The Child Clicker's Audition Tape For The Last Of Us Was Pure Nightmare Fuel

This post contains spoilers for episode 5 of "The Last of Us."

Plenty of awful things happen in episode 5 of "The Last Of Us": impossible decisions are made, lives are unfairly lost and hopeful futures are stolen. Also, a new, terrifying creature enters the horror pantheon by showing us that yes, the mushroom zombies are capable of being even scarier than we originally thought.

Believe it or not, the monstrous MVP of the episode is not the big boy Bloater who literally rips a man's head off — it's so much worse than that. It's a child clicker who crawls through a window, scares the hell out of Ellie, and later, saves her life by mauling a woman to death. This little girl, with her flowered head and adorable "Blue's Clues" shirt, is absolutely haunting. In the official companion podcast for "The Last of Us," series co-creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann admitted that this was entirely by design.

For reasons beyond explanation, the duo decided that a horde of runners, clickers, and even a bloater erupting from the ground was not enough. They wanted something so scary that it would be seared into our brains. That's how they came to hire nine-year-old contortionist, Skye Cowton.

Clickers: the gift that keeps on giving

First, Mazin and Druckmann requested the help of the Naughty Dog artist who designed the original clickers, Hyoung Nam. As the source of the OG horror, Nam had no trouble whipping up a new design for the adaptation: a child clicker, who would play a pivotal role in "Endure and Survive." He provided the illustration, solidifying the concept and leaving the creators with the unenviable task of finding the perfect actress.

Plenty of audition tapes were received, featuring lots of highly-skilled contortionist kids. But according to Mazin, "[Cowton] was the most terrifying." It was so creepy that they had no choice but to hire her. Once they married her natural skill with the magic of post-production, poor Kathleen (the Melanie Lynskey character who the clicker eventually feasts on) didn't stand a chance. Mazin said:

"She's this beautiful little girl, but [...] it's so creepy how she can move her body like that. And so, it was a combination of her performance, and then Wētā kind of creating, taking, drafting off of what Barrie Gower had created with prosthetics, and then making this little girl. And I insisted that our child clicker wear a 'Blue's Clues' shirt because I'm really sick, and I just loved the contrast of innocence and horror."

How exactly does one audition to be a child fungus zombie? "Please show me how you would bite into Kathleen's flesh?" Or maybe, "Slide into this car window but make sure to give me nightmares while doing it."

All hail the Clicker Child

Mazin was obviously onto something with that "Blue's Clues" detail. Creepy undead children are a staple of the zombie genre for a reason. I'm still haunted by the little white walker girl who kicks off the "Game of Thrones" pilot and frankly, remains much scarier than the guy at the head of the ice zombie army. Fungus girl is no different! She puts all the other infected to shame, because not only does she share their vicious intent, creepy fungal growths, and rabid movements — she's got the dexterity of a gymnast. The girl moves like a spider in her pursuit of Ellie, which no doubt traumatizes the poor preteen.

Cowton, a rhythmic gymnast who was nine at the time of filming, pulls off enough creepy contortions to rival M3GAN. If not for the whole 'mind and body being taken over by fungus' thing, I bet her character would get along great with the dancing robot villain! At the very least, they both understand that murder deserves an artistic flourish or two.