Ah, the pitter-patter of tiny feet! Hang on, do alien children's feet go "pitter-patter"? Do they even have feet? What do we know about alien toddlers, anyway?
The fact is, alien children have been sadly missing from science fiction movies. Isn't it strange that such a compelling topic would go underappreciated by movie makers and script writers?
Luckily, there are a few notable exceptions, and we will look into them.
In the classic Alien movie there is that cutesey little vermin, the infamous chestburster - I'm sure No1 on many a man's list of favorite nightmares (mine certainly). Fleet of feet, sharp of teeth, and, like all infants, grows ever so fast. It makes an unforgettable entrance in Part One, popping out of the convulsing Kane, then goes "Eeeck." (Straight from the mouths of the babes!) The chestburster keeps cropping up throughout the Series announcing its presence with its trademark blood-curdling shriek - at once triumphant and feral.
Nearly every time it makes an appearance it never lasts more than a few seconds - talk about being born under an angry star! As a matter of fact, it is likely the most abused infant in movies - by turns it has been smothered, burned, riddled with bullets, and shredded to ribbons with a wide variety of weapons of both human and extraterrestrial extraction. In spite of its short life expectancy, it never fails to scare the living daylights out of the unsuspecting human characters who happen to be around - and suspecting yet equally susceptible audiences.
It has remained one the most iconic metaphors of body horror of all time. Trends came and went, ideologies shifted, HIV scare gave way to the all-out war on HIV and lastly some kind of stoic HIV acceptance. (As evidenced in the Series!) And yet for all the metaphors they slapped on it, the chestburster was and still is - all agreed - one of the ugliest tots that graced the silver screen.
The chestburster's younger sibling - they called it Newborn, which is such an unimaginative name for such a fantastically hideous creature - from the final part of the Series shows a remarkable evolutionary headway. Slick and slimy, with a huge jaw and deformed facial features, which, for all their grotesqueness bear a striking resemblance to a human face, and the deep dark pools for eyes - with such a horrid puppy look, all the more horrid as you wouldn't expect it in such a face. Huge, rolling tongue and skinny torso - with spindly yet powerful limbs - it's incredible what it can do with those hands. Like its elder sibling, it displays a rather short life expectancy. It gets slashed minutes after its gruesome delivery - by its own mother of all creatures! Or, to be precise, one of its mothers. Its all too sudden demise makes us wonder what dismal heights of terror it would have reached had it been allowed to live up to its grisly potential.
Chestburster makes a comeback in Alien vs. Predator filling yet another evolutionary niche. This time the hybrid motif, sadly, features as hardly more than a cheap cliffhanger. I know a talent when I see one, and sure enough in time the hybrid shows its true potential. In Aliens vs. Predator - Requiem the hybrid, now fully grown alpha male, or female, you can never be sure with these creatures, wreaks havoc in a small Midwest town. (This may sound like your basic slasher movie, with a few additional tweaks, and, believe me, it is, but it also has some of the most brilliantly gruesome sequences ever.)
The Moorwen's cub from Outlander is the only quadruped in our gallery of alien children so far. The Old Norse would probably have mistaken it and its mother for a family of demons - as families go, I've seen worse. It attacks mostly at night, in tandem with the mom. A chill in the air and the smell of death precede them. Like its parent, the cub looks like a cross between an overgrown lizard, with a set of horns on its back, and a cat. It has a nasty set of teeth and a three-forked tail, which can punch through walls and flesh. When hunting its body glows with red light. It is extremely territorial and fast.
If I could trust it to keep its claws off the furniture, as well as the members of the close family, I wouldn't mind having one as a pet. I would love to see my neighbor sic his dog on this pussy cat. At last when the two Moorwens go the way of all monsters it feels kind of sad; they never really got a chance; they were screwed out of their habitat by human greed and drive for expansion, and when they made home on a new planet they were hunted down with all the weapons their human adversaries could muster. Honestly, I was this close to end up rooting for them. As alien children go, the Moorwen's cub belongs somewhere in the gray area between sentient and non-sentient beings as we can never be sure of its mental abilities.
On a brighter note, Men in Black features a scene of an alien delivery, which Agent J (Will Smith) performs with deft hand and is in turn rewarded by the cutest look, and instantly gets puked all over his face by the cuddly little darling. Not only does the wriggly thing not seem to mind the human touch at all, it reassuringly starts sucking its tentacle - one of many. Just goes to show that Will Smith's charm works on alien children, too.
Enemy Mine delves in the complex issues of fatherhood and upbringing. The background story tells of two beings - human and drac - who happen to find themselves stranded on a hostile world. This probably sounds all too familiar, but the movie has enough emotional depth and substance to fill a dozen SF films. In time, the two overcome their initial antagonism and go on to become friends.
Eventually the drac dies giving birth to a drac baby, leaving Davidge, the human, in charge of the infant's upbringing. He will have a hard time struggling with the responsibilities of adopted fatherhood - not the least of which is, how do you go about explaining your toddler that he is, well, "alien"?
Coneheads features a very strange family and their accordingly strange bundle of joy, which grows into one of the most humanoid of alien children - with a difference. This movie is a comic take on the problems of illegal aliens. The Coneheads characters struggle to get assimilated, and in the process find out a few home truths about the American dream - all pretty harmless, all in good fun. The Conehead girl in the movie comes across as a remarkably well-adjusted teenager - such a far cry from the other alien children in this survey! - but you would expect that in this kind of good-natured satire.
The tot in the Dark City is a whole different kettle of fish - it belongs to the group of the alien children that incite fear. Clad in a black overcoat and bowler hat and armed with a scary looking knife, it gives John Murdoch, the protagonist of the movie, a few chilling moments. Although, on reflection, the definition of a child, or even an alien child, seems scarcely applicable to this creature as, knowing what we know about Strangers, his tiny body is likely no more than a vessel for its parasite host.
As alien children go, the little one in Species is a fast learner even by extra-terrestrial standards. No sooner had it seen the light of day than it reached the body size of a five-year-old child, discovered its morphing / shapeshifting powers, and figured out how to fend for itself - at the expense of the local rodents. Not bad for a 3-minute-old infant. It has the cutest pair of blue eyes you'll ever see in an alien, and the cutest puffy little cheeks, and the cutest little hands, and then it transforms and...well, it's not so cute anymore.
And let's finish this short survey of alien children with the alien baby - the 2001 - A Space Odyssey. Distant and enigmatic as it gazes at Earth from space this infant could be a representative of higher intelligence or the next step in the human evolution. I am not even going to try and pretend I understood the movie. But I guess the Starchild works on all those levels - and many more.
On the face of it, there is nothing extraordinary about it - it is just another human baby after all and yet - and that is the proof of Kubrick's genius - placed in the context of the movie, this image becomes one of the most complex and ambiguous shots of all time.
So there you have them - offspring from outer space, or alien children that inspire our love, anxiety, compassion and puzzlement. But, hey, does that not go for all toddlers most of the time?!
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