Tuesday, March 26, 2013

CinemArchetype 23: The Wild Child

So often kids in movies are insufferably nice, or else no-neck monsters with no real awakened soul power, just dumb glazed-eyed obnoxiousness. The fact is, until they are socialized, most children are monsters.  Pregnant women are often kept away from the crops and gambling tables in indigenous tribes because children are considered to be demonic (bad luck) until old enough to be initiated into the tribe and thus recognized as actual people. The only equivalent we have today to those initiations is christening, frat and sorority hazing, and circumcision - but they guarantee nothing, and even if empathy is developed it can often be stunted, intentionally or otherwise. There are those grown ass adults who only care about themselves and their family, and 'God,' and every other living organism is either food or an enemy. At the other extreme is me, crying in the meat aisle at the carnage no one else seems to see. Or so I used to. Hardened hearts endure, my friend..

The list below rounds up an array of 'wild' children: the ones who either refuse to be inducted into any society which attacks them or else where never invited; casual drug users whose word is never believed if it conflicts with even the shadiest of parental authority's second-hand opinions; and those form whom no adult society even exists to offer induction; or the adult supervising them is her or himself an outcast with no urge to socialize anyone into a world they have rejected. (The Piano, Paper Moon). Bop! Bop!

No matter what the root of it, we secretly thrill to see amok children. We harbor lingering childhood resentments against the adults and older kids who symbolically castrated us--teachers, cops, parents, neighbors, bullies--we have a secret stash of inner savagery just waiting to come out, as evinced by the amount of young men with arsenals of automatic weapons, locked and loaded on the off chance civilization crumbles. Until then we're expected to lay down our arms and surrender to a system that, in the end, expects us to follow rules it itself doesn't follow, to be truthful even though it itself isn't, and to make no fuss or argument when our basic human rights are stripped away in the name of our own 'safety.'

But these archetypal children embody much more than ballsy reckless freedom. We exorcise and exercise our repressed inner child vicariously through them, and the result is both cautionary and exhilarating. Like our previous entry, the Outlaw Couple, we go along for the ride like nervous but excited virgin in the back seat of some older kid's Trans Am, eager and dreading our first taste of the holy ganja. Afterwards we know one thing: a society that outlaws this simple stoner joy is not a just society, and as Americans it's our duty to disobey such stupid laws, just as they did Prohibition in the 20s. We're on our way. So you see, mom: these children are not all vicious or violent, but all are 'free' of the confines of the social order. They either openly attack, exploit, or avoid the adult world that has rejected or failed them. They live out our secret wish to blow things up before guilt, empathy, and a dawning sense of responsibility sours the thrill of being alive.

1. Student body of New Grenada - Over the Edge (1979)

It's important to note that OVER THE EDGE changes the usual math of the parent-kid divide by siding itself with the kids... all the way, and encouraging us to exult in their little moments of true rebellion, even if such moments are ultimately pointless, or worse: Richie (Matt Dillon) standing on the hood of Doberman's car as he tries to haul off Claude (Tom Fergus) for a gram of hash on a pointless bust; the retribution against the Leif-y narc who sold Claude the hash in the first place; the kids locking the parents in the PTA meeting, etc. --it's all cathartic as hell, but then as the cars in the parking lot erupt in flames and the kids rage Lord of the Flies-like we start to become afraid of ourselves for the primal inner wild child joy of seeing the school--the kid equivalent of a soul-deadening prison-- destroyed in an ultimately pointless orgy of amok vandalism. We fantasize about blowing up the school, but when we actually blow it up, we see the ugly core that drives that fantasy. We devolve along the Hawksian axis all the way out of ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS and find ourselves in MONKEY BUSINESS, with the drugged Cary Grant as the painted savage preparing to roast his rival. By then it's too late to save the baby in the boiling bathwater, the wild chaos of death and anarchy tails childhood idealism like a dogged detective and the reactionary rabble roll over everything like a tide, shedding the old skin of the country as they come ripping through the amber waves like a sloppy zipper. (See: Vandal in the Wind -2011)

2. Tatum O'Neal as Addie (1973) - Paper Moon (1973)
Anna Paquin as Flora - The Piano (1993)

In these two examples the 'only' child travels an alien landscape with an unhinged single parent: Flora is the translator of her weird mom's sign language and though mom has a hard time adjusting to the stark oddness of the wild swampy New Zealand plantation and the inarticulate self-righteous fumblings of her repressed husband, Flora becomes--with the help of some amateur theater fairy wings--a diminutive Ariel / Caliban of the forest, finally even bonding with the repressed father and ratting her mom out about her affair with Harvey Keitel to demonstrate her heedless ambivalence as far as consequences to her own jealousy. Like Keitel's character (with his Maori face tattoo) she takes on a Hearts of Darkness-style 'going native' quality, but fits in with the white world too, as needed.

Con artist Addie hooks up with her dimwit father and moves through the landscape with similar ease while he struggles and flails. It's great to see her smoking in bed and listening avidly to Jack Benny on the radio.

O'Neal played a similar character, a few years older / later to drunk dad Walter Matthau in our next choice...

3. The Bad News Bears (1976)

As a kid I was always picked last for teams at gym and recess, a daily humiliation, and my scars still haven't healed. For all I suffered, the Bad News Bears would be my chosen team and I would be avenged. It's pretty cool how many of them have the same long blonde hair, like an army of Viking rejects. A couple of ringers almost win the big game for them, but then coach Walter Matthau says fuck it and lets the bench warmers take a turn; who cares if they win? The beers that continually flow along with the curse words help keep the game in cosmic perspective. Robert Aldrich might have directed this with a little more vitriol, but in its own sloppy way, the film is just about perfect and these snarling little ragamuffins are like a slightly less violent version of the Over the Edge bunch; rather than compete for the acceptance of a society that has rejected them they prefer to reject society a priori. When Tanner (Chris Barnes) says 'take that trophy and shove it up your ass!" at the end of the film, I still feel a fighting thrill. Every kid in the theater I saw this with back in 1976 let out a triumphant whoop at that line; we never forgot it. (for more - see Walter Matthau - Great 70s Dads)

 4. Harvey Stephens as Damien - The Omen (1976)

Linda Blair in THE EXORCIST never quite counts for this CinemArchetype as she is fully socialized and 'normal' prior to her possession; indeed her possession seems to be triggered in part by puberty or the onset of menstruation, which can lead to one's entering a whole new realm of archetypal force (the demon is her equivalent to Carrie's telekinesis). When a child is socialized, she loses her cachet in the world of the abject, of the chthonic and unassimilated wild. The demon possesses her, while here its the other way around. Damien is never assimilated, and remains an evil blank slate. We only see him when either of his parents are present, and then they're half the time rushed out of the nursery by his big black dog or servant of Satan maid. Recalling the tribes who won't let pregnant women near the crops, everywhere Damien goes his lack of socialization causes calamity. He can't even get near a church, or a baboon.

5a. Emil Minty as the Feral Kid - The Road Warrior (1982)

Though never speaking except in grunts, the Feral Kid becomes a pretty vivid character in George Miller's influential classic. Cutting off fingers and killing bikers' punked bitches with his razor boomerang, grinning uninhibitedly at the sound of a simple music box, he becomes the focus of the picture when it all boils down to him reaching across the massive hood of the speeding truck to retrieve Max's fallen shotgun shells. In his relative benign savagery and loyalty to the enclave around the tanker, the Feral Kid shows that the wild child in and of itself is not evil. It takes an evil parent (or guardian, like in THE OMEN), or a gang, to turn them rabid. And in a wilderness where the law of the outback reigns supreme, the Feral Kids' wildness is simply what is needed to survive, like our next entrant:

Carrie Henn as Newt - Aliens (1986)

Unlike the Feral Kid, Newt starts out (in the Extended Cut), a normal girl, part of a fortune hunter mining family sent by Burke (Paul Reiser) to investigate Ripley's alleged downed craft. Next time we see her she's resorted to a Feral Kid-style savagery, living in the compound air ducts, though fortunately Ripley is able to pull her out of it with her patience and mother instincts. Still it shows how quickly a socialized child can revert when separated from all other human contact and forced to stay in hiding from the creatures who killed her parents and everybody else on the planet. 

 5b. Jean-Pierre Cargol as The Wild Child (1970)
 "Taking The 400 Blows to another level, François Truffaut's 1970 feature considers a child who is literally wild, with the filmmaker himself starring as an 18th-century country scientist molding his charge in civilization's image. Shot in neat black-and-white by Néstor Almendros, the historically based movie is measured out by Dr. Itard's orderly account of the experiment, even as his momentous study finds an opaque mirror in the near-mute boy, never truly knowable. Shaggy Victor (Jean-Pierre Cargol) starts off not fierce but blindly wriggly, like a penned-up puppy, before assuming more control and becoming a piece of silent cinema under the reserved scientist's direction. (His solitary learned word is emitted in an unforgettable squeak.) He's both pure—communing with rainfall, unexpectedly showing affection—and something incomplete, a tension echoed in the film's regimented path of discovery. All is fodder for Itard's journal transcriptions (a remove later tweaked for comedy in Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me). Rather than present a clichéd fall from grace, Truffaut elicits ambivalence by closely tracking the Enlightened scientist's optimism; after the fascination, our inchoate sadness seeps in." - Nicolas Rapold - Village Voice
6. Patty McCormack as Rhoda Penmark - The Bad Seed (1956)
"..How we love to hate little Rhoda. And for some of us (myself included), how we love to love her…she’s just too damn full of vicious personality. I even go so far as to nearly (I say nearly) champion her actions and wish she would invoke more harm (film wise) before her inevitable demise.

Living with her mother Christine (an understandably neurotic Nancy Kelly) and mostly absent father (William Hopper -- Hedda Hopper's son) Rhoda's life is one of privilege and attention. When kissing her father goodbye he asks “What would you give me for a basket of kisses?” Rhoda coos back: “A basket of hugs!” Landlady and supposed expert in psychology, Monica Breedlove (Evelyn Varden) dotes on Rhoda, applauding her out-moded manners and showering her with presents -- one being rhinestone movie star glasses that Rhoda, of course, loves. As she prattles on about Freud and abnormal psychology, the rather ridiculous Breedlove cannot see the freakish behavior in front of her. She's blinded by all that bright, beauteous blonde." (Kim Morgan - Sunset Gun)
7. Macaulay Culkin as Henry - The Good Son (1993)
Henry: I feel sorry for you, Mark. You just don't know how to have fun.
Mark: What?
Henry: It's because you're scared all the time. I know. I used to be scared too. But that was before I found out.
Mark: Found out what?
Henry: That once you realize that you can do anything... you're free. You can fly. Nobody can touch you... nobody. Mark... don't be afraid to fly.
Mark: You're sick...
Henry: Hey, I promise you something amazing, something you'll never forget. 
8.a. Leo Fitzpatrick and Justin Pierce as Tully and Casper - Kids (1995)

"Virgins, I love 'em!" Tully narrates, with a mouth gone to mush from endless deep tongue kissing and cunnilingus. The film follows him and his buddy Caspar over the course of a long summer day and night and they're a terrifying duo - one a half-asleep alcoholic date rapist, the other an HIV positive, anti-condoms smoov-tawka who's always fixin' to deflower yet another 14 year-old virgin. He'll never run out of them, because these kids are always recruiting new kids to their clique; all the parents in New York are never around so the kids raise themselves; the old teach the young how to roll blunts and boost 40s from the city's countless bodegas.

My buddy Max. and I watched this film constantly as we were very similar in our dynamic to Tully and Caspar. We still talk in some of Tully and Casper's comedic rhythms. Max was the driven seducer (though avoided virgins, wisely) and I was the Caspar (though feminist and with a hatred of frat boys, if you know what I mean), more concerned with getting fucked up than sex. I often woke up at big keg party like the one in this film, and like Caspar, on the couch, the floor, the sump pump areas -- and immediately start seeking more booze and a cigarette, and if that meant fishing half-smoked butts out of the ashtrays and finishing half-full beers, no shame in that. After seeing Kids I even did this once while singing Caspar's theme song.

that's a foamy 40, not milk, playa
Parents didn't like having this movie around, so producers felt obligated to contextualize it as a "wake-up call to the world." Truth is, these kids aren't evil, they've just been cut loose into the jungle like the kids in Lord of the Flies. Except here it's the city, and there's drugs, girls, AIDS, cabs, crabs, and idiots who talk trash and need a skateboard to the lid, kid. Director Larry Clark captures something far slippier than lightning in a bottle: these kids grow and change before our very eyes; we see the way ideas and energy spread among them like fire; the way a couple of girls kissing in a pool can almost create a wilding gangbang riot; how a group of ten year-olds can turn each other onto grass and lingo and suddenly begin to grow into looking like each other, talking and sitting the same way, as if there's some Satanic group mind that entrains them into itself like coke through a straw. Sure it's disheartening.... it may not even be 'real' - but its awesome to see, and its never really been seen again. Except with...

8.b. Evan Rachel Wood and Nikki Reed in Thirteen (2003)

The merits of Kids can really only be gauged by another film in its class, and the only one besides Larry Clark's other masterpiece, Bully, is this film written by Nikki Reed, in which she co-stars as a bad influence friend on the impressionable young Even Rachel Wood. Director Catherine Hardwicke shows why she was the perfect choice to direct the first Twilight, and why that series suffered from her later absence; she gives teenage girl angst the rare combination of operatic emotional validation and escape velocity it deserves. Thirteen received an even more alarmed outcry from parents than Kids did. Worried moms demanded someone tell them that Reed had made it all up, that she hadn't actually done any of those things in real life, that it was all a dream. Their concern said more about the modern approach to parenting than any genuine compassion for the kids. Absentee parents don't want their guilty conscience attacked, rather than step up their game they'd just prefer you lie to them so they can sleep at night.

What really bugged them, of course, was that Hardwicke neither demonizes nor celebrates the girls' 'bad' choices -- she merely tries to film the exhilarating feeling of going from outcast to insider in one giddy methamphetamine headlong rush; what it's like to be suffering from depression that's so bad you cut yourself just to feel something, then a few hours later you're off on an extended manic spree. If there was no giddy thrill then there would be no emotional investment at all and the film would be little more than an after-school special. But Hardwicke never judges, even as Wood proceeds to burn down every last trace of good will, rushing into sex and drugs at a dizzy-from-anorexic-hunger speed.

9. Daniel and Joshua Shalikar as Adam -
  Honey I Blew Up the Kid (1992)

This weird Disney film deals with a very interesting issue involving the pre-empathic state that we all spend the bulk of our infancy in, where the world is a candy store, and only the mom's nearness matters --all else is but a dream. If such a being is put in a position of total power, look out: they can destroy it all just because they're grumpy and need a nap. As the great Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote of the film:
" Credibility is strained by the safe bet that no one will get killed, even though the near deaths are so plentiful that the plot comes to resemble a tricked-up theme park ride. Still, the allegorical possibilities of infantile innocence run amok (particularly as a view of this country in relation to the remainder of the globe) are amusing and potent," 
And this from EW's Ty Burr:
  "Judging from the reactions of the kids in the screening theater, it's clear that they see what happens to Adam as a power trip of primal proportions: He plays when he wants, he sleeps when he wants, he goes where he wants — and if mom and dad don't like it, he puts them in his pocket and toddles on. By the time he rips the 85-foot-tall neon guitar off the facade of the Las Vegas Hard Rock Cafe and starts playing it, they're with him completely, screaming in anarchic delight."

10.  Who Can Kill a Child? (1976)
Children of the Corn (series)
Suddenly Last Summer (1959)

The unease created by movies such as Who Can Kill a Child?, the Children of the Corn series, the wild-running orphans in Logan's Run and that gang that shouts "bop! bop!' on that one Star Trek episode hinges on two elements: 1) we're hard-wired to not kill children; 2) as adults we're expected to bring them around through strong leadership and mature nurturing. If we fail, it makes us look bad. Who can kill a child? Only a monster, like us. Kids are, at heart, sociopathic, until they learn empathy. If we can't teach them that empathy, what good are we?

I learned empathy at around six years-old while torturing Japanese beetles. They were a genuine plague in the 70s. I used to get paid two dollars for every jar of them I collected (we'd drop them  in soapy water-we'd pull them off of trees and bushes that they would just devour otherwise). When bored, my friend and I would torture them. And I still remember seeing this poor Japanese beetle dragging itself along the driveway on its last leg, leaking black blood, I suddenly felt sick to my stomach, ashamed, sad, and confused. I stopped playing with the other kid immediately, and never hurt a beetle again, except to kill them swiftly and mercifully.  Yeesh, kids are nightmares. But there are levels of developmental empathy that make them human. That beetle moment was the turning point for me. But if you doubt lack of empathy exists, just go to your local supermarket some time and hang out in the meat section; none of those shoppers give a shit about the organic beings that were butchered; there are no sad cow faces hanging above the steaks. Kudos to stores like Whole Foods for buying only from free range sources, but the bulk of our meat still comes from places where to say the animals are tortured, overcrowded and deprived for the entirety of their lives, is putting it mildly. Out of sight, out of mind, okay - but then to judge the kids who kill animals right there in the neighborhood seems awfully hypocritical.

My offhand diagnosis is that empathy is a 'luxury' in brain chemistry, a sophisticated neural upgrade the mind kicks into when it feels it can relax and trust the people around it. From an evolutionary perspective, it pays to operate as a tribe rather than a single entity against every other single entity. But once the empathy kicks in it can never go away (except on cocaine or in an emergency) so the brain doesn't want to bust it out too soon if it might be a hindrance, as in war, or survival (ala Newt in Aliens). But sociopaths tend to be loners, so what you have with a gang of unsupervised kids is fascism, mass hysteria, the desperation to connect and strengthen tribal bonds leading one away from compassion, to kill all outsiders without conscience lest one be branded outsider next. But like that old saying goes, when no one else was left to come for, they came for me.

The rhythm of this phenomenon is apparent in all group human interaction. I've witnessed and been caught in three different riots over the course of my life, and I'm fascinated by Stockholm syndrome, which I feel is not an exception but the rule underlying all of human interaction. Not mine, though. I never could catch the insane spirit of those riots. I hurried away, embarrassed, like I just didn't fit in, too self conscious and fearful. The cops and the rioters had more in common with each other than with me; it was like I was intruding on their very private meeting.

The most highbrow of the above-listed films in this list entry isn't really a horror movie, the events are mostly described by a progressively more hysterical Elizabeth Taylor; we don't see any gore. It's pretty clear just the same that these crazy kids have eaten their cruising tourist sugar daddy in a fit of mass hysteria, hunger, and anger over being sexually abused by him for money for pan! pan!

11. The Children (1980), The Children (2008)
Emily in Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The No-neck monsters in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
The Brood (1979)

I love this post from Brenda Tobias about the changing attitudes towards children and the eternal power of the no-neck monsters to horrify:
Just imagine the shock of the 1950s adult (children did not attend the theatre) audience upon seeing those no-necked monsters. Those grating little characters were hauled out and scattered like confetti on a parade. There they are playing Dixie at the airstrip to greet Big Daddy (who reacts with the same horror/disgust of the audience.) There they are “performing” at Big Daddy’s birthday party to which adult friends have been invited. (Big Daddy voices our wishes and asks for an intermission.) There they are barging into bedrooms and demanding adults engage in play. And there they are repeating hateful remarks to their aunt. It’s enough to evoke a gasp. That it still does that today is remarkable. 
The Brood (1979)
Children are not sequestered today. In fact if anything the world has become theirs and adults are seen but not heard. Adults can often not be heard over the din of children in restaurants, theatres, museums and funerals. Babies and children are not so much integrated into adult lives, as adults are integrated into the lives of children’s. We’ve created retail empires for babies and children. Broadway has discovered the steady income stream of children and the white way is dotted with flying people and talking teapots. Infants and children unfamiliar with the term “indoor voices” are dining out at 7:00, 8:00 and even 9:00 PM. They don’t shy from the highest end restaurants either. A simple dress code of: No Pull-Up Pants would put an end to that; but we digress. The point is that the world has changed tremendously since Mr. Williams created those no-neck monsters. Yet they still have the power to horrify. That is partly due to the scenic background of their terrorizing. They are clearly in an adult environment. The house in which they are running rampant is stately; there is no great room, there are no toys. It is clearly adult space. (more) 
12. Jack and Co. -  The Lord of the Flies (1963)

The original, the classic, written by William Golding, is based on his own WW2 experience and a report from a teacher about how allowing his students total freedom in a debate led to a violent altercation in class. Peter Brook's film adaptation uses scintillating black and white photography to create a naturalistic mythopoetic beauty wherein you could see how the ambivalent strangeness of unbridled nature acts on the boys' vivid imagination; fear of a half-dreamt demonic figure in the woods overriding Piggy and Ralph's common sense and enabling Jack's Hitler-esque rise to power. It's funny how our current situation in this country hasn't changed overmuch from this sad dichotomy - the Republicans (Jack) whipping up things to be terrified about and sounding the war drum while the Piggy/Ralph democrats try to keep things calm and rational (which often means boring and myth-less... so they lose).

The main issue of course is that people gravitate to the figure they're afraid of. Fear is a high, and it makes you feel secure in your mass mind panic / hate contingent as you continually find straw dog enemies to attack - Piggy (and the wild boars on the island) all come to represent the Lord of the Flies by proxy, and so are sacrificed to keep the Lord appeased. The trouble is, the enemies have to keep coming to keep up the facade of Jack's despotic power.

The arrival of the adults at the very end brings a presumed end to the madness and it's interesting to note the similarity of the ending with that of Mel Gibson's Apocalypto. I'm sure Mel doesn't mean us to read it as the reverse of his intention. A confirmed Catholic, his film implies that the Spaniards are there to educate the savage Mayans and protect the neighboring tribes from being wantonly sacrificed. What we know is that the Spaniards wiped out hundreds of thousand of Mayans via disease, enslavement, and religious persecution and destroyed most of their books and records. Nice going assholes! The Mayans (and Aztecs) were woefully unprepared to deal with things like canons, STDs, and muskets but they could have repelled the initial landings of Spaniards easily had they not been expecting a visit from the 'white' gods and thought these were them. It's a good moral and one that repeats throughout history, never trust the voice in your head! We live in a huddle by the fire, still, wondering who we can trust, our urge to be rational and compassionate fighting the urge to blindly lash out, wondering whether to vote for Jack's conservative kill the different worldview or Ralph's let's go talk to the natives and make friends approach. Flies is a reminder we have not progressed too far from the savage, and maybe never should.

13. The children of The Village of the Damned (1960)

When there is an invasion of otherworldly evil it is common for the main character to have some sub-Freudian link with it, some barely tangible connection that only the weird old, cackling old woman at the bar can see. It was the boiling over sexuality of 1950’s teenagers that caused the giant insect attacks in all those old bug movies; Melanie Daniels intruding on the domain of icy mom Jessica Tandy launches The Birds, etc. In Village of the Damned, Gordon's desire for a child so late in life indirectly creates this invasion and so he cannot reconcile the reverse-Oedipal urge to kill his kid with the buried suspicion that his wishing brought the stork of Satan down upon them all. So rather than admitting he made a mistake, he wants to find some good therein. He starts arguing that the Midwich spawn are not inherently evil, but just at that pre-empathic stage of all infants; there is good to be found in them, and fun things to study and learn about the human mind.

Gordon's brother-in-law is concerned: “What if we can’t put the moral breaks on them?” This is a legitimate worry—if they know you can never spank them, why should they ever listen? And Gordon’s unwillingness to condone their extermination distinctly sets the field of science/eugenics up against humanity’s own survival. The sense of taboo that resulted in the Intuit and Mongolian children being killed at birth doesn’t exist for the civilized man, who has to wait until the children have grown so big powerful only nuclear strikes will do the trick (which becomes the fate of two other damned “civilized” villages). In this context, Gordon becomes his own bad guy, like Dr. Carrington in The Thing (1951) shouting: “You’re wiser than we are, you must understand!”  The comic book/movie series X-Men follows a similar tack, with the mutants finding refuge at a school operated by a master of mind control. It’s that misunderstood teen fantasy of letting all the freaks go live together since the adults hate them so much. Like some pint-sized biker gang, the Hitler Youth or a rock band, they “all want to dress alike,” and walk around the streets like they own the place. They are part of a new movement, the dawn of the eugenic-counterculture.  At one point Gordon even asks them; “What do you kids want?” The kids reply: “We want you to leave us alone!” This request which would later become immortalized in Pink Floyd’s The Wall, a 1982 rock film chronicling a fascistic rock star’s childhood in post-war England. And as in that film, the adults simply cannot leave their little Nazi progeny alone. When faced with a higher or different intellect than themselves, the parents must try to understand, meddle and control and failing that, destroy them rather than be made irrelevant. Can you blame them?

"If you didn’t suffer from emotions, you would be as strong as we are,” son David says to Gordon at one point, indicating that what the adults see as their “humanity” is something the Midwich children have transcended. Or as P. Floyd put it “if you want to find out what’s behind these blue eyes/ you’ll have to claw you’re way through this disguise." It has long been a source of fascination with UFO theorists that if humans could access our entire DNA, we would be able to recognize and harness powers which we now think of as “alien.” Some go so far as to speculate that alien-manipulated “DNA dampers” are what keep that other 90% of our minds inactive, like a cable TV child channel lock-out. When David’s “real” extra-dimensional father last pulled his “induce sleep and artificially inseminate” business it may have been with apes at the dawn of time. He made sure to lower the wattage of our alien chromosomes, so we wouldn't be able to tell Him thanks, to send him a Frank Booth-style love letter but for this next go-round, He’s turning the dimmer switch up to “bright” because He's tired of us. Gordon notes that the children’s’ power has no limit, any more “than there is a limit to the power of the human mind.” We are still bound by our own compassion as human viewers, and any compassion we had for these “different” kids is compromised when they start killing more and more innocent people, justifying the British military's response and making Gordon's compromises seem like associative guilt... We may not like the townspeople, but these lovely, weird blonde children are the very devil - and they won't let us in. Unlike the X-Men or the Cullen clan in Twilight, we don't feel welcome, don't feel it's like we're part of the young outsiders team. We're excluded even as viewers, so we need to destroy them. (see Acidemic #5 here)

See also: WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD (1933)


  1. I've missed a few of your posts over time, but have you ever done an analysis of... reactor characters (for lack of a better term)?

    A few years back, I saw Peter Sellers in "Being There" for the first time, and the similarity to films like "Forrest Gump" and... most of Bill Murray's 00's-catalog really struck me (there were a bunch of these type movies in the last decade, actually).

    The characters don't Do anything, but no one notices, and in some cases, the characters excel despite their complete passivity.

    I guess it's a type...

    Anyway, I just got "Holy Motors" and "Beyond the Black Rainbow" in the mail, and I need to go get my mind blown now...

  2. Another great kids movie is Joseph Losey's "These Are The Damned" where the children of the future are bred and raised in isolation and kill anything that comes into contact with them.

    "Remember what happened to the rabbit, children?" says their scientist overseer from a closed circuit TV when they ask whether they might have a friend or two to play with . . . or even god forbid go outside.

    See also the rather nasty little boy in The Nanny, who Bette Davis unfortunately fails to punish adequately . . . and lastly, the Lord of the Flies kid in the centre of the top image has the same face makeup as Darryl Hannah in Blade Runner!


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