13-Year-Old McKinley Middle Student Creates Horror Movie – Unfiltered with Kiran


A family vacation in the mountains of Tennessee inspired McKinley Middle Magnet student Zion Johnson to create a work of art that very few kids his age are capable of.

The 13-year-old, with the help of his aunt, wrote, directed and edited a short comedy horror called “Tales of the Cabin” which included his family in the cast.

“We got there late at night and we were doing a lot of tight turns and everyone was scared,” Johnson said. “We all said it would be cool to do a horror movie and that’s where the idea came from.”

Johnson learned cinematography, among other art forms, at McKinley’s School of Visual and Performing Arts, but making movies isn’t what he’s most passionate about.

“My passion is musical theatre,” the teenager said. “I am a singer and an actor.”

Johnson auditioned and was accepted into the school’s talented theater and music program as a freshman. He said he took the skills he learned from Shane Stewart, McKinley’s talented acting teacher, and applied them to the film. He said 10 people from his class were selected to participate in the program.

Johnson starred in several musicals and plays throughout his young career, including Wiz Jr., The Lion King Jr., and Aladdin.

The film is nearly eight minutes long and is about a mysterious killer who terrorizes everyone in the cabin in different ways.

The movie ends without the audience knowing who the killer is, leaving the possibility in the air of Part 2 going forward.


“Everything was fine,” Johnson said of the film’s reception after it was uploaded to YouTube on June 10, 2022. “People are asking for Part 2. They want to know who the killer is.”

With a family cast to assess, Johnson wouldn’t divulge who he thinks does the best acting job.

“Everyone held on,” he said.

The teenager has been part of the talented arts community since a young age, according to his mother and father, Tyquencia and Reginald Johnson.

“I think Zion was in a diaper and playing,” Reginald said. “I think it’s a gift from God. McKinley helped him and gave him a platform. His mother and grandfather are artists. It’s in his blood. I don’t think he understands the magnitude of what he is doing.

Johnson said if he films part 2, it will be during the next family vacation.