Unlikely Survivors: Six of the Best “Final Kids” in Horror

Horror has always been a matter of perspective. The maniac with a knife just isn’t as intimidating when he’s facing off against a SWAT team, and the only thing keeping Predator from turning into an all-out slasher flick is the size of the protagonists’ biceps. It’s a lot easier to fear for a helpless victim, and that’s why it makes sense that so many scary stories focus on children and childhood fears.

After all, what’s more vulnerable than a child? And with so many child-centric scary movies out there, we’ve come up with this list celebrating six of the best “Final Kid” performances in horror.

Talented child actors are hard to come by, so I think it’s time to shine a light on the pint-sized survivors that helped to make some of our favorite horror flicks so memorable.

While this list is based on personal opinion, there are a couple of rules. First of all, we’ll only be featuring horror protagonists, so no creepy children like Harvey Stephens’s Damien or Linda Blair’s Regan. Second, no ensembles like the cast of Monster Squad or either version of Stephen King’s It, as they would take up too much space on the list.

With that out of the way, don’t forget to comment below with your own favorite child actor performances in horror movies if you think we missed an important one.

Now, onto the list…

6. Jamie Lloyd / Danielle Harris – Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Named after the original final girl Jamie Lee Curtis, Danielle Harris’ Jamie Lloyd is much more than a simple rehash of her namesake. An innocent child with a seemingly supernatural connection to her serial-killing uncle, Jamie is actually a driving force behind the plot, with a lynch mob forming around the poor girl when Michael decides to return to Haddonfield and reclaim his long-lost niece.

She’s also extremely likable and clever, trying her best to stay alive even when she’s being used as bait. Of course, the final reveal that Jamie has inherited Michael’s taste for blood is made all the more horrifying by the lovable performance that came before. It’s just a shame that the subsequent sequels didn’t really know what to do with Harris’ iconic survivor.

5. Ofelia / Ivana Baquero – Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Often considered to be Guillermo Del Toro’s magnum opus, this historical monster movie is a unique case where the flick doesn’t feel terrifying precisely because of our ten-year-old protagonist. Played to perfection by Ivana Baquero, Ofelia is an imaginative young girl that’s simply trying to make sense of the chaos surrounding her – both in and out of the titular Labyrinth.

Dealing with child-eating creatures and totalitarian horrors alike, Ofelia stands out due to her inquisitive nature as well as her courage and outstanding moral fiber. While her status as a “final kid” depends on your interpretation of the film’s ambiguous finale, there’s no denying that the little Ivana left a sizable mark on Del Toro’s filmography.

4. Oskar / Kåre Hedebrant – Let the Right One In (2008)

Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In is mostly remembered for Lina Leandersson’s fascinating portrayal of the child-vampire Eli, but the movie simply would not work if it wasn’t for Kåre Hedebrant’s melancholy portrayal of the lonely Oskar. A sensitive kid who’s the frequent target of bullies, Hedebrant adds just the right amount of pathos to make you understand why the poor kid would fall in love with a vampire.

This is also a particularly tragic entry as Oskar is ultimately doomed to become Eli’s new familiar, meaning that his condition as a “final kid” isn’t necessarily a happy ending. Oskar was competently played by Kodi Smit-McPhee in Matt Reeves’ 2011 remake of the film (here called “Owen”), but I believe that Hedebrant’s take on the character remains the definitive version.

3. Tommy Jarvis / Corey Feldman – Friday the 13th – The Final Chapter (1984)

Tommy Jarvis is usually remembered as the unfortunate teenager (played by Thom Mathews) who accidentally turned Jason Voorhees into an invincible zombie in Friday the 13th Part VI – Jason Lives, but his character was originally introduced back in Part IV, where he was a young horror fan played by the ever-lovable Corey Feldman.

Not only is Jarvis responsible for outsmarting and murdering the hell out of the original “human” version of Jason Voorhees, but he also does it through his unusual love of horror media and special effects, making him one of the most compelling final kids out there.

2. Danny Torrance / Danny Lloyd – The Shining (1980)

Stanley Kubrick famously convinced Danny Lloyd that The Shining was actually a comedy in an effort to not traumatize the kid during production, but you could never tell due to the boy’s chilling performance. Jack Nicholson may have gotten all the glory due to his memorably manic portrayal of Jack Torrance, but Lloyd – and Shelley Duvall – make up the real heart of this Stephen King adaptation.

From his eerie way of speaking to his “imaginary friend” Tony to his odd facial expressions when faced with the horrors of the Overlook Hotel, Danny is a huge part of what makes this intricate puzzle of a film tick, and that’s why he ranks so high on this list.

1. Andy Barclay / Alex Vincent – Child’s Play (1987)

Chucky may have gone on to become a pop culture super-star, just as (if not more) recognizable as Freddy and Jason, but it’s easy to forget that the original Child’s Play began as the tragic story of a young boy being framed for his favorite doll’s homicidal tendencies. The entire film only works because it’s so easy to fear for Andy’s well-being, and most of that is due to Alex Vincent’s charming line delivery and overall cute-ness.

That’s why I’m glad that Vincent returned to the role back in 2013’s revival of the franchise (not to mention SYFY’s TV series), as I think you can’t tell a proper Child’s Play story without bringing up the original “Final Kid” that took Charles Lee Ray down.

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