While many of our favorite horror performances enjoy their richly deserved iconic status, there are plenty of great turns out their that don’t get nearly enough credit. And it can happen for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the movie tanked or wasn’t well regarded. But sometimes the films were hugely successful (or found cult popularity later) and their roles were simply outshined by the other stars, or elements, in the picture.
In this list I take a look at 10 performances that I feel haven’t gotten their due. I wanted the focus to be on films that you’ve likely seen (and love), so there’s a chance you may already feel the same way about many of these performances. In some cases these are roles that already get a fair amount of credit in the horror community – but are ignored in popular discussion of the performer’s overall career.
Disagree? Did I miss someone? Make sure your voice is heard in the comments!
Hit the jump to check out the list!
Platinum Dunes’ Friday The 13th entry has a lot going for it. Sure the kills aren’t creative as they could be and I’m not sure what’s up with that tunnel system, but it gets almost everything else right. It’s brutal and has a high body count along with plenty of misbehaving teens and 20-somethings. And it also has one of the biggest d*cks of the franchise in Travis Van Winkle’s Trent. He’s insanely stand-offish, a huge prick to his girlfriend and generally hilarious. You can’t wait for him to die. Bonus? He’s get the best pillow talk in history. Fact. “You’ve got perfect nipple placement, baby!”
Second bonus? I’m pretty sure he plays the same character in Transformers. Both are named Trent and both are total *ssholes. And both are produced by Michael Bay, so there could be a connection.
For Drag Me To Hell it was kind of a tossup between David Paymer’s smarmy bank manager Mr. Jacks (“Did I get any in my mouth?”) and Reggie Lee’s conniving Stu. I wound up going with Stu. He’s the perfect workplace adversary to Alison Lohman’s Christine, sniveling enough to warrant our desire to see his comeuppance and effectively manipulative enough to pose a genuine threat to the corporate ascendence she so badly wants. His character actually has to hit quite a few beats and reversals (like in the diner scene near the end) and Lee pulls it all off with aplomb.
It’s a shame that Nancy Kyes (aka Nancy Loomis) has disappeared from the film world. She was an intelligent, strong and funny screen presence whose combined attributes made her sexy. And her Annie Brackett might just be my favorite character in John Carpenter’s Halloween. Where Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode was stridently virginal and demure and P.J. Soles’ Lynda was stridently sexual and rebellious – Annie struck a good middle ground between those two extremes.
Even though she has less screen time than Curtis (and possibly less screen time than Soles) she feels like a much more fleshed-out character than either. Not boring (Laurie) and not annoying (Lynda), Annie was the one I was the saddest to see go.
The Final Chapter is perhaps the best entry in the pre-zombie Jason canon (though I oddly prefer Part 2) and it certainly has one of the franchise’s most memorable characters in Crispin Glover’s Jimmy Mortimer. The cast is full of stand-outs (relative statement to the franchise, I wouldn’t stack it against Ocean’s 11 or anything) But I’d put Glover at the tippy top. He’s vulnerable, he can dance, and we feel genuinely bad for his demise. Plus, he’s got an arc! He goes from being worried that he’s a “dead f*ck” at the beginning of the film to proving he’s not!
Gremlins 2: The New Batch is one of the weirder major sequels to ever be released. It’s so completely different from the original it boggles my mind and it makes me nostalgic for a time when pulling something like this off was even remotely possible. Today’s Hollywood is so protective of its franchises that the creative life is often snuffed out of them the moment a sequel is greenlit. One of the great touches of Joe Dante’s gonzo sequel is John Glover’s mega-mogul Daniel Clamp, the Donald Trump inspired owner of the glitchy tower in which the film is set. The bold choice here? He’s a nice guy. Misguided, unaware and out of touch, but genuinely nice. His enthusiasm is admirable, as is his intention of preventing any further Gremlin-related harm.
Before “Modern Family”, Ty Burrell made a splash as Steve In Zak Snyder’s James Gunn scripted Dawn Of The Dead remake. It’s a much quicker moving film than the original, one that drops a good deal of the subtext, but it’s full of nice (if not perfunctory) character moments. It’s one of the better remakes out there because it does what remakes should do, take the central premise of the original and explore different territory. Burrell’s Steve is the comic relief of the piece, but he’s also one of the two primary audience access points (Sarah Polley’s Ana being the other). In a movie full of Ving Rhames’ typical bluster and bravado, it’s saying something that I remember Burrell’s snarky quips as vividly as I do. This is what they mean when they say, “stealing the show.”
Kurtwood Smith’s Clarence Boddicker is such an amazingly chilling (and entertaining) villain I don’t even know where to start. He’s completely aware of how evil and cruel he is. He also shows a surprising modicum of social/political savvy for someone who’s ostensibly just a thug. The way he toys with Peter Weller’s Alex Murphy before he and his gang commence his protracted murder (which, obviously they don’t technically complete) still makes me squirm. It’s such a strong performance that “That 70’s Show” was arguably able to exploit its menace for years to come.
First of all, if you haven’t seen Lamberto Bava’s Demons you need to fix that sh*t real quick. I know a lot of people write off foreign horror as “boring” or “arty”, but Bava’s film is a crass, fun, fast-paced and gory ride. It feels almost as American as a Golan Globus production. Bobby Rhodes’ Tony is a man whose proverbial pimp hand is strong as steel. While his misogynistic attitude might initially be offensive, it’s clear that the film is completely in on the joke and doesn’t endorse his sentiments. Demons has great fun toying with and exploiting this particular male archetype and I can’t imagine anyone but Rhodes pulling it off. Bonus? I saw him do a Q&A for this film at the New Beverly and he was as sweet as can be. The complete opposite of his character.
While the rightful stars of Attack The Block are John Boyega’s Moses and his gang of charismatic wayward thugs, I don’t think Jodie Whittaker’s performance as Sam gets nearly enough attention. She doesn’t have quite the hero’s journey of Moses, but she imbues her character with a grounded pragmatism (and frustration) that’s easy to relate to. She’s able to fend off “gorilla wolf motherf*ckers” and Pest’s advances with equal amounts of grace and intelligence.
Oh boy. Look, I love A Nightmare On Elm Street, okay? But let’s face facts, Heather Langenkamp’s performance as Nancy isn’t really all that great. I often find myself wishing that Tina didn’t get killed off so early. If she had been the main protagonist and had been forced to find the same internal strength that Nancy does, the film would have been all the better because of it. I can actually see Wyss pulling off the last act of the film with the convincing and steely reserve that Langenkamp lacks. NOES is a home-run either way, but killing Nancy and keeping Tina would have knocked it out of the park.