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Six Murderous Movie Minors

Six Murderous Movie Minors (photo)

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When “Kick-Ass” premieres this evening as the opening night feature of this year’s SXSW Film Festival, it’ll be under the scrutiny of comic book fans who’ve been lusting after the film since director Matthew Vaughn showed clips at Comic-Con. But paying almost as much attention will be moviegoers who might take issue with the character of Hit Girl, the purple-haired heroine with a world-weary rasp, a predilection towards switchblades and an age of 12, as played by the prepubescent Chloë Grace Moretz.

Although she’ll be appearing soon in the more age-appropriate “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” Moretz is no stranger to doing things well beyond her years, having already poured a glass of vodka for Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “(500) Days of Summer.” As Hit Girl, she becomes part of a long movie tradition of killer kids (not to be confused with the creepy kids of horror films) that have been on the big screen since the 1950s, usually with controversy not far behind.

Since there’s no end in sight for these deadly youngsters — “The Lovely Bones”‘ Saoirse Ronan will star as a teen assassin in “The Soloist” director Joe Wright’s next film “Hanna” — we offer up a brief history of the children you wouldn’t want to run into in a dark alley.

03112010_thebadseed.jpgRhoda Penmark of “The Bad Seed” (1956)

“The Bad Seed” became a big hit in 1956, but it wasn’t an easy road getting there. When Billy Wilder attempted to bring Maxwell Anderson’s play (based on the William March novel) about a murderous young girl as tightly wound as her blonde pigtails, the still-standing Production Code Administration rejected his adaptation that kept the original ending of little Rhoda Penmark (Patty McCormack) tickling the ivories to “Clair de lune” after she’s set the help on fire and her mother doesn’t succeed in drugging her. They instead gave the go-ahead to a Warner Bros. version that would have the teeny terror get her comeuppance for drowning classmates and tossing out innocent queries like “is it true when blood is washed off anything, a policeman can still find that it’s there?” (Warner Bros. went the extra step and even added a postscript where movie mom Nancy Kelly gives McCormack a right spanking.) Mervyn LeRoy’s thriller has since gone on to become a cult classic and inadvertently launched the creepy kid genre, though Anderson’s original text was intended to shed light on the then-unpopular notion of hereditary mental illness.

03122010_LittleGirlWhoLives.jpgRynn of “The Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane” (1976)

Coming off her turn as a teen prostitute in “Taxi Driver,” Jodie Foster had already received her share of controversy before appearing in the Samuel Z. Arkoff-produced thriller “The Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane.” But as it happened, most of the criticism of the psychological thriller came from Foster herself, who, according to IMDb, once said of the film, “When people are there to simply do a job they don’t have any passion for, those are nearly always bad films.” And “Little Girl” is definitely a strange one, based on Laird Koenig’s novel about a 13-year-old who lives an idyllic life in a lovely home by the sea, if it weren’t for all the damn nosy neighbors who are curious why they never see her parents. Her father? “He’s in the study working.” Mom? Well, she passed away.

But Rynn’s birthday isn’t on Halloween for nothing, and when she’s not reading Emily Dickinson on the way to school, Rynn is usually arranging the corpses in her basement. Yet she doesn’t have the sensibilities of the hardened killers you see on the rest of this list — in fact, everyone around her seems far more psychotic, from a cape-wearing magician love interest (Scott Jacoby) and a skeevy Martin Sheen who attempts to coerce her by putting out a cigarette on her poor pet hamster. Instead, Rynn is the silent type with a fondness for the potassium cyanide that her father gave her to protect herself if her abusive mother ever returns after their divorce, though she has additional plans for it. The film would win a pair of Saturn Awards for best horror film (though it’s PG) and best actress for Foster in 1977. Here’s a trailer:

03112010_thegoodson.jpgHenry Evans of “The Good Son” (1993)

“I was intrigued by the idea of America’s Shirley Temple playing this really evil kid,” director Joseph Ruben told Premiere back in 1993. The “Stepfather” director wasn’t the first choice to direct a post-“Home Alone 2” Macaulay Culkin in one of his rare dramatic leading roles, but one can only dream of what might’ve happened if the first choice, “Heathers” director Michael Lehmann, hadn’t been bullied off the project by Culkin’s dad, as Hollywood lore has it. Rather than the dark comedy Lehmann might’ve made, Ruben played it straight with a script from Ian McEwan, who would fare far better with the creation of another little cretin in “Atonement,” with Culkin trading in the toy cars and pet tarantulas of his famed franchise for a homemade crossbow and a bag of nails as ammunition. (Come to think of it, all those elaborate Rube Goldberg-esque traps in “Home Alone” were great training for a psychotic kid killer.)

Culkin terrorizes his neighbor’s pets, drops dummies over highway overpasses and steers his sister towards thin ice while ice skating, all in the name of being the center of attention, especially when his cousin (Elijah Wood) moves in after the death of his mother. Although the film didn’t stir much up much outrage on its own, Roger Ebert opined in his review that “The movie is a creepy, unpleasant experience, made all the worse because it stars children too young to understand the horrible things we see them doing.” Even so, the film took in a relatively successful $44 million. Here, watch as Culkin discusses how it was “a lot of fun playing a bad boy”:

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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