As The Riot Club hits UK screens, we look at 10 other films where the kids weren’t all right.
As the song says, the children are our future, so what happens when they go bad? This week sees the release of new British film The Riot Club, about a notorious fellowship where privileged students are given carte blanche to run amok. Exploring the role of children and teenagers in society as a way to examine humanity’s flaws is a rich thematic well that cinema returns to often, which is why we find tales of misanthropic or just plain evil kids across many disparate genres. Here are 10 films were the kids are really not all right.
Who Can Kill a Child? (1976)
A young couple arrive on an island inhabited by a tribe of silent, bloodthirsty children hell-bent on murder. The couple come to the realisation they must be willing to fight back against the children if they hope to survive. This Spanish shocker posits that, in a world sick with violence and apathy, even the most innocent of us will inevitably become monstrous, a theme that was first popularised by William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, to which this film owes an obvious debt.
The Lost Boys (1987)
Two teenage brothers move to a sleepy coastal town with their mother and discover the local biker gang are a nest of blood sucking vampires preying on the unsuspecting locals. Vampires get a 1980s makeover by way of the rebellious teenager myth popularised by James Dean – live fast, die young and leave a good looking (undead) corpse.
Eden Lake (2008)
Michael Fassbender and Kelly Reilly are terrorised by a gang of hoodie-clad maniacs led by Jack O’Connell whilst on holiday in the English countryside. This taut hoodie horror was met with praise by many critics, while others alleged it reinforced negative social stereotypes. The film certainly exploits the idea of the teenager as ‘other’ by couching it in wider societal fears.
Village of the Damned (1960)
After a mysterious event, local women give birth to identical blonde children who develop strange telepathic powers. This dark, paranoid tale asks us to face the possibility that there is something inherently dark and uncontrollably malevolent at the heart of our civilised world. If this is the case, the very notion of a social order becomes an academic exercise.
In their debut roles, Chloë Sevigny and Rosario Dawson hang out, get stoned and have uninhibited sex with their friends in this wildly controversial film from Larry Clark and Harmony Korine. Lifting the veil on the realities of the teenage lifestyle in such confronting ways was too much for some and sparked very heated debate, not only on the film’s artistic merit but also on Larry Clark’s intent as a filmmaker.
The White Ribbon (2009)
Set in the period leading up to the First World War, this disturbing drama depicts a series of mysterious events befalling the townsfolk of a small village in Germany. Could the children be responsible? Michael Haneke’s film is a brutal examination of the origins of evil. The treatment of the children in the village and their subsequent retaliations suggest the never ending cycle of violence that absorbs the guilty and the innocent alike, reaching its inevitable apotheosis in global warfare.
Best friends Alex and Eric gather up guns and ammunition and proceed to stalk through their high school, executing those who have bullied and marginalised them. Inspired by the Columbine massacre, Gus Van Sant’s unflinching look at high school violence is a cinematic triumph. Stripped of most conventional narrative devices, the film does not look away from the horror of the events and challenges the audience to do the same.
Battle Royale (2000)
Japanese high schoolers are abducted and taken to an island where they are forced to hunt and kill each other until only one student remains. This pitch black satire looks at the way the modern world imposes its pressure on the young before they are psychologically or physically able to sustain it, in the only way a Japanese film knows how; with extreme violence.
Students at a draconian boarding school in England resort to armed revolution to overthrow their oppressors. A scathing indictment of the British upper class and boarding schools in particular, Lindsay Anderson’s acerbic masterpiece is personified in Malcolm McDowell’s astonishing debut performance.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Alex and his droogs terrorise the citizenry of a future Britain whose government instigates a new technique in behavioural conditioning to remove all criminal tendencies. Stanley Kubrick’s anarchic and unsettling satire presents a future where it is hard to distinguish between evils; are the marauding ultraviolent gangs the real scourge of society, or is it the government, who are more than willing to remove our freedom of choice to ensure our passivity?
Featured image: Artificial Eye
Inset images: American International Pictures; Warner Bros; Optimum Releasing; MGM; Buena Vista Pictures; Artificial Eye; Fine Line Features; Toei Company; Paramount Pictures; Columbia-Warner Distributors