The portrayal of little girls as the potential or real villains of scary stories is not a new phenomenon. Consider Henry James’s masterful The Turn of the Screw (read it!). It’s not surprising, either, given the investment our culture has in the innocence of little girls. If you operate believing that little girls are innocents–sugar and spice and everything nice–then you open the possibility for the opposite to terrify you. James R. Kincaid’s Child Loving expertly examines the consequences for the construction of childhood as a pure time, arguing that we then must monitor kids’ innocence, keeping them always under our gaze and correction. He takes the argument in a different direction from there, but the basic questions apply to horror as well. What if children are not as innocent as we need them to be? What if our insistence on their innocence puts them in danger?
So, when a person who we have placed the burden of our ideas of goodness, purity, and safety upon turns evil, she draws upon the frailty of our own constructs of good and evil, the insecurity of our homes, and opens the door for Freud’s uncanny. And horror films have a field day with his dynamic. Plus, many of these films deal with the terror of the pubescent female’s body [dramatic eye-roll]. So, without further ado, here are my top Scary Little Girls:
- Samara, The Ring
- Reagan, The Exorcist
- The Grady Girls, The Shining
- Rhonda, The Bad Seed
- Karen, Night of the Living Dead (Watch)
- Alice, Alice Sweet Alice (this movie is so bad and doesn’t even make sense, but is worth a watch)
- Lilith, Case 39
- Eli, Let the Right One In / Let Me In
- The girls from Mama, which I will not see because I value sleep. (Watch the Mama trailer)
10. Of course, sometimes the little girl is the victim, so honorable mention goes to Carol Anne Freeling of The Poltergeist, Jamie of Halloween 4 & 5 (who was possessed by Michael Meyers), Sally of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, which features a villain trapped in her child star days.
Who did I miss?
A Portuguese TV show pulled a prank in which they planted a “creepy” little girl in a hotel hallway and used a hidden camera to capture people’s reactions. It’s funny how much cinema affects peoples’ responses to what could have been just a lost little girl.
Also, consider how creepy this is:
*Obviously, this all applies to little boys too. I think that there is more investment in the innocence of little girls, as there are cultural assumptions that boys can be violent. Also, this blog is explicitly about the pig-tailed. 😉