Deadly Spawn: A Study of the Italian Terror Moppet

housekidGiovanni Frezza, Child Terror

Discussions of Italian horror tend to begin and end with names like Argento, Fulci and Bava. But talk of what constitutes Italian horror – the hideous flesh that takes its form – brings up a far more unsettling picture. This horror has a distinct face that should strike terror in those unfortunate enough to see it: A face unblemished and unscarred by years, with long, light locks of hair concealing soulless blue eyes, as well as gender. They exude innocence, and yet interacting with them will send you straight to Hell.

I am talking and warning here about the Italian Terror Moppets.

What is it about these terrible tykes that turns them into magnets for monsters like zombies, demons and other flesh-eating creeps? Despite their pre-pubescence, their innocence is not assured. They speak, act, look and certainly scream like little girls, and yet they are boys. Isn’t that cruel of them? Sometimes, to even look into their weepy eyes is more than enough to guarantee your death and eternal damnation. Left unchecked, these shaggy-haired little shits will trigger the end of the world as we know it.

Let’s look at some seminal films in Italian horror cinema for indisputable proof. Just don’t look too closely into their eyes…

bob1Giovanni Frezza in The House by the Cemetery

1. Bob in The House by the Cemetery

Bob Boyle, played by Giovanni Frezza, is the son of a family that moves into a flesh-ripping ghoul’s house by a cemetery that never figures into the plot. This kid, with his impossibly porcelain face and blond bangs, is a total freak. He’s caught in a park fondling a large girl doll that looks more realistic than he does. He receives a hot bat blood facial from his father in the kitchen, which is even messier than it sounds. He plays with an imaginary ghost girl instead of playing sports with the local boys, which is always suspect. Finally, Bob spends the final act playing a flirty game of cat and mouse with the hundreds year mature Dr. Freudstein, resulting in him receiving one of the bad doctor’s facial massages in the basement.


Bob is also guilty of batting his eyelashes like a slut in heat at everything that moves, living and dead. Fulci only rubs this in our faces by framing Bob’s eyes in excruciatingly long close-ups, like crotch shots in a Larry Clark film. Bob is the only character to survive Dr. Freudstein’s massacre, walking off happily with the ghost girl after witnessing the brutal murders of his parents. Over the final shot, Fulci adds this text:

“no one will ever know whether children are monsters or monsters are children. henry james”

Fulci was trying to warn us.

tony1Frezza in Heidi of the Mountains A Blade in the Dark

2. Tony in A Blade in the Dark

It’s two years after The House by the Cemetery and genderfuck Giovanni Frezza is at it again, racking up a body count in Lamberto Bava’s deliriously stylish giallo A Blade in the Dark. The two years have only made Giovanni’s lips more red and pouty.

Playing his gender slippage to the hilt, young Tony is taunted by his boy friends with the following chant, “Female! You are a female! You are a female!” What they really mean is she-male, since Tony grows up into a hunky Michele Soavi, who is also a woman-killing tranny. As for the traumatizing event that creates the killers in these films, this one is telling. Giovanni, you are a female indeed, so just accept it and stop killing people.

tommyMarco Vivio in Demons 2

3. Tommy in Demons 2

Lamberto Bava gives us another Italian Terror Moppet in his deliriously stylish sequel Demons 2. This brat is named Tommy, played by Marco Vivio. Tommy is a latch key child who is home alone as his apartment building suffers an outbreak of demonic possession unleashed by a TV movie. Which proves Italian TV movies are far superior to American ones. This kid first flirts with destruction when he answers an anonymous phone call and says “Hello. No, daddy isn’t… home. Neither’s mommy. I’m alone. Yes, good-bye.”. This kid is just asking for it!

tommy2Tommy, can you hear me?

A short time later, Tommy figures into Demons 2’s most suspenseful set piece. Like a total bimbo, he investigates a strange noise out in the hall in his pajamas, getting locked out of his apartment. Pursued by a demon through the dark corridors, he hides in an air vent, fooling the demon but getting an acid blood necklace in the process. Tommy quickly trans-forms into a chubby, snot-faced demon that convulses on a pregnant woman’s floor and gives birth through his tummy to a screeching gremlin. Just to show us that whatever a woman can do, these moppets can do better.

jon1Luca Paisner in City of the Living Dead

4. John-John in City of the Living Dead

Here we have another I.T.M. from Lucio Fulci, only this one was unleashed one year before The House by the Cemetery’s grotesque Bob. In a spectacularly cruel twist, this moppet is named John-John. John-John is played by Luca Paisner, which is a spectacularly cruel stage name.

Pity poor John-John. He just happens to live in Dunwich, where on All Saints Day, The Gates of Hell of the film’s American title open, unleashing galloping cadavers. Some serious gut barfing, head drilling and maggot storming ensues. This is one seriously evil movie, evil to its moppet core.

First, John-John’s older sister is smothered to death with worms and mud by a zombie priest. John-John is taunted and teased by his zombie sister outside his window, and worse, his supper is ruined when his parents are reduced to blood balloons dripping all over the dinner table. Apparently, this twink is such hot shit, zombies leap off of bridges to get him and rip the brains out of any adult guardians that get in the way of their chicken dinner.

jon2Someone should try Proactiv!

Two adults venture into the bowels of Hell to defeat the zombie priest. When they return to the outside, it’s John-John they see, smiling and waving as he runs toward them. Despite all of the rotting horrors that have come before, this one is the worst. Time slows to a stop around this smiling moppet, reality cracking apart like shattered glass as the movie, and our world, ends. Thanks a lot, kid.

DEATH_IN_VENICE-26Bjorn Andresen in Death in Venice

5. Tadzio in Death in Venice

Tadzio, played by Bjorn Andresen, is undoubtedly the deadliest Italian Terror Moppet of all. Do not be fooled by this monster’s subtle seductions. In fact, don’t even look at it. Those hungry eyes. Those pillowy lips. He simply won’t be satisfied until he sucks out your screaming soul, discarding your wet and empty carcass like a used rubber before moving on to the next victim/daddy. And he’ll do it with a swing of his hair and his hips and a smile. Tadzio is death, in Venice.

peterbarkPeter Bark in Burial Ground

This is in no way a comprehensive list of the Italian Terror Moppets. Curiously, all of the films I’ve studied were made in the 1980s, except for Death In Venice, which came a full decade before the trend took off. There must be more recent examples that I’m not aware of. The power fetus of Ghost Son, Lamberto Bava’s recent return to horror, is simply too young to count, so I’ll save that for my Italian Terror Tadpole discussion. And is a moppet still a moppet when he’s played by a fully grown miniature man? A case could me made for including the dramatic Peter Bark from Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror, but I’ll leave that one for Buzz.

death_valleyPackaging for the Peter Billingsley Blow-Up Doll

Why these Terror Moppets are overwhelmingly Italian remains a mystery. America’s counterparts during the same era were the Final Moppets. We had Tommy Jarvis, Reggie the Reckless, and Billy from Death Valley, played by none other than Peter Billingsley, the poster child for American moppets. These boys were fighting off slashers right and left, and we loved them for it. Reggie the Reckless did scream like a total girl, but he’s forgiven, since boys have not been fully gendered masculine and thus remain grouped with women and old men as less than man. It’s a slippery gender slope. It was those Italian bastards that were just so damn evil.

If only I spoke of a trend that remained in the movies. Reality feels like the Gates of Hell have opened now that America’s biggest celebrity has taken the look and power of the Italian Terror Moppet. To look at him will make your eyes bleed. His voice is like a drill to the head. It’s enough to make you puke your guts out:

Justin Beiber

Armando D. Munoz, aka Hambone and long time counselor, is the director of the award-winning short films The Killer Krapper, Pervula, Mime After Midnight, The Terrible Old Tran and Panty Kill. He recently completed a documentary feature and is now working on a narrative horror feature. Visit his website for trailers and movie info, and visit Fangoria here to watch Pervula in its entirety. Besides warning the world about Italian Terror Moppets, he is planning a book on modern queer horror film theory.

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About Armando Munoz

Armando D. Munoz is the director of the award-winning short films The Killer Krapper, Pervula, Mime After Midnight, The Terrible Old Tran and Panty Kill. He recently completed a documentary feature and is now working on a narrative horror feature. Visit his website for trailers and movie info, and visit to watch Pervula in its entirety.