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Child Actors Should be More Like Michelle Tanner and Less Like Orphan

July 17, 2009

With the nationwide release of Orphan next week, I felt it was time to come clean with my friends at TBTS. I have a confession to make… children in horror movies scare the hell out of me. No, seriously, they give me nightmares. 

I have always had trouble wrapping my head around a child actor (or any child for that matter) channeling some deep, dark torment. When I was that age I didn’t have an ominous, evil voice and the only grin I knew was one of toothless naivety, not of disturbing iniquity. Where do they find these kids?

Now I love The Suite Life of Zack and Cody — so I obviously don’t have a problem with exceptional acting by a child. But, when these kids find themselves in roles that require them to articulate such anguish and personal torture it legitimately frightens me. OK, it makes me poop in my pants.

I am sure that no one would blame me if I said that Linda Blair in The Exorcist made me cringe. Linda Blair’s character, Regan, made a lot of people cringe. I would never want to take anything away from Blair’s acting prowess – she was the scariest part of one of the scariest movies the cinema has ever seen – but Blair was aided with plenty of makeup and sound engineering.

What truly frightens me is the child antagonist in a psychological thriller.

Let’s take Dakota Fanning for example. I loved her in Man on Fire and thought she was adorable in The Cat in the Hat. Then, she goes and gets cast as the oddly disturbed daughter of Robert De Niro in Hide and Seek. According to this fan, painting pictures of dead bodies in her bedroom wasn’t the next step in Fanning’s movie career.

It will take at least two sequels of Uptown Girls before I can get back to where we were, Dakota.

CBS just finished up its summer stinker Harper’s Island last Saturday. For the five people who watched the “mystery event” you will know who I am talking about when I say there was an equally eerie little girl on that show. The character’s name was Madison and she would bat her eyes and deliver her lines in a slow, almost forcibly-innocent manner. She freaked me out so much that I was certain after one episode that she would turn out to be in the killer. I was wrong, but Harper’s Island would have been a hell of a lot scarier if I had been right. 

I decided to do a little research to find out where the hell they find these kids. Well, Madison was played by a pint-sized actress named Cassandra Sawtell. Despite the fact that she has completed 19 projects in her young career, knows nothing about her other than the fact that she was born in Canada in 1997. In fact, some of her projects are titled Touching Evil, Dead Zone and Imaginary Playmate which tells me that the less I know about her the better.

The next installment in the “deeply disturbed child” series opens next week (July 24th).  Orphan seems to have a chance to be a solid horror film, but I will probably let someone else at TBTS review it for the readers. It’s not a manly thing to admit, but if a director hands a 10-year old a butcher knife and tells her to give the camera her crazy eyes, I likely will not be seeing that movie.

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