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10 Frightening Children
Warning: Spoilers ahead.

There are few things more scary than a scary child. They look like actual, grown-up people - but they're smaller and that seems to set people's teeth on edge. Whether hiding behind scary hair or sackcloth masks or looking like butter wouldn't melt in their mouth, here are the kids that scared the bejesus out of us

Esther - Orphan (2009)
Isabelle Fuhrman came out of nowhere to make a compellingly suspect showing as little orphan Esther, the Russian girl adopted by troubled couple Vera Farmiga and Peter Saarsgaard who makes Damien Thorn look like a glowing endorsement of Satanic childerbeasts. Oh - and she's really a psychotic 33-year-old. Obviously.

Toms - The Orphanage (2008)
Kids are frightening enough when they're just balefully glaring at you. Factor in a dead kid with a bag over his head, some malevolent door slamming and a heartrending ghost story and you've got some soiled pants right there.

Sean - Birth (2004)
Cameron Bright has done a roaring trade in creepy children this decade, but it's his role as the all-too-knowing boy claiming to be the reincarnation of Nicole Kidman's dead husband that clinches the scary kid crown.

Emily - Hide and Seek (2005)
The yin to Cameron Bright's yang, Dakota Fanning has cornered the market in unblinkingly intelligent creepy girls. As the daughter of an alleged suicide, she hits all those frightening kid boxes: imaginary friend - tick, pallid complexion - tick, disturbingly adult behaviour - tick. By the time she's drawing two heads on her body, we're fully behind the sofa.

David - A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Yes, he's a robot. But as an insanely human-looking robot, he's so creepy even his adoptive family don't want him. You feel sorry for Haley Joel Osment's David, but his flat monotone, scary smile and unswerving dedication to his mother - 2000 years under the sea? - shows the steady persistence and iron will that personify every major creepy child.

The Asbo Kiddies - Ils (Them) (2006)
Taking society's fear of feral children to the extreme, Olivia Bonamy and Michal Cohen's terrified couple are stalked by just such a pack of kids - wearing hoodies, no less - at their isolated farmhouse. The "for the hell of it" youths went on to be a theme in 2008's The Strangers and Michele Haneke's English language remake of his own Funny Games.

Samara - The Ring (2003)
Any Asian horror worth its salt had at least one frightening child, and Ringu's Sadako was brought to chilly life/death in the strong Hollywood remake as Samara (Daveigh Chase). That broken body, clambering out of the well, towards, and eventually out of victims's televisions, that sense of cold inevitability - brilliantly done and hideously ghastly.

Joshua - Joshua (2007)
Vera Farmiga again - poor lamb, not much luck with those children - this time she's mother to a precocious nine-year-old who seems to become sadistically jealous after the birth of his baby sister Lily. Creepy piano genius Joshua merrily pushes his grandma downstairs and makes it seem as though his dad is abusing him - and all because he wants to ditch his family and live with his uncle Ned.

Jason Stryker's Female Projection - X-Men 2 (2003)
Creepy, silent mind manipulator Jason Stryker does the incredible and controls Patrick Stewart's uber-telepath, Professor Xavier. Jason clearly has a brain on him as he realises that a projection of a small girl will be less weird than, well, just creepy Jason, but this dead-eyed, two-coloured eyed little girl is about as comforting as a jumper made out of scorpion legs. Shudder.

Half Squat - Tropic Thunder (2008)
How to charm an action star? Give them a wooden statue that looks vaguely like an Oscar. Unsurprisingly for a kid from a heroin dealers, charming little Half Squat, the temporarily adopted son of dim-wit action star Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) soon turns out to be a murderous urchin. Ten kudos points for leading to Kirk Lazarus's invention of the phrase "Who the crikey fuck is"

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