Baby Crazy: Counting Down Cinema’s Most Horrifying Infants
Here's the thing about babies in film, they're often horrible and sometimes homicidal -- and we're not talking about the rom-com versions. Despite real-life infants, which are the quintessential images of innocence and hope for the future, many movie babies, especially horror movie babies, have all of our awful instincts and none of our refinement. As we've seen through such titles as 'Splice,' 'Dead Alive' and even in the more recent 'Hell Baby,' they're noisy, they smell and they occasionally like to eat flesh.
But some are worse than others, of course. Here are the most horrifying babies in all of cinema.
'Trainspotting' isn't a traditional horror movie, it just occasionally feels that way. A blackly comic (and frequently tragic) look at the lives of a group of Scottish heroin addicts, Danny Boyle's trendsetting film hits its apex when Mark (Ewan McGregor) is locked in his childhood bedroom to kick his habit. It's one of the most intense sequences in Boyle's filmography (which is saying a lot) and it all climaxes with a hallucination that's bound to leave emotional scars in both the character and the audience: he sees his friend's dead baby crawling across the ceiling. It may not be real, but it's more troubling than just about everything else in the film.
'The Howling 3: The Marsupials' is one of the weirdest horror movies ever. No kidding. This Australian werewolf flick trades out wolves for local wildlife, meaning that, yes, this is a movie about werekangaroos. Really, no kidding. Anyway, the film reaches its apex of weirdness when the lead character gives birth to her child while in werekangaroo form. In a sequence that's actually accurate in its depiction of newborn marsupial behavior, itty-bit-hairy infant crawls straight from its mother's womb into her pouch, where it almost looks cute. Almost being the key word because, holy crap, that's a furry werekangraoo baby and that's all kinds of wrong.
David Cronenberg's 'The Fly' seemingly consists entirely of disturbing moments, so it's something of an honor for one scene to be a major highlight. Fans of the film surely know which one we're talking about. After learning that she's pregnant with the child of Seth Brundle -- who recently had his DNA merged with that of a fly, due to a scientific mishap -- Veronica Quaife has a bad dream. And not just any 'ol bad dream, she has a dream where she gives birth to Dr. Brundle's child and it emerges from her as a grotesque, writhing maggot. It may not be real, but it's definitely the kind of image that leaves a scar on your psyche.
Although the genetically engineered mutant known as Dren is only a baby for the first act of Vincenzo Natali's chilling 'Splice,' it's long enough to leave a lasting impression. The brainchild of Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley's rockstar scientists, Dren looks like a rat, a dinosaur and human got tossed in a DNA blender, consequences be damned. The result is a creepy little thing that is too mobile for something so young and too smart for something that doesn't have arms (yet). It's no wonder that this thing grows up to have a ravenous appetite for human life.
Few films are as gloriously gory as Peter Jackson's 'Dead Alive' (also known as 'Braindead'), so it makes sense that the zombie baby figuring in many of the film's nastiest moments would be a real piece of work. Looking more like some sort of goblin than an infant, this undead, flesh-eating baby is a memorable monster, pursuing full-grown adults and tearing their heads in half with the vigor of a much older zombie. Although most movies would treat a zombified baby with a certain degree of horror and sadness (see Zack Snyder's 'Dawn of the Dead' remake), Jackson throws good taste to the wind, letting this zombie infant act more like a character in a 'Looney Tunes' cartoon than a tragic figure. The result is somehow more disturbing than it would have been if it were taken seriously.
'Grace' is an odd and unsettling little movie about the inherent difficulties of raising a baby who died in the womb, came out breathing anyway and now craves blood instead of milk. The film offers no real explanation as to the nature of little Grace's unusual condition, instead choosing to concentrate on how the characters react to this disturbing predicament. Although the child itself is a real horror show, she's only a baby, operating on pure instinct and completely unaware that she's the main subject of a horror movie. Therefore, many of the more memorable sequences fall to her mother, Madeline, who starts making some, uh, questionable decisions regarding the well-being of her kid. 'Grace' is a creepy movie not just because of the undead baby, but because it implies that we'd do anything to help that undead baby if it belonged to us.
Any discussion about cinema's most horrifying babies cannot be conducted without talking about 'Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2.' One of the most odious children's films ever made, this story of immortal babies vs. a seemingly immortal Nazi (played by Jon Voight in a career-low role) offers more nightmarish images per minute than most horror movies. Most of the film's worst moments are saved for Kahuna, an ageless "superbaby" who has been protecting Earth's children for decades. Every thing about this movie is pitched to the lowest common denominator, but Kahuna is the real pits, a world-wear, pun-crazy, super-strong baby whose dialogue is molded to his expressionless face via poor CGI mouth movements. This is the stuff of nightmares.
The biggest surprise about 'It's Alive' is that it has a shocking amount of sympathy for the man-eating baby at the center of the film's plot. Although ostensibly a low-budget B-movie, writer/director Larry Cohen's oddly sweet and bizarrely sensitive horror acknowledges that even killer babies have parents and said parents may very well care for their carnivorous child. John Ryan's lead performance as a grieving and worried-sick father is grounded and humane, so when his child racks up a body count, we actually experience his genuine pain and anguish at the situation instead of simply enjoying the blood and gore. More importantly, the movie makes it clear that the mutant baby isn't evil, it simply lashes out when it's afraid -- but, like all newborns would be, it's afraid most of the time. Don't let the film's hilariously hacky premise and poster fool you -- this is the rare killer baby movie that'll actually make you care about the killer baby.
You never actually see the the baby in 'Rosemary's Baby,' but you don't need to. Everything you need to know about it can be seen on Mia Farrow's face when she finally lays eyes on her newborn son, who just so happens to be the spawn of Satan. This revelation would have been the jumping-off point for many films, but it's the grand climax of Roman Polanksi's horror masterpiece. After spending the entire movie fearing for this baby and his mother, the film leaves the audience with the shocking revelation that the baby was never really in danger and that our fears for Farrow and her family were unwarranted. We should have been afraid for everyone else in the world. What happens to Rosemary, her baby and the baby's new cult of Satanic worshippers after the film is anyone's guess, but it won't be good. We may never actually see that baby, but the idea that your child has devil's blood running through its veins is a more horrifying thought than just about every other horror baby candidate. After all, it's your child. You can't abandon your child.
David Lynch's 'Erasherhead' is a surrealist masterpiece that's seemingly about one of a dozen things at any given moment. While the exact nature of the film will remain fodder for movie-buff debates for decades to come, there's one thing that everyone in the world can agree on: it features the most unsettling newborn to ever appear in a motion picture. Jack Nance's life in a dystopian, black-and-white nightmare world is already unpleasant, but it gets downright unlivable when his girlfriend gives birth to their child. Well, she gives birth to something. With its oversized, reptilian head and tiny body wrapped in tight swaddling, it looks more like something you'd find in the bio-waste bin at 'Jurassic Park' than a child. To make matters worse, it screams. It never, ever stops screaming. As Jack's girlfriend abandons him and his life becomes more surreal than usual, he's forced to come to grips with the thing that's apparently his offspring and ... well, you should probably just see for yourself. 'Eraserhead''s nonsensical, non-narrative style will drive many viewers nuts, but we guarantee that they'll never be able to shake memories of that baby.