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Will Horror Movies Continue to Focus on Children? | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

What horror movie comes to mind when you think of children? It is probably Stephen King’s Children of the Corn or something similar to The Exorcist, where they are evil or possessed. Or maybe what pops into your brain first is Insidious or Paranormal Activity when they are in danger and being manipulated by some unseen entity. The bottom line is that children have been in horror movies since the genre first started. Even now, in 2023, children appear in more horror films than ever.

When the genre was first picked up in the movie industry, children in horror films were mostly siding characters or in the position of a person in distress. As the genre evolves, so do the roles children play. Modern horror still depicts children as two tropes: innocent and curious or evil and creepy. Still, they have more character development in today’s horror than when the genre first started. They are a fundamental part of the genre. Horror movies will continue to focus on children in some way, shape, or form. Why is that? There is plenty of reasoning for this, but let’s name the main ones.


Related: How M. Night Shyamalan Portrays Horror Through the Eyes of Children

To Get a Genuinely Emotional Reaction

Warner Bros. Pictures 

We don’t like seeing kids in peril. Seeing a child in a potentially dangerous situation will increase our heart rates. That is especially true if we relate to that child or have a protective instinct, like a parent or older sibling. We don’t want to see kids get hurt. So, when they do in a horror film, that initial dread hits us like a speeding truck.

Sometimes the shock factor of a child getting killed or injured is more effective than the scare factor of the monster attacking it. We fear for the child’s safety in a dire situation. We experience more than just fear, however. We also get the sensations of sadness or anger when a kid is killed. We praise the child when they manage to escape from the monster. This is what producers, directors, and actors want: for us to feel so strongly for the children in horror.

The primary function of a horror film is to scare us. Many use the same formula or continue a franchise instead of building something new. That fear factor eventually wears off. Nowadays, with contemporary horror films, we are expected to feel more than just afraid. Imagine being a child in a horror movie with gushing curiosity and wonder. We look through the eyes of the kid and experience that same curiosity. We can feel WITH the character as well as FOR the character.

So, when the child does fall into danger, and their life is taken away, the shock and sadness overwhelm us. It leaves a lasting impression more than an adult getting hurt or killed. That is why children are essential and will continue to be important to the horror genre. They are the ones who bring out these genuine negative emotions in us.

Child Actors Get Paid Less

Eleven from Stranger Things

Let’s look at this from a film industry standpoint. Big-name actors (like Dwayne Johnson or Angelina Jolie) would get paid more than smaller-name or first-time actors. Big-name actors usually get paid per contract, while up-and-comers get paid a weekly check. The same applies to child actors. A child actor’s weekly rate is typically around $3,500 for a TV show.

For motion pictures, that rate is about the same. However, that rate can be adjusted depending on the budget of the project. Sometimes the rate is generously larger or lucratively lower. The rate also depends on the child actor that stars in horror films. Bigger-name child actors (like Millie Bobby Brown) most likely get paid more than child actors just starting in the industry or have some projects under their belt. Still, child actors are less expensive to hire than adult actors.

It would make sense for horror movie directors to focus more on kids for future horror projects. Not only do they get paid less than adult actors, but horror films that star children tend to sell better. A great example of this is the remake/first chapter of It back in 2017. The film was centered around a group of young kids appropriately called The Losers Club, as each of the seven kids has encountered the evil clown It at some point and are outcasts in some way. That film grossed $123.4 million worldwide on its opening weekend.

Once again, this was with a main cast of child/young actors that grossed the most successful horror film to this day. The film industry can only imagine the possibilities if they continue to lead to children-focused horror movies.

Related: Why Children’s Stories Are Getting Rebooted as Horror Movies

Creepy Children Are So Compelling

Sadako in front of the well in Ringu
Toho Co., Ltd. 

Have you ever wondered why children, in general, are just so creepy? Let’s be honest here. There’s something about little kids with their big, wandering eyes and innocent demeanor that is off-putting. That sense of unease only intensifies when they do something in a horror movie that isn’t childlike.

They are so creepy without even trying to be. Yet that creepiness is what evokes our interest in horror movies. Having children in horror is the best way to keep us watching. Despite being scared, we cannot resist that curiosity about what the child is capable of. We can cover our faces with our hands all we want when a kid is doing something creepy. But we always peek through our fingers because we cannot resist that temptation to keep watching.


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