These Children Bring a Deadly Innocence to Horror
Children are the key ingredient for making a horror film even scarier. And we all know, the cuter they are, the scarier they tend to be. Here are the top ten child actors who raised the bar in their specific roles.
10. Robert Daniel and Dartanian Sloan as Dylan and Zach Collins in Sinister II (2015)
Zach and Dylan move with their mother to an abandoned farmhouse as they hide from their abusive father. Not long after, Dylan is visited by the ghost children sent by Baghuul, the Boogeyman, and Zach becomes increasingly jealous and hostile towards Dylan because of it. Robert and Dartanian Sloan play polar opposite roles. Dylan is more innocent and gentle than Zach, who has an inclination toward brutality because of his abusive father. They fill the movie with equal amounts of pity and disgust, and prove that nothing good ever happens when the bad guy tries to manipulate twins in a horror movie.
9. Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse as Victoria and Lily Desange in Mama (2013)
After their father kills their birth mother, Lily and Victoria are raised in the woods by a mysterious ghostly force named “Mama”, who raises the girls for three years before they are found by their uncle’s friends. Most monster flicks require a bit of “cheese tolerance”, as in unpolished performances that must often be saved by the amount of jump scares and gore. Not only are the girls two very adorable kids but their portrayal of feral children with little to no socially normal cues will make you think twice about walking into an abandoned cabin in the woods. Isabelle Nélisse is especially notable as she plays a character with little to no dialogue, and still elicits an encouraging response from audiences to make it to the end.
8. Isabelle Fuhrman as Esther in Orphan (2009)
Esther is adopted by young couple John and Kate after the sad death of their third baby. She is everything a couple could want and then some. Super polite, cute, and sweet, although, the murderous aspect of her personality may need some workshopping. John and Kate soon find out that the orphanage has never heard of Esther and that something indeed may be very wrong. I’ve babysat a few kids in my day who exhibited more adult tendencies than their own parents but none have ever tried to kill me, thankfully. Orphan is automatically a horror classic because of Isabelle Fuhrman’s performance of an intelligent, classy, yet antisocial child who goes for the jugular of each of her family members, driving them into chaos before the climax.
7. Jodelle Ferland as Alessa Gillespie in Silent Hill (2006)
Big fans of the horror franchise and video game series know that Alessa is the ringleader and source of darkness in the town of Silent Hill due to her horrendously abusive and violent childhood. Jodelle Ferland plays three roles including young Alessa, with Dark Alessa and Sharon Dasilva. A child like Alessa who inhabs a grotesque and obscene world like the one in this film should be heavily mature and desensitized to the torture of the world. Jodelle embodies that with a prestigious amount of grace and confidence.
6. Quinn Lord as Sam/Samhain in Trick ‘R Treat (2007)
Sam, short for Samhain, visits one town every year on Halloween to ensure tradition is followed. If you break the laws and customs of Halloween, Sam will exact bloody revenge with his lollipop shiv. Sam isn’t considered evil nor good. He’s more like the gory referee of having a good time versus being a buzzkill. Trick ‘R Treat fans know that Sam doesn’t speak throughout the film. I have to hand it to Quinn Lord for adding to the list of actors who stay silent yet still manage to garner our favor. If his role as Sam had a tagline, I’d say it was “cute but vicious.”
5. Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex as Zora/Umbrae and Jason/Pluto in Us (2019)
Is the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz really that big of a mystery? Zora and Jason surely could tell us. Their family’s doppelgangers, also referred to as The Tethered, rise to the surface world to take their place. Zora and Jason are forced to survive against their own reincarnations during a doppelganger apocalypse. However, Umbrae and Pluto are not as socially or mentally as evolved as their surface counterparts. Shahadi and Evan drive us to the point of emotional exhaustion as they bounce back between each of their two characters, as we root for Zora and Jason’s survival but also must fear their clones.
4. Madison Wolfe as Janet Hodgson in Conjuring 2 (2016)
If you were captivated by Reagan from The Exorcist (1973), Janet Hodgson will give you a similar chill down your spine. Janet is the youngest sister of the Hodgson family, targeted by an entity the Warrens come to know as the elderly Bill Wilkins. This film is based on a true story of a young girl supposedly possessed by a ghost in the 70’s, though the film exaggerates its legend. Few times in my life have I actually felt the fear of a character through the screen. Madison’s character Janet bypasses the corniness of multiple demonic contortions and vomiting and keeps a brave but heartbreaking front of a child being used by multiple entities at once.
3. Levi Miller as Luke Lerner in Better Watch Out (2016)
Puberty is a real drag, especially for homicidal tweens like Luke. After being rejected by his 16 year old babysitter Ashley, Luke intends to force the affection out of her by killing off her ex-boyfriends right in front of her very eyes. He is talented at putting on a show of innocence and has a baby face that could charm just about anybody. You’d never suspect he’d know how to build and clean up a crime scene like a pro. Levi Miller and his baby-faced trustworthiness would make anyone forget this film is about the romantic rejection of a child sadist.
2. Haley Joel Osment as Cole Sear in Sixth Sense (1999)
Cole isn’t a villain like a few of the children on this list. He may be one of the few you will actually feel bad for in the horror genre. Cole Sear has a sixth sense, giving him an ability to see and hear ghosts, though he is much too afraid to approach them. He does end up bringing peace to those who struggle with their grief and even solves a murder. If Osment’s performance doesn’t win your heart in the middle of this tense and angsty film, maybe you’re a ghost, too.
1. Harvey Spencer Stevens as Damien Thorn in The Omen (1976)
The list of horrific kids is not complete without the spawn of Satan. After Robert and Kate Thorn lose their first child at birth, Robert secretly adopts a newborn to stop his wife from learning the truth. That newborn is Damien. As Damien grows, things start to get freaky at the Thorn residence. To name a couple oddities, animals are scared of him and he throws a hell of a tantrum when he’s near a church. As soon as Robert learns of Damien’s origins, he’s urged to save his family by taking communion. Babysitting will definitely seem a lot easier after watching Harvey Spencer Stevens stress his entire on-screen family out. Not only does he have the look of a possessed child, but the chilling amount of apathy Stevens displays throughout the film also adds to the fear factor.
What are kids really thinking? Perhaps, nothing as sinister as some of these child characters in these insidious film choices. Watching these performances of the top ten children in horror will get anyone’s blood pumping, regardless.
Better Watch Out (2016) Official Trailer