Are children inherently spooky or is that just a generalization stirred up by the horror genre? Whether they’re ghosts wandering around in a creepy mansion or minions of the undead browsing through your knife drawer, children have been utilized more often than not in scary movies. From a narrative perspective, it makes sense; kids are typically innocent and vulnerable, so by default, audiences feel compelled to trust them. With this foundation already hardwired into the average human, filmmakers can then pull the rug out from under them, contaminating the one shred of innocence audiences might have counted on. It might seem like a cheap shot, but seeing as storytelling is all about manipulation, can you really blame them for trying?
When it comes to watching horror movies as a kid (though not recommended, it’s an unofficial rite of passage for budding cinephiles), there’s a solid likelihood of being affected by the spooky kids on screen. Children are typically programmed to perceive other kids as potential playmates—so, when said potential playmate turns out to be azombie crawling out of a television, the nightmares basically write themselves.
Keep reading to see What 16 Creepy Kids You Grew Up Watching Look Like Now.
16. Miko Hughes as Gage Creed – Pet Sematary
After Stephen King wrote Pet Sematary, he considered shelving it. Some of the material just hit too close to home, and he wasn’t entirely confident that readers would necessarily feel entertained by its unforgivable grimness. Nevertheless, the story was too solid to scrap, so off to publication it went, becoming a critical hit and bestseller. Five years after its release, Pet Sematary was adapted into a movie.
While the jury is out on whether Mary Lambert’s adaptation deserves its 48% score on Rotten Tomatoes, there’s a fairly unanimous agreement that Miko Hughes’ Gage Creed steals the show. Reborn out of tragedy in the demonic outskirts of the titular Pet Sematary, Gage is incredibly spooky.
15. Daveigh Chase as Samara – The Ring
Any kids who grew up watching Lilo and Stitch may have been unaware that the actress voicing Lilo was the same actress crawling out of wells and television sets in The Ring. In a way, Daveigh Chase was subliminally messing with young audiences who were able to sneak into a screening of the Japanese horror remake— not unlike the way her character Samara subliminally messed with anyone who watched her cursed videotape.
These days, Chase is starring in television and various low-budget productions. Most recently, she starred alongside Rory Culkin in Jack Goes Home, and she also lent her vocal talents to the video game Let It Die as the character Kiwako Seto. Outside of work, she was arrested after joyriding in a stolen vehicle in 2017.
14. Will Sandin as Michael Myers – Halloween
Though certainly not the first in its genre, John Carpenter’s Halloween set a precedence in slasher movies. It was riding the wave of movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Black Christmas, but honing in on a Hitchcock-level of suspense (paraphrasing Roger Ebert himself). Still, the most surprising element of this movie is in this opening sequence when the mysterious, masked person turns out to be a 6-year-old boy.
Though the rest of the film— as well as the entire decade-spanning series— revolves around an older version of The Shape, young Michael Myers (played by Will Sandin) represents the foundation to this entire franchise. And though his older self may seem frightening behind a bleached William Shatner mask, there’s something especially unnerving about this child with the innocent expression.
13. Mischa Barton as Kyra Collins – The Sixth Sense
When Mischa Barton’s Kyra Collins shows up The Sixth Sense, it’s not a pretty sight. That said, her character plays a vital role in Cole Sear’s (played by Haley Joel Osment) development as a paranormal medium. She’s technically the first ghost he outright helps (it’s been nearly 20 years since The Sixth Sense was released, but we’ll still avoid spoilers just in case).
After her brief role in the movie, Barton went on to gain mainstream notoriety in The O.C., only to run into money woes a few years after leaving the show to pursue a movie career. Recently, she’s been working on various low-budget projects, even toying around in the horror genre with films like The Toybox and Ouija House, alongside genre icon Dee Wallace.
12. Harvey Spencer Stephens as Damien Thorn – The Omen
In The Omen, the Thorns reek of bad luck. They wanted a happy family, but end up suffering; they were selfless enough to adopt, but end up adopting the Antichrist; they tried to love their son unconditionally, but die in the process. Then, to make matters worse, the boy is adopted by the President of the United States, essentially streamlining Armageddon.
In the mouth of all this madness is Damien, played by Harvey Spencer Stephens. Seemingly innocent and good-natured, this character paved the way for demonic children in film. Thankfully, though, Stephens himself presumably leads a wholly Satan-free life. The only major indiscretions he’s been affiliated with was an altercation last year (on Friday the 13th, no less) where Stephens got into a fight with a pair of cyclists, knocking one of them unconscious.
11. Isabelle Fuhrman as Esther – Orphan
Technically speaking, Orphan’s Esther isn’t a child at all. Once the twist is revealed near the end of the film, it turns out that 9-year-old Esther (played by Isabelle Fuhrman) is actually a violent 33-year-old woman named Leena Klammer who suffers from hypopituitarism, which has affected her growth. If you didn’t think she was creepy enough as a kid, maybe the fact that she’s a grown woman pretending to be a kid will do the trick.
Since Orphan, Fuhrman has maintained a fairly solid acting career, working alongside the likes of Pierce Brosnan in Salvation Boulevard, Lizzy Caplan in Masters of Sex, and Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games. She has been honest about her age ever since.
10. Danny Lloyd as Danny Torrance – The Shining
When Danny Lloyd was filming his scenes as Danny Torrance in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, he was completely unaware that he was in a horror film. With some tricky movie magic, he may have appeared terrified on camera, but Kubrick was careful to make Lloyd’s experience as scare-free as possible. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that the miniature psychic didn’t successfully manage to creep out the movie’s audience.
Whether he’s talking to the man who lives in his throat, muttering the lines “Red rum” over and over again, or hollering at the top of his lungs, Danny Torrance isn’t without his spooky scenes.
9. Linda Blair as Regan MacNeil – The Exorcist
Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist experiences what is arguably the most intense character 180 in film history. First, Regan seems to want nothing more than a pet pony; next, she’s possessed by the Devil himself, vomiting on priests and throwing a man out her bedroom window.
At only 11 years old, actress Linda Blair proved that she was capable of becoming one of the most frightening characters ever put on film – a defendable claim, considering audiences literally fainted during showings when the movie was released in 1973.
Post-Exorcist, Blair is living comfortably in California. Every so often, she’ll dabble in acting, but will mostly make appearances as herself (she showed up on RuPaul’s Drag Race in an episode titled “Scream Queens”).
8. Ari Lehman as Jason Voorhees – Friday the 13th
Jason Voorhees’ backstory in the Friday the 13th films isn’t exactly airlock tight. We see him as a zombie at the end of the original film, but then that turns out to be a dream. In the sequel, it’s revealed that Jason never died after all, but has been hiding out in the woods all this time – and not cluing in his mother on this major detail for some reason.
Even though Jason does eventually become a zombie by the 6th film in the series, this zombie Jason is technically not real. Still, his appearance makes for easily the most frightening moment in the entire franchise, so he earns a place on this list as a result.
Having grown up and removed his prosthetics, Ari Lehman, the man who played young Jason, is clearly proud of his roots. He’s the frontman for a band called First Jason and attends various horror conventions in honor of the Camp Crystal Lake killer.
7. David Dorfman as Aidan Keller – The Ring
Even though Samara was the evil kid from The Ring, that’s not to say that she had a monopoly on spookiness. After watching the cursed videotape, Aidan (played by David Dorfman) leaves it up to his mom (played by Naomi Watts) to remedy the situation ASAP. Even though he’s one of the film’s protagonists, there’s no denying the little dude’s notable creep levels. He furiously draws circles onto drawings, and just gives off an altogether creepy vibe in any given scenario. In the sequel, he actually does get the chance to be evil after Samara possesses him.
6. Oscar Casas as Tomás – The Orphanage
If you watch The Orphanage looking for actor Oscar Casas, you’ll have a difficult time – not just because his character Tomás is wearing a mask, but because, underneath that mask, he’s covered in prosthetics. His performance in the film served its purpose (scaring the hell out of audiences), but he couldn’t be more different in real life than his character is in the movie.
The 20-year-old actors has maintained a consistent acting career in mostly Spanish-speaking roles. After The Orphanage, Casas was cast in the series Red Eagle, and has since maintained his focus on building his career. That said, though, it’s fair to assume that most people won’t hire him simply on account of how he still hasn’t stopped haunting their dreams.
5. John Franklin as Isaac Chroner – Children of the Corn
It’s impossible to not develop trust issues with children after watching Children of the Corn. In the very opening scene, Isaac Chroner proudly watches his youth troupe make quick work of the adults in a small-town diner. This further supports the idea that kids aren’t always as innocent as they appear— especially when they’re played by someone like John Franklin.
With the winning combination of a creepy, gravelly voice, and that malevolent stare, Franklin did appropriate justice to the youngster, haunting audience’s dreams, and offering Stephen King’s adaptation at least something to make it memorable.
Having grown up now, it’s safe to say that Franklin has graduated from worshipping He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Now a retired high school teacher, Franklin is currently working as an actor and wrote a graphic novel titled Prime Cuts.
4. Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin as Miles and Flora – The Innocents
The Innocents is essentially The Sound of Music, but with less singing and more creepy men popping up behind unsuspecting people. Deborah Kerr’s Miss Giddens is happy to look after orphaned Miles and Flora (played by Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin, respectively), but once she suspects that the two children aren’t quite as innocent as they appear, the horror starts piling on.
However, seeing as children don’t stay children forever, the actors eventually grew up to work on other projects until ultimately distancing themselves from acting altogether. Franklin remained loyal to the horror genre in films like The Legend of Hell House, but eventually retired from the business in the ’80s. Stephens, on the other hand, quit acting in the ’60s, not long after appearing in The Innocents. He became an architect, while also teaching classes on Meditation.
3. Patty McCormack as Rhoda Penmark – The Bad Seed
Some children are slightly problematic, requiring nothing more than some stern discipline. In rare occasions, however, there’s a deep-seated evil that simply can’t be contained. What’s worse is that certain parents would rather deny the obvious than accept the fact that there is something irrefutably wrong with their child.
In The Bad Seed, that’s the core problem. Rhoda Penmark (played by Patty McCormack) may seem perfectly well-behaved on the outside, but in actuality, she is the titular bad seed. McCormack earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her performance and is still working on various productions for film and television.
2. Kyra Schon as Karen Cooper – Night of the Living Dead
In George A. Romero’s seminal zombie classic Night of the Living Dead, Kyra Schon spends most of her time in the film laying motionless in a basement. She plays Karen Cooper in the film, who was recently bitten by a zombie, locked away safely in a basement while her concerned mother and overreacting father look after her. Later in the film, she returns to life as the undead, and does what the undead tend to do.
Though her role is small in the film, Schon has more or less become the poster child for the film (literally), and by extension, the entire zombie subgenre (figuratively).
Schon’s personal website—ghoulnextdoor.com—proves that she does not take her place in horror movie history lightly. When she’s not teaching pottery and sculpture, Schon is collaborating with writers on horror stories and greeting fans at various horror conventions.
1. Lisa and Louise Burns as The Grady Twins – The Shining
If you have a deep-seated fear of hotels, you can thank Stephen King— and, by extension, Stanley Kubrick. In The Shining, various ghosts haunt the Overlook Hotel, but none are as young—or as ominous—as the Grady Twins.
Played by sisters Lisa and Louise Burns, the twins specifically target young Danny Torrance, asking him to play with them forever, while also revealing brief flashes of how they looked the night the their father went crazy.
After The Shining, the sisters left the Overlook behind them, along with their acting careers. Lisa went on to become a lawyer, while Louise went on to become a scientist. Really, though, the only thing that matters is that they’re not just casually standing at the end of hotel hallways, holding hands, and staring menacingly at guests.
Which of this kids was spookiest of all? Let us know in the comments!
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