While Joey King is currently moving into the world of fantasy action with Hulu’s The Princess, the young actor has appeared in more than her fair share of horror movies. Almost every actor has a few horror movies in their filmography, of course. The infamously cheap, profitable, and quick-to-produce nature of horror cinema makes it a goldmine for young actors who want to get their name out there. And The Princess lead has already performed in a handful of notable horror movies since her acting debut at the age of 4.
One of Joey King’s earliest feature film credits as a child performer was courtesy of a small role in the 2008 horror remake Quarantine. Since that time, the Emmy-nominated actor has also found success in true-crime miniseries, action movies, and romantic comedies, such as Netflix’s popular The Kissing Booth trilogy, but she continued her horror output with such movie titles as Wish Upon, Slender Man, and The Lie, as well as the anthology TV shows R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour and Creepshow. Meanwhile, her most famous movie of any genre may still be James Wan’s massively successful, horror-franchise-spawning haunted house story The Conjuring, from 2013.
Not all of the actor’s efforts in the horror genre are as acclaimed as that Ed and Lorraine Warren-inspired movie. Some of Joey King’s horror movies have garnered very bad reviews and would leave viewers hoping that the actor at least got some publicity and profile from her thankless early roles. Here is a ranking of Joey King’s horror movies from worst to best.
Overshadowed by a tragic real-life crime involving a young girl’s stabbing and the titular urban myth, Slender Man was a doomed attempt to bring a famous piece of online folklore to the big screen. Despite boasting the talents of Joey King and director Sylvain White, Slender Man is barely a movie, let alone a good horror movie. A messy, indecipherable effort, it was cut to ribbons by overzealous editors to avoid controversy. As a result, it not only falls short of bringing the titular internet boogeyman to life in a terrifying fashion, but the 2018 movie isn’t capable of even providing a comprehensible storyline. Slender Man’s trailers warned viewers of the weak, underwritten, and borderline indecipherable slog they were in for, but the movie still managed to perform well at the box office.
Wish Upon has a classic horror movie premise wherein Joey King’s heroine is given a magic box, which grants wishes, but the wishes come at the cost of the lives of the people around her. It’s a solid “be careful what you wish for” parable that could have been a fun, darkly comic teen horror if given a sense of humor, memorable characters, and a fast pace. However, despite the work of Annabelle director John R Leonetti, there’s nothing scary about this 2017 teen howler. There are a lot of laughs to be had from watching Wish Upon as a campy, goofy bad horror, but none of the mirth produced by the movie is in any way intentional.
The Joe Hill adaptation The Black Phone proved that a horror movie featuring only a few locations, a cat and mouse game between a creepy adult and a helpless teen, and a simple plot could succeed. Veena Sud’s The Lie is not as successful, thanks to its needlessly convoluted plot, but at the core of this 2019 anthology horror effort, there is a strong thriller with an effective, mean-spirited punchline. A tense psychological horror movie that lets Joey King flex her considerable talents as a dramatic actor, The Lie pits her against an unhinged friend’s father in a story that is a little too smart for its own good but still manages to get under the skin of viewers. Dark and unsettling, The Lie’s unnervingly plausible plot makes its creepy story all the more compelling until the final act takes things a bit too far to remain based in any reality.
Quarantine proves that not all Hollywood horror remakes are insultingly unoriginal slasher movies. Joey King has a relatively minor role in the found-footage zombie movie, but that doesn’t stop this thrilling shocker from being one of the only foreign horror remakes of its time that are well worth seeking out. Quarantine can’t completely recapture the relentless intensity of 2007’s original breakout hit [REC] and, as is always the case with shot-for-shot remakes, there is an argument to be made that viewers who have seen the superior original movie need not bother with this one. However, judged on its own merits, Quarantine is an effective zombie horror, a fast-paced and often brutal chase thriller, and an admirably grim stab at imagining a relatively realistic response to a plague of the murderous undead.
The terrifying and brilliant The Conjuring is still director James Wan’s best movie so far, a hit that raised the bar for haunted house movies and has yet to be outdone since its 2013 release. Joey King shines in a small role as one of the kids affected by the haunting that plagues a remote farmhouse, but she is only one of the many exceptional stars in a lineup that features no weak links. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farming’s chemistry makes up for the movie — and subsequent franchise — ignoring the real-life controversies and scandals that plagued the Warrens, while Lili Taylor remains as reliably underrated as ever.
However, the true star of The Conjuring is the filmmaking, with Wan’s movie milking a done-to-death true story for all the premise is worth. The giallo homages of Wan’s Malignant might be more spectacularly gory, but it is hard to beat The Conjuring for subtle, slow-burn chills. Thanks to Wan’s smooth, fluid camerawork and ingenious sound design, an old tale is turned creepy once again, and a simple game of “hide and clap” becomes the stuff of nightmares. With stronger scares packed into its first hour than some filmmakers manage in an entire career, Wan’s The Conjuring remains a Hollywood horror classic and the best movie that The Princess star Joey King has contributed to the genre so far.
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