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killer little guys

Even though i enjoy the source material, i’ll never see the newest adaptation of Pet Semetary. I said this in 2019 and i’ll keep saying it. I shan’t give it a chance for an exactingly specific reason: i heard they swap which kid dies and gets zombified.

In the newer film version, i guess it’s the adolescent girl who eats it, but in the original Stephen King novel, and the 1989 movie adaptation directed by Mary Lambert, it’s the toddler boy who gets whammed by a truck speeding down the highway, and thereafter buried in the titular cemetery to corporeally resurrect all evil and gross.

It’s not that i relish the demise of a twoish-year-old. The tyke death scene is very effective and hard-to-watch. A lot of the details hit. Painfully innocent, the child wanders onto the road chasing a kite. Like, ouch. That’s too precious and awful!

It’s all set up achingly well in the editing and shot compositions. Lambert emphasizes the space between the toddler straying onto the road and his oblivious parents. The distance seems to widen surreally fast. It feels like watching a nightmarish reality unfold. That cutaway from the truck’s deadly impact to the kite flying into the sky: very poignant, and tasteful. Depicting a toddler exploding across a truck grill (or however they would show it) would feel like bad gore camp to me. The bloody shoe hitting the road is grisly suggestive enough.

The Lambert film also includes the fun detail that the lethal truck driver is distracted by rocking out to The Ramones. So there’s an argument to be made that The Ramones are culpable in the death of this kid. If only “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” didn’t bop so hard!

All this stuff isn’t why I really love the movie though. The big draw is the final act, where the baby comes back and lays waste to most the rest of the cast. It’s awesome and adorable. He utilizes a cute little scalpel knife and waddles alarmingly fast. Goes for the back of the foot, as you would expect from a little one. I love watching this little tyke slice and dice adults. I like to think i could be his mom, even though he fully murders his actual mom. I could so coddle and coo that scary hissy face.

I won’t go into more of the plot of Pet Semetary, because it’s a lot and i just want to write about killer little guys. I’ll say this though, it’s my favorite Stephen King novel.

But you know what, fuck it! I’ll voice my big issue with King, even though this is supposed to be a friendly, positive blog. I used to be a bookseller, and with all due respect to King, i wish he wouldn’t crank out a tome a year. They move, but they don’t move enough! Bigger books are more difficult to shelf. They take up backstock. They’re annoying. He’s written at least a dozen enormous tomes. And it’s extra irksome to have so much shelf space in Horror devoted to one white man (period) who also crowds the section with non-horror (in most stores, all his stuff got put in horror, even the sci-fi or whatever, because Horror is where people expect to find him and it’s easier for inventory to keep authors in one spot).

However, i really like his cameo in the 1989 Pet Semetary. He crushes the role of awkward, off-putting priest. I appreciate these flashes of bizarre, grim humor in Lambert’s film. Shout out to the zombie guy impatiently trailing the female protag during her banal, doomed journey home.

It’s a wonderfully nasty story too, although i could do without the silly explanation for the cemetery’s evil resurrection power (which i can only read as either misguided liberal politics or outright colonist fear-mongering). I could do without any explanation. In fact, as cruel as the story is, it could be meaner. What i could use from the story is even more comic relish. Let’s merrily savor the bloody undoing of a basic white, middle class nuclear fam.

But back to my topic: as much as i adore the homicidal tyke from Pet Semetary, i wouldn’t put him at the top of my list of knee-high slayers. My favorite killer little guy is a true legend. Ya know him, ya love him, he’s probably the most beloved ginger in horror film history--my guy, Chucky. What a gem! I love to hate that jerk.

Big fan of the Chucky franchise. It’s a unique slasher saga in that it has always been written by the same person, George Mancini. Mancini is not only gay, he deserves like a queer gold star for 2004’s Seed of Chucky, my personal favorite in the series. I think all the movies are good! I’ve only seen a few eps of Chucky, but i like what i’ve seen! A lot! I don’t know why i don’t watch more to be honest.

Maybe my favorite part of Chucky is this, if you know the doll’s possessed by a serial killer, he’s not really formidable. His biggest strength is surprise, and once that’s spoiled, once you know he’s out to get you, he’s basically kaput. It’s not that he’s small, that’s actually one of his advantages. He can sneak. Same with the zombie toddler, he utilizes his littleness.

What holds him back of course is he’s a possessed doll, the most conspicuously scary entity. You see a doll walking around with a knife or whatever, you would throw that fucker in the fire. So he can’t do anything! He needs to hold a pose and pretend to be a doll practically all of the time, waiting for his perfect shot.

Curse of Chucky (2013) emphasizes how he needs to ideally sneak his kills. There’s a fun suspenseful scene when he poisons a single bowl of soup out of several. Everyone eats their meal in ignorance of their risky gambol. And later, it’s scary when our girl Nica is in dark elevator with Chucky. He hasn’t talked, there’s been no sign that this toy’s harboring a homicidal ghost.

This is what i like about killer little guys, it’s how they wait in darkness. You don’t see them coming from a mile away, like those lumbering butches Jason and Michael (and Chucky’s way funnier than that insufferable twink Freddie Krueger).

The Chucky series does a good job at having likable protagonists. Nica’s cool, and Fiona Dourif gets to go nuts with the role when she’s possessed by Chucky. In Child’s Play 2 (my second favorite in the series), the foster kid girl, Kyle, is a real one. I even like the angstier Andy of Child’s Play 3. The ones on the show, the ones from Bride of Chucky. The kids are all alright throughout this series.

Except Seed of the Chucky. There are no notable kid heroes in that one. Instead of a human, this movie makes its protagonist a haunted doll, who’s explicitly a metaphor for a queer kid. From the very onset, Seed of Chucky is a charming skewering of queer-coded villains in horror. In the opening narration, Glen (or Glenda) references Psycho’s crossdresser psychopath Norman Bates, quoting the memorable narration from that 1960 Hitchcock joint: “why, I wouldn’t even harm a fly.” Except Glen truly means it. When a fly immediately lands on him, he, still in voiceover, says, “why, hello there.” Cute and delightful! Good vocal acting from Billy Boyd too, living up to the royal high standard brought by Jennifer Tily and Brad Dourif.

Much like that mild-mannered stammerer Norman Bates, the gentle Glen expresses an inner violent psychopath through crossdressing shenanigans. In this, Glen/da joins a tradition of cross-dresser killers. This would probably be dreary material in the hands of a fumbling het. But with Mancini, I love to see the trope parodied like this. The very concept of a crossdressing doll amuses me. Dolls can’t crossdress: they’re asexual. It’s funny!

Aside from gender play, this movie leans in on the macabre role play inherent to the horror genre. The gory set pieces are theatrical and irresistibly comic. A skeezy journalist played by John Waters gets his face melted in acid. RedMan, playing himself, gets disemboweled at a glass table, so he can see his steaming guts pile up. The fact that the guts are steaming!

Easily the goriest Chucky movie, it’s also the silliest. The most fantastical too. Glen/da ups the magic of the premise, because now the possessed dolls are breeding. They’re breeders, thoroughly. A delightful parody of the family unit. Apparently a broad-minded misogynist serial killer, Chucky doesn’t mind that Glen/da wears a dress. All that matters to that freak is that his kid is taking on the family business of slaying people. If the kid needs to wear a dress to do it, Chucky doesn’t care. What a guy!

By the way, killer kids don’t count as killer little guys. Killer kids aren’t small enough. I guess i didn’t explain that fully. Although i think she’s great, M3GAN is not a killer little guy, she’s basically a killer kid. Once you’re over, say, 3 feet, you’re too tall for the killer little guy status.

And if you’re shorter than a toddler, i don’t care if you’re homicidal. Killer micro guys are less cool to me. Unless you’re a fairy, of course. Scary fairies are great. But if, like, the shrunk kids from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids went evil and decided to kill adults with traps, i don’t think i would be interested. Actually what the hell am i saying? That’s a wonderful idea! It would make that charmingly clunky title even longer: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids…and Now They’re Trying to Kill Us!

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