LOS ANGELES - Horror-meister R.L Stine likes to say you can't scare kids too much.
That's a position with which the star of the truly frightening - and very funny - "R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour: Don't Think About It" might respectfully disagree.
Sure, says Emily Osment, it was fun to play the part of a sinister Goth girl whose hatred for seemingly everyone causes her to accidentally unleash a hideous, people-eating monster on her kid brother on Halloween.
But beware, all seven-year-olds and younger; Osment warns "The Haunting Hour" (showing on the Cartoon Network on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. EDT, Oct. 28 at 8 p.m. EDT and Oct. 30 at 6 p.m. EDT) might be a little too intense for you. At least it would have been for her when she was that age.
"Kids these days I guess are braver and like being scared," says the 15-year-old younger sister of Haley Joel ("I see dead people!") Osment.
"But I don't know about me," she giggles. "When I was little, I would try to stay away from all things scary."
So much so that she was afraid to pick up any of Stine's books when she was a preteen, even though her brother had the whole collection.
"We've still got them in the garage," says Osment, giggling again. "I'll probably sit down and read them eventually."
Stine, the author of dozens of books with titles such as "Welcome to Dead House," "Monster Blood" and "Who Killed the Homecoming Queen?" has been called the Stephen King of children's literature.
Haley Joel Osment, of course, is also no slouch when it comes to scaring people. That line he delivered to Bruce Willis as a 10-year-old in "The Sixth Sense" is testament to that.
Until now, however, his kid sister has been more likely to elicit belly laughs than screams, particularly as Lilly, the ditzy, celebrity-obsessed best friend in the hit Disney channel show "Hannah Montana."
Donning a dark wig, black clothes and Goth makeup, Emily Osment is almost unrecognizable as Cassie, a teenager who is determined not to fit in at her new high school.
Soon, a mysterious stranger (Tobin Bell, the villain in any number of horror flicks) emerges to give her a book about The Evil Thing, a terrifying story that becomes true only if the person is foolish enough to read it aloud and then someone thinks about it.
Once Cassie does that, she has to save not only her brother but also her rival for the affections of the most popular boy in school. Their fate if she doesn't: being eaten alive by the slimy, toothy babies The Evil Thing hatches.
"It was good to have that difference from 'Hannah Montana,"' Osment says of the role. "It wasn't hard. It was fun. It was a new experience for me."
In fact it was so much fun, she says by phone before leaving her L.A. home for a movie set in Utah, that she'd like to have the chance to appear in another scary movie.
She's won the endorsement of Stine on that count.
"I thought she just did a great job," the author, a master at leavening his scary stories with subtle bursts of humour, offers by phone from his New York apartment. "It's a hard part to play and she was very sympathetic and pulled that off."
Cassie is, despite her dark, sullen exterior, a good and caring kid at heart, the kind of person the parent of a teenager might instantly recognize. She's also not that much different from Osment, the actress says. Well, except for the Goth clothes and makeup.
"No-o-o-o-o, that's not me," she says, laughing.
The actress, like Cassie, does like to read, however. The "Harry Potter" books are among her favourites. And, like Cassie, she's reserved and somewhat shy.
"I think I'm more like Cassie than I am like Lilly," Osment says of her "Hannah Montana" character. "Cassie's a little more relaxed and Lilly's kind of very excited and kind of a klutz and kind of ditzy sometimes. She's not very bright. And, hopefully, I like to think I'm a little above that."
Like Cassie, the actress also loves Halloween.
"I'm kind of a little too old for trick-or-treating," she says, sounding a bit down about that. "Last year I went with my friend and we got denied candy a few times. We were too old, I guess.
"But I love having Halloween parties and still dressing up and still having a great time," she says, brightening at the prospect of doing that again. "Halloween's a great time of year."