November 2, 2005

Kids in the Hol(lywood)

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I never got the whole “trick or treat” thing. The entire concept seems to me like the biggest infringement on freedom of choice since the creation of a nationwide school system. I mean seriously, the last time I picked “trick,” an awkward silence erupted where there had once been the joyous cries of glee that follow any disaccharide distribution. As I waited to be entertained with my usual expression of bland disdain, the children at my door decided to play it broken record style and merely shouted their false inquiry once again. Fine. Here’s your candy. You may take from basket.

Sure, that story proved nothing except my apparent lack of a soul, or holiday spirit, for that matter, but the point is that children can be scary and in no other place is this more apparent than in movies. I know everyone has a tried and true horror movie formula that works like a charm every time it is evoked, always managing to wring a shudder or a yelp of surprise from its unlucky viewer. And hey, mine just happens to be precocious British children of the non-Harry Potter variety. Think Village of the Damned – but with accents!

Remember that one scene from The Others with Nicole Kidman where her character’s daughter chillingly insists, “But I am your daughter” while reaching a gnarled hand out from underneath the lace veil minimally concealing her hag-like features as a result of being possessed? Well I don’t, because I was busy hiding my face in the safety of my purse while my friends watched with dispassionate apathy. The same thing happened during an otherwise forgettable viewing of Resident Evil when suddenly my world came crashing down at the introduction of the Red Queen, a computer program physically modeled after a system designer’s daughter. Her assertive, “You’re all going to die down here,” was way too eerie for comfort even if it was coming from the amorphous visage of a melting holographic display.

Seriously, what’s up with creepy kids in horror movies nowadays? They’re as commonplace and necessary as sickening splatters of blood or hair care-deprived crazed killers or spontaneously incapacitated damsels in distress. Where would The Ring be without demonic Samara and her straight-to-video antics? Where would The Exorcist be without Linda Blair’s sacrilegious convulsions? And where would The Poltergeist be without – well you get the idea. The point is that they’re unsettling in a way that I could do without.

In fact, this preference often finds itself manifesting in my consciousness beyond just horror movies. How can you think of Dune’s preborn Alia Atreides without being just a little creeped out by her ominous, prophetic declarative statements? That is definitely one sister that I would never want. Precocious children of any sort usually end up troubling me (Dakota Fanning, Dakota Fanning, Haley Joel Osment, Dakota Fanning). There’s just something inherently wrong when words like, “That professionalism comes from what I’ve watched people do on the set. I’m just trying to be as respectful to the environment, as they have been,” jump out spontaneously from the mouth of one who is still too young to drive. Hey I can sympathize with the grueling plight of hardworking child actors, but what’s up with this somewhat obnoxious brand of pre-school ambition? It just ends up sucking the lollipops and sunshine out of an otherwise enjoyable, ephemeral part of life. Now, I could say insensitive things like, I like my children sweet and dimwitted or better yet, that I find children repulsive all together but I won’t. I mean, The Sandlot is a movie that makes my top ten list so it’s obviously been scientifically proven that I’m not some sort of fiendish monster. It’s just that I could definitely do without that droopy, fatalistic pretension which characterized so much of my own childhood. And that, my friends, is why I will never watch Little Manhattan.

Archived article by Tracy Zhang
Arts and Entertainment Editor