There is nothing creepier than a zombie kid. Humans are wired to feel protective toward the little ones, and when you subvert that by making the little bastards into flesh-hungry freaks, it’s just extra unsettling. Similarly, twist it a little more and it becomes funny, maybe even a little cute again — but still fucking creepy. Considering the prevalence of undead tykes in the zombie film mythos, it’s obviously a favorite trope of filmmakers everywhere. It’s also a favorite of mine, perhaps paradoxically since I am a parent, or maybe that’s why I love them so much. Here are ten of my favorite zombie tots from the movies. May you never wake up and have one of them looming over your bed.
10) Redneck Zombies – Remember what I said about cute? This is the best example ever of a cute zombie baby. Just look at the little toddler, all creepified and gross and eating some sweet, sweet flesh. This cute little monster is about the only worthwhile thing in Redneck Zombies and he’s only in it for about thirty seconds.
9) Night of the Dead: Leben Tod – The little girl in Night of the Dead: Leben Tod is also kind of cute, but a lot creepier. In part, perhaps because she’s also complaining about being hungry, and like all good little zombies, she exists strictly on a “fresh meat” kind of diet. She’s one of the best things about this surprisingly good zero-budget Re-Animator-inspired gorefest. (Review Here)
8 ) Pet Sematary – Oh, Gage, you little rascal, with your scalpel and your fun “games.” Poor Fred Gwynne sure learned the hard way why playing hide and seek with you was not a good idea, at all. This creepy little shit became iconic and was the only good thing about the horrible Pet Sematary film.
7) Zombieland – It was little more than a “blink and you’ll miss it” sight gag in Zombieland, but I really loved these evil, little zombie princesses that jump up on the minivan. It was one of the many little touches that gave the movie its distinctive character. (Review Here)
6) Burial Ground: Nights of Terror – The “kid” in this was played by a Peter Bark, twenty-something dwarf in a terrible hairpiece. And in reality, he was far creepier before he became a zombie, what with his icky, mother-loving ways. Then he becomes a zombie and kills his mom by biting her nipple off. Yeah, that’s creepy. And it’s just one of the many reasons Burial Ground is completely ape-shit. (Review Here)
5) Dawn of the Dead (1978) – George Romero served up a pair of freaky tots in his 1978 masterpiece Dawn of the Dead. Admit it, you totally jumped when these two came out of that closet the first time. And then felt kind of wrong for cheering after Peter shot them both dead. It’s okay, we all did.
4) Dawn of the Dead (2004) – Maybe the only thing Zack Snyder’s Dawn remake did unequivocally better than the original was the zombie kids. Man, this little girl from the beginning is just too awesome. I mean, even as everyone watching is screaming at the dude to stay away from her, you can kind of understand you’d do the same thing in his situation (i.e. not knowing she’s a fucking zombie, just a hurt little girl). Then she goes for his throat and it’s on. The opening sequence to Dawn is one of the best in zombie filmdom, and this little girl is a big part of that.
3) Dead-Alive – When zombies get it on, this is what results. Despite being one of the silliest entries on the list, most everyone that’s seen Dead-Alive agrees that the baby is one creepy, nightmare-inducing son of a bitch. I don’t know what it is about him, but he’s just unsettling. I dream about him almost every time I watch this movie. *shudder*
2) REC – We all knew the second we saw this sick little girl in REC that she’d be zombified sooner rather than later. And when she is, it’s awesome — she’s as scary as the girl from Dawn 2004, if not more so. She seems to be featured on the poster for REC 2, so I have high hopes for more grotesque shenanigans from one of my favorite creepy-tots of all time.
1) Night of the Living Dead – See, zombie tots have been an integral part of zombiedom since the beginning of the modern era. Little Karen Cooper is probably the first child to ever eat her parents on screen. And really, they don’t come much creepier than her, even to this day. Sure, maybe the makeup is a little better or the gore more realistic, but I’d still put the littlest Cooper and her trowel-wielding, mother-murdering, father-eating ways up against any of them. We love you, Ms. Cooper. Thanks for inspiring the many generations of flesh-eating child freaks to come.