Child Stars of Horror Films, Then and Now

11:24 AM 10/23/2018

by Jessica Ariel Wendroff

Here's what the young stars of movies from 'The Exorcist' to 'The Ring' — now adults — have been up to in the years since their big horror roles.

The Sixth Sense-The Ring-The Shining-Photofest-H 2018
Buena Vista/Photofest; Dreamworks SKG/Photofest; Photofest

Oftentimes, the most unnerving part of a horror film isn’t the monster in the closet, but the child it affects. Once a little kid appears on the big screen of a horror flick, anything becomes an instrument of fright: a doll, a book, a board game, even a crayon — a la Anabelle.

It’s a smart move by directors to employ children as puppets of terror. Doing so amplifies a film’s shock value since little ones are expected to be pure and innocent, so when we see a possessed little girl’s head spin around ... well, you get the picture. In horror movies, instead of playing with action figures and dolls, these demonic offspring play with our heads and toy with our emotions. In the midst of a chiller, even the simple sound of a child’s coo can make even the bravest of souls jump out of his or her skin.

Below, take a look at what the actors who played these nightmarish characters look like today.

  • Lisa and Louise Burns

    Twin sisters Lisa and Louise Burns certainly came out to play as the Grady daughters in The Shining (1980). Despite their success in the motion picture, as soon as taping wrapped, the pair received a hall pass from Hollywood to return to class. Even though the twins never attained movie-star status from their memorable role in the film, they did become a cinematic staple in the horror genre. To this day, the duo are still widely talked about. The entertainment industry keeps their relevance alive through imitation, be it performances like “The Terror Trap Twins” on The Gong Show, or films like Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One (2018), and the September 2018 cover of MAD Magazine that debuted just last month. These examples are just a few recent instances of the twins in the spotlight, but there are countless more. If you’re still doubting the contemporary component of the twosome, then just tap Family Guy’s Stewie Griffin — the animated baby had his own fatal encounter with them during a 2014 episode. Outside of their portrayal on screens and in magazines, there’s nothing creepy about the twins in real life. In fact, they grew up to be a set of normal, accomplished women. In a 1999 TV-series documentary, VH1 Where Are They Now?, it was revealed that the siblings are still very close and became an I.T. manager and licensing negotiator. According to IMDB, Louise is also now a published scientist. Currently, the Burns sisters reside in London, U.K., and if interested, you don’t need a ouijia board to contact them, you can just send them a tweet or direct message on Instagram.

  • Daveigh Chase

    In 2002, Daveigh Chase made America terrified of television sets and static when she crawled out of a TV as Samara in The Ring. During that same year, the 12-year-old transitioned from the face of evil to the voice of innocence when playing Lilo in Lilo and Stitch. Chase continued to voice little Lilo throughout all her adventures in Stitch! The Movie, Leroy and Stitch and Lilo & Stitch: The Series. Even though Chase’s role in the Disney franchise was a stark contrast from the sleepless villain she portrayed in The Ring, the actress’ Disney days weren’t the first time she assumed the role of a traditional little girl. Chase appeared as one in Sabrina, The Teenage Witch in 1998, and Donnie Darko’s little sister, Samantha, in 2001. The actress later reprised her role as Samantha in 2009 in S. Darko, and returned to darker roots in 2003 as Annabel in the Haunted Lighthouse short, and in 2006 with a role in the TV series Big Love. Chase also starred in the 2015 feature Wild in Blue and Jack Goes Home in 2016. Most recently, the starlet voiced the Spirit of Time on the new TV series, King of the Golden Sun. Given Chase’s resume, it’s no secret that the blue-eyed heartthrob has an affinity for the “bad girl” role, but the star recently had a few real-life run-ins with the law that include riding in a stolen vehicle and possession of a controlled substance.

  • Linda Blair

    Linda Blair made America’s head spin along with hers while playing a possessed Regan in 1973’s The Exorcist. The actress’ pulse-quickening performance was so well-received and controversial that the young talent was awarded the Golden Globe for best supporting actress in a motion picture. The disturbing film that shook the country wasn’t her first role in a picture, but it was unquestionably her most iconic. Blair was ushered into a number of films following her ungodly breakout role, including The Exorcist II: The Heretics and a short parody of The Blair Witch Project in 1999. In 1996, Scream paid homage to the horror movie goddess by giving her a cameo as a news reporter in the now classic ghost-mask mystery. The star’s most recent project is not too different from her cameo performance: filling the deductive shoes of a detective in the spooky crime fantasy Landfill.

  • Haley Joel Osment

    Tucked tightly under the covers during The Sixth Sense, Harry Joel Osment whispered four ominous words that still playfully resound in audiences’ eardrums today: “I see dead people.” The looming fear Osment was able to instill in viewers in 1999 landed him an Academy Award nomination for acting. The fresh-faced boy wonder was the first millennial male to be recommended for such an honor. Osment went on to do voice work for Curly Gammelthorpe in Hey Arnold! and other cartoon characters like Myka in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command and various personalities in Family Guy. He was even the voice behind the spikey-haired, keyblade-wielding video game protagonist: Sora from Kingdom Hearts I, II and III. Osment went on to appear in Silicon Valley, Entourage, Drunk History and a number of other TV series. Like Daveigh Chase, Osment eventually returned to “the dark side” of his career. Catch the actor playing Alex Gardner, a man who sells his soul for the prospect of fame and fortune, in the upcoming The Devil Has a Name (2019).

  • Ty Simpkins

    The Insidious actor was born to act ... almost literally. Simpkins felt the heat of set lights on his newborn face before he could say “action” ... or any word, for that matter. The Extracted star was featured on the daytime drama One Life to Live at a mere 3 weeks old. At 5, he had his big break in Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, where he acted alongside Dakota Fanning and movie veteran Tom Cruise. Simpkins moved on from aliens to demons at 9 when he was cast as the sedentary Dalton Lambert in Insidious (2010). Not bad for someone under double digits. In 2013, Simpkins returned for Insidious: Chapter 2, the same year that he became a member of the Marvel universe in Iron Man 3. The then 14-year-old must have grown weary of almost dying at the hands of UFOs, paranormal activity and super villains, because in 2015 he moved on to near-death experiences by the likes of dinosaurs in Jurassic World. This year, Simpkins once again walked us into “the further” during Insidious: The Last Key before rejoining Robert Downey Jr. as Harley Keener in a soon-to-be titled Avengers installation.

  • Isabella Fuhrman

    When you think of The Orphan (2009), your memory may rewind to a mirror where little “orphan” Esther violently rubs her makeup off with a towel. The big reveal in the film is so twisted it leaves you with a backache. Throughout the thriller, viewers are clued in that Esther is abnormal and evil-natured in many ways, but it isn’t until the very end that they discover just how much so. Like a tick, the ending burrows into audiences, sticking with them long after the credits roll. The unsettling effect Isabella Fuhrman leaves on viewers is the reason her performance was given critical acclaim and hailed as “one of the momentous examples of acting from a child in years.” In 2008, Fuhrman received a Young Artist Award nomination for an episode of Ghost Whisperer. During the same year that she mastered the role of Esther, she played a similar part in Children of the Corn in 2009. The young talent went on to act alongside the ranks of Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games as Clove from Panem’s District 2. The now 21-one-year old also played Tessa Johnson in Masters of Sex, and her latest work, Tape, where she acts as a vengeful actress, is currently in postproduction.

  • Yuya Ozeki

    If you’ve ever seen Ju-On or the American remake, The Grudge, then you know that the pasty mug of Toshio is not one to be easily forgotten. An expressionless Yuya Ozeki gave viewers such a blank, indelible face it was as if the little boy was wearing the mask of Michael Myers. It’s ironic that the fictional youngster who sent shivers down spines with a shrill cat noise is actually afraid of furry felines in reality. Every scene Ozeki had to shoot with Toshio’s pet, Mar, was a struggle. Conquering his fear for the part showed his chops as a child actor, which paid off in 2005 when he was nominated at the Teen Choice Awards in the “Movie Scream Scene” category. Nowadays, Ozeki isn’t getting paid to make supernatural meowing sounds anymore. Now 22, the former child actor was last seen in public posing for cameras walking the red carpet of the 2016 Classic Rock Awards in Tokyo. In terms of his career, Ozeki last starred in the Japanese show Oyaji no senaka in 2014, the film Drawing Days and the miniseries Hotel Concierge in 2015.