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‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ and the Creepy Kid genre

c619f-kevin-posterIf I was going to write an analytical word association question LSAT-style, it might go something like this:

LADY GAGA is to MARILYN MANSON as TILDA SWINTON is to _______________. And the choices would be George Clooney, Brad Pitt or Willem Dafoe.

Go ahead. I’ll let you try it.

If you selected WILLEM DAFOE as the answer, then – ding, ding, ding – you are right. Perhaps there are better choices than the three listed, but both Dafoe and Swinton are brilliantly strange actors who have taken on some unique, provocative and brave roles throughout their careers, and one of the most interesting I have seen lately is Swinton’s part as a mom in the film “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”

Thanks to “The Bad Seed” and later, “The Exorcist,” there’s a group of films now that fall under “The Creepy Kid” genre, and “Kevin” is one of them.

Swinton plays the mother of a boy who seems to have a terrible disposition from birth. From an early age, he behaves badly just to spite her, and seems to have a deep hate for his mother, while behaving normally to his father. The story is threaded with a tragedy that isn’t revealed until the end.

The young boy and teenage versions of Kevin are well cast in this film that is one of the top creepy kid films I’ve ever seen, and Swinton’s performance is excellent.

46a91-4870thumbLooking through Netflix, I realized that there are many Swinton films I haven’t seen, so that may be my next viewing project. While I enjoyed “The Beach” and “Vanilla Sky,” I highly recommend “Kevin” and the 2009 film Julia. In it, she creates a unique and seemingly ruthless character who tries to extort money using a young boy as bait. Like “Kevin,” this is a movie they’ll be discussing for years in feminist film classes.

If you’re interested in seeing other creepy kid/teen films, here are a few suggestions:

The Ward (2011) – Wes Craven, the man behind Freddy Kruger, tells a story that unfolds with a surprising conclusion. In it, we meet a girl who has just burned down an old farm house and is carted off to a mental ward where strange things are happening to the other girls who reside there.

bf3e5-bleedinghouseThe Bleeding House (2011) – When a stranger comes to the door and interrupts a family that already has its share of problems, things escalate pretty quickly. I was almost thrown off by the fake Southern accent of the visitor, but the creepy Katie Holmes look-alike character in this movie was an interesting creation.

The Last Exorcism (2010) – Figured this would be a regurgitation of “The Exorcist,” but the fact that the exorcism is being conducted by a self-described charlatan, and the audience is aware of this from the beginning, helps create suspense. The ending could have been better.

5b373-them_ver2_posterThem (2006) – In recent years, I have begun to admire European horror films because they seem less formulaic and predictable. This one starts quietly, but tension soon builds. When a teacher at a French school in Bucharest returns to her isolated country home and turns in for the night, she and her husband are awakened by strange noises. Their car is stolen, and they begin to realize predators are on their property. Not sure if it’s a true story, but that is implied at the end.

ca887-70075477255b1255dFunny Games (2007) – After reading a review about this German remake a few years ago, I decided to check it out. “Funny Games” is a must-see psychological thriller, thoroughly tense and unsettling. While vacationing, Anna (Naomi Watts) and George (Tim Roth) are visited by two young men whose genteel, “Eddie Haskell” demeanor soon fades, revealing the depth of their insanity. Actors Michael Pitt, of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” who is frequently cast as “the intellectual psycho,” (i.e. 2002’s “Murder By Numbers”) and Brady Corbet hold the family hostage, playing tormenting mind games.

06edd-70059619255b1255dJoshua (2007) – This creepy kid thriller is about an 8-year-old genius named Joshua (Jacob Kogan) who begins misbehaving after the birth of his baby sister. When his parents (Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga) bring the new baby home, jealous Joshua begins plotting against them. Kogan performs well with Farmiga and Rockwell, who is becoming one of my favorite actors. Many will recognize Farmiga from her mom role in another creepy kid movie, 2009’s “Orphan.”

c66fe-edenEden Lake (2008) – If you’re a horror/thriller movie fan like myself who is always looking for a good heart-pumping, jaw-dropping scare, you may want to check out “Eden Lake.” Written and directed by James Watkins, this 2008 British film is about Jenny (Kelly Reilly), a soft spoken nursery school teacher who goes on a weekend getaway to “Eden Lake” with her boyfriend, Steve, (Michael Fassbender), a cute guy who seems a tad impulsive. While there, they encounter a group of young trouble-making morons who interrupt the couple’s peaceful outing by playing loud music on a boombox. Refusing to ignore the kids, Steve (trying to be a badass) confronts the group, planting the seed for what’s to come. The harassment escalates, and the couple soon begins to realize the kids aren’t just jerks, they’re sinister.

Dogtooth (2009) – This film may be a little too much for most. It’s what “Flowers in the Attic” would have been if it were less restrained. Watch it only if you’re aware that some foreign films don’t hold anything back for audiences like American films do. It’s about three home-schooled siblings who grow up cut off from society. Their abusive parents create an alternate universe for them that begins to unravel when an outsider enters the picture.

The House of Yes (1997) – Mississippi native and indie queen turned mainstream star Parker Posey stars in this film about twins Jackie-O and Marty, whose father disappeared the night President John F. Kennedy was shot. The two have an unusual relationship that is revealed when Marty brings home a fiance.

The Wave (2008) – This wasn’t the best film, but it did try to demonstrate how impressionable teens, as well as an entire country of people, can be manipulated by their leadership.

Insidious (2011) – Again, not the best creepy kid film I’ve seen, but it does fall into the category.

Case 39 (2009) – I didn’t expect a lot from this film about a 10-year-old girl rescued from her abusive parents who ends up in the care of a social worker, but it surprised me a bit. It’s worth watching.

Hurt (2008) – When an uncle takes in his niece, the child of his dead brother, strange things begin to happen. Again, surprisingly not bad.

And, of course, if you haven’t seen “Orphan” (2009), put it in your cue.

Got a comment? E-mail me at or Tweet me at @lareecarucker.



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