Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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That Guy Salute: The Creepy Kid from Every Movie of the Last Three Years

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 16, 2007

Paying tribute to those nameless and occasionally faceless supporting characters that nonetheless provide the broth for the rich stew of Pop Culture.

It might come from my own deep-seated fears and insecurities, but nothing is more unsettling to me than a pale eight-year-old kid. In general, I fear young kids the same way i fear large animals, lifesize wax statues and the henchman with the sunglasses at the end of Scarface–anything that looks like it’s capable of talking but never does, I gotta assume that it must be plotting my own demise (or that at least, in the words of David Byrne, it’s gonna laugh at me). Sure, I guess there are like two or three OK ones–Lisa Simpson and the “YOUUU’RE GOOONNA LOOOOSE!!” kid from A League of Their Own come to mind–but the great majority of them are evil, horrific little bastards, not to be trusted under any circumstances.

The latest crystallization of my paranoia comes courtesy of recent kid star Cameron Bright. Cameron’s already 14, but he doesn’t look a day over nine, and part of me doubts that he ever will. Now when I say “kid star,” it’s really something of a misnomer–Ricky Schroder was a kid star, Patrick Renna of The Sandlot was a kid star, Cameron Bright is one of a rare breed–the kid actor. This is partly because of the seriously shocking number of mainstream movies he’s been in–The Butterfly Effect, Birth, Running Scared, Ultraviolet, Thank You For Smoking, X-Men: The Last Stand, among others–not a single one is really even slightly kid-focused in nature. Despite Bright’s large roles in each, these are all adult (or at the least, adolescent) focused movies, and he isn’t really a star in any. Which is why, even though you’ve undoubtedly seen him in at least two or three of these movies, you have no idea what his name is (and you’ll instantly forget it when you’re done reading this entry).

His face, though–if you’ve seen it once, believe me, you ain’t never gonna forget it. Now, the creepy kid has been a horror movie staple ever since Linda Blair stabbed herself in the crotch back in 1973, and over the years, it’s only gotten stronger–Damian, the twins from The Shining and the Children of the Corn, up to those kids in The Ring, The Grudge and Identity. These kids are all a million times more frightening than Freddy or Jason, and I think it’s for the same reasons I mentioned at the beginning–little kids are supposed to be mostly sweet and innocent, but I think everyone secretly distrusts them at least a little bit, so when they turn out to be genuinely evil, it confrims a lot of deep seated fears.

In 33 years’ worth of creepy kids, however, I don’t think there’s ever been one as creepy as Bright. And the weird thing is that none of the movies he’s been in have been straight horror movies–in fact, with the possible exception of The Butterfly Effect, he hasn’t even been an antagonist in any of them. But that face–those sallow, pale blue eyes, that even paler white skin, those unnaturally high cheek bones, that bulging forehead–he looks like a kid all right, but the most demonic little prick to ever set fire to his third grade art project. He barely ever talks, and he never fucking smiles.

And even though they’re not horror movies, his projects still reflect and emphasize that disturbing edge–except for X3, these are really not the sort of movies that young kids should be appearing in. Running Scared and The Butterfly Effect, two of the grittiest, most world-weary mainstream movies of the last few years (and don’t scoff at The Butterfly Effect until you see it, really), wouldn’t be half as unsettling if it wasn’t for Bright’s pivotal roles in each. Just taking a look at this kid, you know something’s not right–maybe he’s this instigator and maybe he’s the victim, but you know there’s some serious fucking troubel afoot. He’s not going to be appearing in MVP 4: Most Verisimilitudinous Primate any time soon.

It’ll be interesting to see if Bright can graduate from Creepy Kid to Creepy Adolescent (and perhaps even the rarely-attained Creepy College Kid) status–Robert “A.J.” Iler was able to do it, sorta, but it’s a lot easier to make the transition when you’re playing the same role once a week for almost ten years. But even if he’s not gonna be appearing on VH1 kid specials in any time soon, it’s good to see a kid actor carve a niche for himself without having to resort to snappy catchphrases or precocious transcontinental adventures. For that, anyway, he’d probably have to smile at least once.


One Response to “That Guy Salute: The Creepy Kid from Every Movie of the Last Three Years”

  1. Sonja said

    The kid from The Ring is probably the most terrifying. (On second thought, maybe a tie with the Shining twins?)

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