures a story that’s both emotional and thrilling. From film director Jeff Nichols (Mud), Midnight Special tells the story of Roy Tomlin (Michael Shannon) and his son, Alton Meyer (Jaeden Martell), whom upon discovering his son’s supernatural abilities, attempt to flee undetected from the FBI as well as a fanatical religious cult. Anton utilizes his telekinetic abilities, one of many, in evading the authorities and others who pose a threat to him and his family. The film also stars Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton, and Adam Driver.
4. Interview With The Vampire (1994)
Anne Rice’s vampire classic Interview With The Vampire is a heartbreaking story of loss and devotion. This gothic horror classic has stood the test of time as it continues to be admired by new fans. Yet what makes Interview With The Vampire such a memorable film are its characters, in particular, Claudia (Kirsten Dunst). A child vampire with an insatiable lust for blood, Claudia’s newfound powers make her a mighty force to be reckoned with. Directed by Neil Jordan (Byzantium), Interview With The Vampire proves to be a colossal film, and Claudia’s character only adds to the story’s emotional depth.
3. Village of the Damned (1995)
Adding to the list of John Carpenter films to watch, Village of the Damned’s cast is reason enough to watch this film; this would be Christopher Reeves last film. In the small town of Midwich, California, a mysterious event leaves its residents unconsciousness at the exact same moment. As a result, ten mothers give birth to ten children. Exhibiting supernatural powers (such as mind control) and violent behavior, the consequences of these children’s abilities result in death all around them. Without humane qualities or empathy, those who are caught in their path will encounter no remorse. As Reeve’s last film prior to his accident, Village of the Damned is a worthy watch.
2. The Omen (1976)
A staple in films regarding children with supernatural and deadly powers, The Omen was a horror film that sought to terrify and that’s exactly what it did. Following a young child named Damien, the son of Satan (nbd), the antichrist is adopted by a US ambassador and his wife while residing in the UK. Mysterious deaths surrounding the child begin to raise concern as his father, Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck), suspects his adopted son is something more menacing and perhaps his adoption is more than a coincidence. Damien’s powers become more violent as Thorn’s own investigation into the child’s origins begins to unfold. Directed by Richard Donner, mostly known for his directorial duties on the classic film, Superman: The Movie, this is a must-watch.
1. Firestarter (1984)
With the recent resurgence of Stephen King films in constant release and development, Firestarter is one of King’s most memorable. Released in 1984 and starring Drew Barrymore, Firestarter tells the story of nine-year-old Charlie with the ability of pyrokinesis (ability to start fires). When a US government agency known as “the shop”, also known as the Department of Scientific Intelligence, kidnaps Charlie, the young girl uses her abilities as a means of vengeance. Leaving a trail of destruction in her path, Charlie will stop at nothing to expose the government for their evil intentions. Based on King’s novel released in 1980, Firestarter is one to watch.
Those are our 10 Children with Powers Beyond their Control! Let us know if you have a favorite film featuring a kid with superpowers! With Brightburn recently hitting theaters, now is a great time to double-down with a worthy supernatural kid thriller.
You can also let us know which of the films listed above are your favorites! Give Nightmare on Film Street a follow on all social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Don’t forget to also subscribe to the NOFS Podcast for awesome horror commentary. Stay ghoulish, friends!