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creature feature: Nat, the Devil-Child of 11/11/11

I know the flick only recently came out, but I was so effected by the creepy, haunting and fearsome Devil-Child at the center of Keith Allan's 11/11/11 - portrayed by the talented Hayden Byerly - that I wanted to write-up a creature feature on the kid while these impressions were still freshly scarred on my feeble psyche.

Devil Kids are nothing new - The Bad Seed, Village of the Damned, The Exorcist, Demon Seed, The Good Son, Children of the Corn, The Omen, Godsend, Joshua, every other episode of "The Twilight Zone," and Curly Sue - in fact, it's probably a safe bet that ever since the first child was born (however you believe that may have happened), people have had the idea of these little bundles of Heaven being sent straight from Hell. 

Too often, however - in my opinion, of course - the kids they cast in these roles are already hella creepy: Patty McCormack? Harvey Stephens? Linda Blair? Macaulay Culkin? There's a motley pantheon of frightening, frightening children if I've ever seen one. But the actor portraying "Nat" in 11/11/11 is not that scary-looking, on the surface, at least. Hayden Byerly's just a nice, normal kid, the kind you find everywhere in this nice, normal country of ours. And that makes him MUCH creepier; from mugs like the other kids, you expect some evil goings-on, but with Byerly, you don't, you can't - seems like the cruelest thing the kid's capable of is eating the last slice of pizza without asking if anyone else wanted it - and so when he goes total freaking demonic on you, the effect is far more chilling, because he's the Everykid, not the wonky-eyed, ghoulish sort. Even his name is nice: "Nat." I knew a Nat in grad school, and he was a genuinely sweet and gentle guy. You never expect the rebirth of Satan from a Nat. No way.

So then right off the bat, advantage Nat. Now let's get into what he actually is: according to the movie and the handy "How to be a Demon" book neighbors keep passing on to him, "the Devil will be born on 11-11-11." The Devil. THE Devil. Not the Antichrist like Damien (a human destined to lead public opinion and an ally of the Devil), or possessed by a demon like Regan in The Exorcist, but the ACTUAL Devil, Lucifer, The Fallen One, pitchfork-n-horns DEVIL. And with him come all the horrors and powers of Hell. That's really all you need to know about that. Again, advantage Nat.

What I found coolest about 11/11/11 and Nat, however, was that the boy's greatest (albeit unrecognized) ability was that of inspiring vicious loyalty. Nat doesn't transform fully until near the end of the film, on his birthday, so most of the movie's violence comes from those intent on delivering the Devil in Nat. First rule of unleashing a Biblical Apocalypse upon the whole of humanity? Never do the dirty work yourself. Damien kinda knew this, but Nat is so powerful and so important, he doesn't have to know it, it's the job of others to just handle that shit. 

So then when you look at the kid's bulletpoints:
  • deceptively creepy
  • the ACTUAL Devil, not just his tool
  • no heavy lifting
...there's really no doubt whatsoever that Nat Vales is the freakiest, scariest, most powerful Demon-Child in cinema history. Or at least in Asylum history. Or at least in this blog's opinion. Today. Judge for yourself if you haven't seen the film, on DVD now, or if you have, watch it again with these things in mind. Either way, just watch it.

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