Scary movies, on any account, can provide an excellent movie watching experience. We know this because It—a movie wherein a sadistic clown aids a teenage boy in winning over his middle school crush—has already grossed over $300,000,000 in domestic movie sales, which is all probably due to a relatively simple theory: humans enjoy being scared sometimes. But when you look at the broader scope of things, there’s really much more to the common horror flick than monsters and screams and gratuitous female nudity. Some of the more enjoyable aspects of horror are the timeless, lovable movie tropes that come along with it. Let’s run through a few quick examples of these just to get familiar:
There’s the ‘Falling Down Running’ trope (as executed soundly by Laurie in the original Halloween), as well as the ‘Asshole Who Needs to Die Already’ character trope (as seen in every scary movie ever). Let’s also not forget the ‘Why Are You Doing This To Me’ (Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates), and the ‘Useless Authority Figure’ (as seen in America almost every day now). But the very best one—and it’s not even very close—is the ‘Creepy Child Artist’ trope. It’s almost a welcoming moment in any scary movie, isn’t it? A beckoning gesture to ponder, “What does this deceptively morose child know that I don’t? Please, show me in a drawing.”
And that’s where I’d like to pose a very important question: who is the greatest creepy child artist of all time? Not the creepiest, but the GREATEST.
To find our answer, I’ve dwindled a list of exceptionally creepy child artists down to five definitive nominations which I will subjectively rate on a scale of 1 to 10 Carpenters. (John Carpenter is the director of Halloween, one of the most important scary movies of all time.) (Also, it’s Halloween. This is only appropriate.)
Let’s get things started with a child artist almost everyone is familiar with...
Aidan Keller, The Ring
Journalist Rachel Keller’s 10-year old son, Aidan, presents several works of art in 2002’s The Ring. The sketches above seem fairly advanced and thoughtful for a child of his age, which I say because if someone were to have me draw a similar aerial view of a well—at a substantially older age—I probably wouldn't come up with anything better. Even his form feels authentic: hunched over and hard at work, making sure those bottom-of-the-well blacks reflect the deepest darkness you’ve ever felt. However, Aidan’s prior work from the film appears to be a little more dicey:
I’m all for getting abstract, but this is supposed to be an accurate depiction of his cousin’s funeral. Which I have a hard time believing considering only a dog and seagull showed up to mourn her loss. I also have an issue with her missing arm and the general physics of her grave, so points docked here for lack of effort and a little too much imagination.
Sarah, Children of the Corn
Children of the Corn is mostly just a movie about a girl who hides in empty houses and draws disturbingly clairvoyant pictures while all the cool kids go out and murder people. Sarah, the child artist under scrutiny, is exceptionally gifted in predicting these horrific events. So while we must certainly acknowledge the art’s utility, it’s still not necessarily anything to write home about. For one, the street is the exact same color as the tallest murderer’s sweater, which feels a little lazy. And if I’m getting picky, the local coffee shop looks a lot more like a 2 Chainz pop-up than it does a tragic murder cafe. Creepy? Sure. Impressive? Not really. Five Carpenters for Sarah.
Audrey Hart, True Detective
True Detective isn’t necessarily a direct depiction of the horror genre, per say, but its core storylines and ideas manifest themselves from some truly sinister shit. At its heart, True Detective is as nightmarish as they come, so we’re absolutely counting it for the sake of this exercise.
The show also happens to entail a devastatingly creepy piece of art from Detective Marty Hart’s daughter, Audrey. Let’s have a look:
First of all, the gentleman on the right is swinging an absolute hammer. And since literally no one has ever had a penis that large, a few Carpenters must be docked for inauthenticity. I will, however, say that both characters in the drawing seem super happy about the situation at hand. It kind of resembles a prom picture in a way, as if one of their mothers just had to take one last snap before sex night. Kudos to Audrey for getting us out of our comfort zone, and for also forcing us to think outside of the box here.
Lily and Victoria, Mama
In 2013’s Mama, sisters Lily and Victoria spend a lot of time drawing because it’s really their only reliable form of expression. They have just spent the past five years of their formidable lives in an abandoned cabin governed by a spiritual entity, which is a situation that I imagine does not involve a ton of chatter. It’s also the reason they’re wall-art is so sprawling and muralistic—that and a lack of decent sketch paper—for children their age. But just because you draw a lot of something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s great. If the Sistine Chapel was just a bunch of tic-tac-toe games it probably wouldn’t have been as highly-regarded, you know what I mean? So let’s zoom in a little…
Mediocre at best. Four Carpenters for Lily and Victoria.
Will Byers, Stranger Things
We’re looping in Stranger Things for the same reasons we looped in True Detective. But just to be sure, let’s run through a quick checklist for our artist-on-deck, Will Byers:
- Is he haunted by an unidentified predator in another plane of existence? Yes.
- Does he puke large, icky slugs into a bathroom sink? You bet.
- Is he now living in a fourth-dimensional state of perpetual horror? Indeed.
Will Byers is creepy as hell. But do you know what else he is?
A phenomenal fucking artist.
Honest to goodness, if you placed these drawings in front me with no prerequisites, I would have to assume some sort of Lord of the Rings vs. Alien video game was being developed. The attention to detail and perception is uncanny for a 12-year-old. And bonus points are awarded for not only signing his name at the bottom, but for doing so on a sauce-heavy first name basis. This is generational work from the Artist Formerly Known as Will.
So to answer our question: who is the greatest creepy child artist of all time? It's Will. Will Byers is the greatest creepy child artist of all time.