Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Skeletons in the Closet : Actors with roots in horror...

I'm amused by actors who got their start in horror. Several of which have decidedly not left the genre behind so easily. Case in point: Johnny Depp, Kevin Bacon, and Demi Moore. I have already raided the skeletons in their closets in previous posts: here, here and here.
But there are so many others who have perused the horror genre. And I thought a few of them deserved mentioning.
Sharon Stone - Her second movie was the Wes Craven directed Deadly Blessing (1981).

She went on to become quite famous after her crotch-flashing hit Basic Instinct ('92).

And she stayed within the realms of the horror genre with Sliver ('93), the remake of Diabolique ('96), Sphere, Cold Creek Manor ('03), and the poorly received Basic Instinct 2 ('06).

John Travolta - I think we all remember him in Carrie (1976).

He hasn't been in another so-called horror movie since, unless you want to count his early 80's hat-trick of crapola: Staying Alive, Two of a Kind, and Perfect - because they were horrific.

He has tipped his hat a bit while in Pulp Fiction ('94) and The Punisher ('04) though. He does a lot of action, and a fair amount of comedy... in particular Battlefield Earth. Now that was hilarious.

George Clooney - Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988)!!

You really have to have a lot of humility to admit you were in a movie with that title. But let's not forget Clooney's horror credit previous even to that one: Return to Horror High (1987).

[A lot of 'returning' so far, eh George?]. The Academy Award winning actor (and well respected in thespian circles these days) has really only done one horror flick since those two, the quick-witted vampire film From Dusk Till Dawn ('96)

We're not even going to mention Solaris ('02), okay?

Nicole Kidman - Despite acting in the Australian tv circles for many years, Kidman didn't have a breakthrough here in the states until Dead Calm in 1989.

A taut thriller, she didn't embarrass herself in the least and is one of the few stars that can say her first horror movie wasn't a complete joke. She has done several genre pics, including the thrillers Malice ('93) and To Die For ('95), as well as Practical Magic ('98) and the brilliant The Others ('01).

She veered over to sci-fi/fantasy with The Invasion ('07), The Stepford Wives ('04), Bewitched ('05), and The Golden Compass ('07)- none of which I can say were particularly good. She needs to stick with movies made from classic literature.
She also has the distinct honor of being in a film I hate above all others: Eyes Wide Shut.

Viggo Mortensen - Most all of Viggo's choices (in particular the last decade) have been wise. He is a fantastic actor, and was sincerely amazing as Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
But I'm not sure how he can justify Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990).

While we're on that note, I also can't forgive him for being Sam Loomis in the (simply awful) shot-by-shot remake of Psycho back in 1998. What was he thinking? I can deal with the remake of A Perfect Murder ('98), I even rather enjoyed it. And he's awesome in crime movies like A History of Violence ('05) and Eastern Promises('07). And though I haven't seen it yet, I'm going to have to assume he's equally as mesmerizing in The Road ('09).

Speaking of Texas. And chainsaw murderers...
Renee Zellweger was not alone in her poor choice of movie roles. You can add Matthew McConaughey to that as well. Both starred in Texas Chainsaw Masscare: The Next Generation (1994).

Zellweger has since veered completely away from horror and won several acting awards (including an Oscar) since. But this year she returns in Case 39, release date either delayed or unknown. Early screenings indicate that the movie leaves much to be desired in the way of real scares, as well as plot, so who knows when or if we'll see this one.

McConaughey, when not surfing or making babies, has made a complete career out of doing rom-coms with pretty much every actress in Hollywood. He was in Contact('97) and Reign of Fire ('02), both on the sci-fi side of horror and neither very good. Stick to the ladies, Matt.

Another Oscar winner who has horror roots is Jennifer Connelly. Because I recently had a Dario Argento-fest at my house, I was reminded of a very young (like, 14) Connelly who starred in Phenomena (1984).

What a hoot. Soon after, she was in Labyrinth ('86), and later things got dark - with her starring in Dark City ('98) and Dark Water ('05). And let's not forget the appallingly bad remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still ('08).

Gerard Butler - Two words (and no, it's not 'hot & sexy')... Dracula 2000.

Good lord.
While he does make the most comely count in pretty much all of history, the lack-luster bordering on ridiculous plot had me laughing in between panting. Frankly, I don't know whether to hate it or love it as a guilty pleasure. As we know, Butler has done alot of ab-bearing action films - in particular the graphic novel fest 300 ('07) - but he also starred in the aforementioned Reign of Fire, as well as one of the Lara Croft films ('03), Timeline ('03), Beowulf & Grendel ('05), and a numerous boatload of shit-kicking thrillers and rom-coms. Nothing he has done has really come back to the horror roots of Dracula, but he did play the title character in The Phantom of the Opera movie ('04) based on Andrew Lloyd Webber's wildly popular musical. So I guess he gets a wee morsel of cred for that.

Even Tom Hanks can't hide from his horror roots.
Playing a bit role in He Knows You're Alone (1980) gave the two-time Oscar winner his first movie role and no doubt his SAG card.

And while he has steered clear of horror for the most part, he was a lead in a Stephen King adaptation (The Green Mile, '99) and has done two movies based on the best-selling Dan Brown books including The DaVinci Code ('06) and Angels and Demons ('09).
And hey, The 'Burbs ('89) was good for a laugh, wasn't it?

Drew Barrymore has been acting forever, dammit. Her first film role was in the sci-fi thriller Altered States, but most genre fans remember her as Charlie McGee in Firestarter (1984), and of course in E.T. (1982).

She's also done Cat's Eye ('85), Waxwork II ('92), Poison Ivy ('92), and of course her cameo as Casey Becker in Scream ('96).

She also showed up in Donnie Darko ('01), but has since been focused on her own production company and several rom-coms.

Sequels seem to be the way to go. Naomi Watts had done a few movies prior to landing Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996)-

-but who can remember any of them once that gem came along? And she kept up the creepiness, adding Mulholland Drive ('01), The Ring ('02), and The Ring Two ('05) to her resume.

She also got her ass kicked in the American version of Funny Games ('08), one of the more disturbing films of the last year or so.

And last but certainly not least... Jamie Lee Curtis. You'd have to be born under a {really heavy} rock not to know she jump-started her career with the sublime genre favorite Halloween (1978). And you'd have to be a fairly lame horror fan not to know she followed it up with several more outings with Michael Myers (Halloween II, IV, H20, and Resurrection).
She is the original "Scream Queen", doing several horror flicks in a row (Halloween...and The Fog, Prom Night, Terror Train (all 1980), and Halloween II ('81), and is basically horror royalty. Best of all, she has never denounced the genre. She knows where she came from and how lucky she is.

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Matt-suzaka said...

I saw Return of the Killer Tomatoes back on USA's UP All Night and it was so terrible, but I can remember Clooney in it so perfectly, so I guess that tells you something about the mans charisma!

Also, Hanks was in an awesome made for TV movie titled Mazes and Monsters which is almost a horror movie. Kinda. Great post!

Wednesday'sChild said...

Ooo, I wanna play! Holly Hunter's first role was a bit part in The Burning. Fortunately for her (not that she cares I'm sure) The Burning is a pretty good genre film.

Anonymous said...

Nice list, but if you mention Travolta, you should definitely include "The Devil's rain".

Franco Macabro said...

I was gonna mention Travolta's appearance in The Devils Rain with Ernest Borgnine and William Shatner. He plays a devil worshipper without eyes!

Also, Meg Ryan had a small role in Amityville 3-D way back in 1983! She plays the Ouija Board on that one! It was her first big movie role!

the jaded viewer said...

Remember Jennifer Aniston was in leprechaun in the Hood or one of those leprechaun movies.

Christine Hadden said...

Looks like a sequel to this post is warranted... will start the process;)