Bad Seeds and Holy Terrors

The Child Villains of Horror Film

By Dominic Lennard

Subjects: Film Studies, Cultural Studies, Popular Culture
Series: SUNY series, Horizons of Cinema
Paperback : 9781438453286, 195 pages, July 2015
Hardcover : 9781438453293, 195 pages, November 2014

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Table of contents

List of Figures
Little Horrors: Introduction

1. Reaching the Age of Anxiety: The 1950s and the Horror of Youth

2. Spoiled Rotten: Horror’s Bourgeois Brats

3. A Scary Sight: The Looking Child

4. “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle”: The Child Villain’s Malignant Mom

5. Vicious Videos, Missing Mothers: The Ring

6. Little Bastards: Patriarchy’s Errant Offspring in It’s Alive and The Omen

7. Past Incarnations: The Exorcist and the Tyranny of Childhood

8. All Fun and Games till Someone Gets Hurt: Hating Children’s Culture

9. Too Close for Comfort: Child Villainy and Pedophilic Desire in Hard Candy and Orphan

Works Cited

Examines the complexities and contradictions that arise when the monsters in the movies are children.


Since the 1950s, children have provided some of horror's most effective and enduring villains, from dainty psychopath Rhoda Penmark of The Bad Seed (1956) and spectacularly possessed Regan MacNeil of The Exorcist (1973) to psychic ghost-girl Samara of The Ring (2002) and adopted terror Esther of Orphan (2009). Using a variety of critical approaches, including those of cinema studies, cultural studies, gender studies, and psychoanalysis, Bad Seeds and Holy Terrors offers the first full-length study of these child monsters. In doing so, the book highlights horror as a topic of analysis that is especially pertinent socially and politically, exposing the genre as a site of deep ambivalence toward—and even hatred of—children.

Dominic Lennard is Associate Lecturer in the Centre for University Pathways and Partnerships at the University of Tasmania, Australia.


"Adding unique insights while revising well-trodden critical ground, the value of Lennard's book is in its eloquent and well-researched consolidation of existing scholarship in the field, making it a useful introductory text for researchers and students. " — Screening the Past

"Deftly organized, elegantly written, and graced throughout with numerous stills and frame blowups, Bad Seeds and Holy Terrors has something to offer both the lay reader and the scholar. " — CHOICE

"This is impeccably well researched and presented. It holds its own at the top of film studies scholarship. Sprightly in its survey across key areas of cultural anxiety and able to draw on a range of lucid examples, Lennard produces sophisticated and complex extended analyses where necessary. A pleasure to read. " — Linda Ruth Williams, University of Southampton, United Kingdom