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Children’s Fucked-Up Little Drawings in Horror Movies, Ranked

Half the fun of watching any horror movie is knowing The Rules. For instance: If a character gets in a car, it will not start. If there’s a lake, someone will go skinny-dipping. If a man leaves his girlfriend in bed and a masked killer with a totally different physique comes back in his place, she will say “Very funny, Brian.” And, of course, if a wide-eyed child so much as breathes in a house with a creaky floorboard, they will inevitably crack open a fresh box of Crayolas, retreat to their room, and draw a fucked-up little picture. The nature of this drawing varies from film to film: family portraits with a lurking Shadow Man are common, as are harsh charcoal Smudge Faces and murals depicting graphic stick figure violence. What do audiences find so titillating about creepy children’s drawings? Is it the intermingling of innocence and horror? The implication that a child has been exposed to the taboo? The looming threat of art school?

Whatever it is, the fucked-up little drawing is not going away anytime soon. As long as there are children in horror movies, there will be PAs tasked with making crappy little scribbles for a Blumhouse movie with 48% on Rotten Tomatoes that will disappear from the face of the Earth come November. Here is every single one of them, ranked.

#40: Silent Night, Deadly Night

At the bottom of the list, we have this drawing from 1984 Christmas horror flick Silent Night, Deadly Night. Unless you are a very careful four year-old unacquainted with the concept of The Red Liquid That Nourishes, this is not a creepy drawing in the slightest, but perhaps even more importantly, it doesn’t look at all like a child made it. Notice the lack of course-correction on any of the lines, the expert shading and perspective on the deer’s legs, the even, perfect coloring. This doesn’t read like a frantic vision of violence from an eight year-old traumatized by a murderous mall Santa three years prior. This is something an edgy teen draws during the school Christmas party to let their peers know they are no longer under the spell of childhood.

#39: The Butterfly Effect

This is NOT the art of a child. Nor, frankly, is it the art of an adult. I don’t know what art this is, or why the artist chose to draw such stocky, angular men. It’s mildly unsettling, sure, but the predominant emotion here is confusion.

#38: Stranger Things S1

This sketch of Eleven’s from the first season of Stranger Things is a child’s drawing through and through. In fact, I would bet money an actual kid drew it. I have made drawings that look almost exactly like this, right down to the ambiguous animal on the table and the patchy tufts of hair that make the figures look like malnourished Chia Pets. Unfortunately, the only thing scary here is Papa’s massive member: further proof that this was drawn by someone with no understanding of anatomy… or maybe too much.

#37: Slenderman

How do you mess up a design as simple as Slenderman? All you need is a long boy. No frills, no black lightning bolts, no anime girl with dramatic swooped hair. The illustrations themselves? Fine. But the brilliance of the fucked-up little drawing is in its dramatic irony. The suggestive shapes take on darker meaning only to the adult observer, not the child. A kid’s drawing is, in a way, the purest distillation of any horror character. These Slenderman compositions look like they were made by someone intimately familiar with both Slenderman iconography and the mythic weight of the character— not someone who saw a tall faceless man in the woods for the first time, someone whose only exposure to the horror genre is their 3rd grade bully’s Huggy Wuggy lunchbox.

#36: Cobweb

So close! Fucked-up little drawings are supposed to be an implied cry for help, not a literal one. Try again!

#35: The Ring

Along with color grading so blue that one watch qualifies you for an advanced open water scuba certification, the American remake of 1998’s Ringu introduces this list to a sub-trope of the creepy child’s drawing: the obsessive, repetitive child’s drawing. This is a lesser form of the original trope, since it usually implies the child is channeling evil, or the child is not in their right mind, which negates the context of innocence and naivety that makes the drawing unsettling in the first place. The image of the titular ring with a dark spot lurking in the center is passably eerie, alluding to the well where Sadako—I mean, “Samara”—is trapped, but it’s such an easy, barefaced attempt to unnerve you, it just makes you wish there was a version of The Ring that was sharper, better written, subtler. Possibly in Japanese.

#34: Mikey

It’s a turkey carving up a pilgrim. Oh, the perversion. In the interest of fairness, the look of this turkey does shake me to my core. If the film was about this particular turkey, instead of being a child psychopath movie with the tagline “With evil, size doesn’t matter”, I’d be hooked.

#33: Slender

This does nothing for me. A normal-proportioned black stickman with red eyes. You literally couldn’t get more middle-of-the-road if you were a yellow line. Even more criminally, this drawing has zero features you would identify with Slenderman, who, it should be noted, is known for two things and one of them is not having a face. This looks like a five year-old was asked to draw the meaning of True Evil and this was all they could come up with because their life is perfect and their favorite color is sunflower yellow. That said, props for being the only drawing on this list to use panels. You’re going places, kid.

#32: The Snowman

But wait, I hear you say: In the context of the movie, this rejected Gartic Phone drawing is made by a serial killer, not a kid, and therefore has no place on this list. To that I counter: Where’s your proof, hotshot? I know damn well you didn’t actually watch the movie, on account of no one having ever watched this movie, so it’s categorically impossible to prove this is not a fucked-up little drawing made by a child who saw their parents murdered by a doped-up Frosty the Snowman.

#31: The Mothman Prophecies

Children cannot draw like this. The images are freaky, sure, but what child is going to blow two-weeks’ allowance on $20 charcoals from Michaels?

#30: Deep Red

Released in 1975, the Italian giallo film Deep Red is the oldest title on this list by at least a decade, which means what you’re looking at now is the caveman painting of fucked-up little drawings in horror movies. With that important historical context in mind, Deep Red’s creepy kid drawing is just okay. It appropriately straddles the line between a child’s imagination and an adult’s technique, even if the latter is a little too refined and the former leans too heavily into what can only be described as Where the Wild Things Are-core. The kid looks great though.

#29: Stranger Things S2

Before he accepted the full-time position of Zionist shill, Will Beyers was employed on a freelance basis as Stranger Things’ creepy child artist. “The Mind Flayer” is one of his more famous works, owing primarily to the titular creature’s spindly design and faceless, elongated head, but the piece as a whole suffers from being over-composed. If Byers’s aim is to recreate the creature from memory, this drawing reeks of editorializing. He’d be better served removing the background entirely and leaving the Mind Flayer alone on the page, much like his anatomical studies also pictured. Still, if you’re a collector keen on snatching up a Byers piece from his pre-Zionist period, you could go far worse than “The Mind Flayer”.

#28: Knowing

She did not understand the assignment.

#27: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

Does a ghost kid still count as a kid? For the purposes of this list and matters of Sadako’s child support, yes, we’ll say it does. This chalk drawing of Freddy Krueger appears in the series’ fourth installment, made by the ghost of a child he killed, who appears in a dream… or something. I didn’t watch it, and I’m told that’s the ideal state of existence. For not being a stick figure though, this is a surprisingly good child’s rendition of Freddy. The chalk gives it a unique look, and the aforementioned ghost child has lovingly recreated all of Freddy’s iconic visual elements in a simple and unassuming fashion: the hat, the single red stripe, the enlarged claw reaching out to the viewer. And the mouth— what a mouth; like if the bars of a prison cell could grin. Remove the Wallace and Gromit eyes and she’d have something to be proud of.

#26: Dark City

Proportions are everything in this drawing, made by a child witness in the highly underrated Dark City. The three alien figures who murder the child’s mother are depicted almost like trees: slender black towers of dread, tarot-esque in their symmetry and import. The mother is drawn like an Oompa Loompa for reasons unfathomable to the adult observer, but I suppose that’s par for the course. The black window and entirely superfluous chair are great details, but my favorite is how the drawing depicts a distinctly childlike impulse: the desire to fill the background completely with one solid color, a technique that became the bane of many a crayon and wrist.

#25: Dark Skies

There’s something so haunting and unknowable about three black figures on a page. Whereas one scratchy figure with a smudged face and spaghetti limbs implies a singular horror, a group holds a different flavor altogether. Conspiracy. Intent. Otherness. The Many. It does less than the previous drawing of three black figures from Dark City, but less is the guiding principle of the fucked-up little drawing.

#24: Children of the Corn

The uninspired composition and almost pre-Renaissance lack of perspective is what sells these drawings for me. A montage of them in the opening credits acts as a kind of prologue to the events of 1984’s Children of the Corn, depicting the children of Gatlin systematically murdering every adult in town. These drawings—the only record of the massacre—are suitably banal. You could hang these on the fridge without a second thought. They probably wouldn’t even be the weirdest murder drawing your child has made.

#23: Sinister

Sinister introduces a bonafide staple of the disturbed child drawing: the subverted family portrait. More often than not, these portraits are riddled with labels like “Mom”, “Dad”, and “Mr. Hat” (or some such figure), who looms in the background of the picture. Sinister has “Mr. Boogie”, which is a name that rides right up against the line of believability, spits on it, and climbs over the fence. While I frankly don’t understand what’s happening in the second drawing, the first one is simple and effective, somehow imbuing “Mr. Boogie” with a sense of presence despite just being a stick figure. A child has no frame of reference for drawing a hanging, and that lack of familiarity is obvious here, as it plucks the subtler notes of terror in your imagination.

#22: mister Hat

I see him sometimes. He looks like this…

#21: Lights Out

This drawing is dumb as rocks, but like my dog Koko, that’s kind of what I like about it. It looks like the image you’d laser-etch onto the Voyager Golden Record if instead of teaching aliens about human anatomy or drawing them a pulsar map leading to Earth, you just wanted to let them know your child is deeply unwell.

#20: Separation

This is defamation, plain and simple. Marjorie Taylor Greene did NOT give permission for Separation director William Brent Bell to reproduce her likeness in this film, no matter how faithful it may be. The worst lawyers are standing by as we speak.

#19: My Soul to Take

Absolutely haunting stuff. Does it lose credibility for being too good? Sure. Is the woman with the knife a lot? Yes. Would this do numbers if I stole and posted it to Twitter claiming it was a still from my upcoming folk horror film Weeping Winter? Only one way to find out.

#18: The Boogeyman

The Boogeyman is a mid horror movie salvaged by a very striking monster design in its third act. The leggy, froggy-postured lad depicted here doesn’t exactly do that design any favors, but the drawing itself is revealed in a novel, thematically appropriate way— its form emerging from the leaden pencil darkness as the protagonist traces over the page beneath where it was drawn (the original drawing has been destroyed), revealing its indentations. A cool twist on the trope, and it lends the image itself a unique yet still childlike appearance.

#17: Antlers

These drawings kick ass. In fact, they kick so much ass that unless this child is Trevor Henderson before what I assume was a traumatic childhood experience with a telephone pole, I can’t in good conscience put it any higher on this list.

#16: Stranger Things S2 (Episode 5)

William Byers is constantly on the cutting edge of his craft, finding new ways to innovate in the medium as often as he’s denying genocide in Palestine. This experimental piece, despite its simplicity, manages to disturb through the sheer amount of material used, tens if not hundreds of pages depicting little more than a blue path, which when connected form a snaking, labyrinthine map of underground tunnels. It’s an admirable example of the famous Lovecraft quote warning of the dangers that arise from the “piecing together of dissociated knowledge”, akin to the danger that possessing one teaspoon of empathy would pose to Will’s worldview.

#15: Noroi: The Curse

What an uncomfortable face. The blank, googly-eyed visage is even more disturbing in the context of Noroi: The Curse, a slow burn found footage film that’s become a cult classic despite not being available to watch on any website that isn’t swarmed with pop-up ads masquerading as play buttons. In this scene, we’re watching a clip from a variety television program testing children with supposedly psychic abilities. Only one girl, Kana, seems to be the real deal, as she correctly copies every drawing hidden from view— that is, until the last picture is revealed. It’s an almost impossible task: the word “star” written in Russian. Kana doesn’t get that one right. Instead, she draws this ominous face. The TV host shrugs it off as her being tired, but anyone who’s seen the film, the film’s poster, or the one still from the movie that horror fans always share on social media can tell you, this is far from the last time that face appears.

#14: Insidious

Ah, here it is. The prototypical fucked-up little drawing. The thumbnail. The model student. Not the first and not iconic, this is nonetheless what everyone pictures when they imagine a camera tracking over a scribbling child’s shoulder to reveal their nightmare Crayola creation. A shadowy figure. Spiderwebs of black crayon. Liberal application of red. It’s mildly creepy and hits all the right notes, but it’s missing that spark that would set it apart from your run-of-the-mill shadow man. The “Last night I watched myself sleep” drawing in the corner easily solos the others.

#13: mister Hat


#12: Orphan

The best parts of Orphan are when Esther lets her sweet nine year-old persona slip and you get a glimpse into the dark, scratched-out hole lurking in her psyche. This is just one of several profane murals Esther’s adoptive father finds painted in her room under a blacklight in what kicks off the film’s electric third act. I’ve said before “This doesn’t look like a child drew it”, but here, that’s exactly the point. A child did not draw these.

#11: Z

The mother’s reaction in this image is entirely inappropriate. She should be setting fire to the room and throwing her son out the window so fast his tiny, boneless body triggers a sonic boom over the neighbors’ swimming pool.

#10: Imaginary

Biblically-accurate Ms. Frizzle.

#9: The Others

Despite being more traced than my cyber school art homework, there’s an appealing simplicity to this kid’s style, which couples well with faces that look like they just came from gentrifying the Uncanny Valley. The obligatory “creepy other guy in the family portrait” has a look unlike most Boogieman figures, channeling classic Scooby-Doo designs in the best ways. I especially like the subtle terror in the numbers labeling each figure, which according to the child represent “the number of times I’ve seen them”. Notice which figure has been seen the most.

#8: Silent Hill

This drawing from Silent Hill is extremely frightening for its implications. How is it that a child is this familiar with the concept of sass? Have they fallen victim to a quintet of girlbosses? Are these queens in the room with us now, Timmy?

#7: Poltergeist II: The Other Side

Biblically-accurate Mr. Frizzle?

#6: Come Play

Simple and evocative, to me these sketches show the care a child puts into trying to accurately reproduce something they’ve seen— an implication that makes it all the more unsettling, of course. The warning signs for the viewer are there—hunched posture, blank face, claw hand—but the boy doesn’t necessarily recognize them as such. There’s no exaggeration, no heavy-handed appeal to fear; even with red eyes, this creature, though a little creepy, has all the childish, unassuming aspect of Mr. Babadook in the first few pages of his Bababook. And speaking of the gay icon…

#5: The Babadook

I have no defense for including The Babadook’s pop-up book on this list. It is emphatically not drawn by a child. Hell, it’s not even technically drawn. My only defense is vibes— but my god, what immaculate, nightmarish vibes.

#4: Hereditary

The drawings of Peter are so goddamn ugly you could show them to the showrunners of Big Mouth and get hired on the spot.

#3: Brightburn

You could sharpen a razor the length of the Burj Khalifa and use it to shave a tardigrade but still not have half as much edge as these drawings from Brightburn. The angst radiates from each pen stroke. These are the bored scribbles of a teen plumbing their imagination for violent extremes, which wouldn’t be alarming in itself if the teen wasn’t a nascent superhuman in the “acting out” phase of adolescence. The color palette is red and black and red-black; the lines are sharp as razor wire. I love how the repeated symbol, which eventually becomes the emblem on the boy’s costume, is little more than the “Cool S” that every man who was once a boy with a pencil and a free minute knows how to draw. It’s also the closest you can get to Berserk’s Brand of Sacrifice without Kentaro Miura’s estate rightfully suing your ass into the ground.

#2: Hide and Seek

This is one of the few drawings on this list that truly, genuinely unsettles me. It’s such a simple subversion of a happy picture, but its wrongness is startling. The detail that does the most psychic damage is the subtle lazy eye on the child’s second head, something you don’t consciously notice but your brain sure as hell does. And all this comes without even knowing the context of the film, which involves a twist where a father has a violent split personality. This drawing, made by his daughter after the father is ultimately killed, is the final shot in one of the film’s five endings: a haunting way to imply the condition may be hereditary.

It almost makes you want to actually watch Hide and Seek, but I cannot emphasize enough how much you don’t need to do that.

#1: Mama

Speaking as someone who has now spent an inordinate percentage of his life staring at works of questionable artistic and cultural value, in my opinion, no film does the fucked-up little drawing better than 2013’s Mama.

Don’t let the indie horror vibes and Guillermo del Toro’s seductive producer credit fool you: Mama is by no means a classic and even less so a movie people remember existing. It is, however, a master class in the art of deranged stick figures. Notice the horror in these images isn’t born from blood or violence. The dead animals aren’t what’s scary in the third drawing: it’s the child on all fours. It’s the figure bent backward. It’s the parent sleeping underneath the bed.

Through a series of subtle perversions, Mama understands the implicit horror of the child’s drawing. The art of children is completely unpretentious, unfiltered, unprejudiced; it knows no guile. You cannot hide from the truth as stated in Crayola and chalk worn down to the nub. If monsters lurk there, it’s because you left the door open. They are already inside. They are behind you now, just out of sight. And with that knowledge, another chilling truth: if your child has seen them, they have seen your child.

Lucky for us, monsters don’t exist.

Because mister Hat is a Friend.

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