Halloween is always the best time
of year at retroCRUSH! In the past we've given you The 100 Coolest
Monsters, The 100 Scariest Movie Scenes of All Time (before Fangoria and Bravo,
to boot), and even the biggest collection of Weird Halloween Costumes on the
internet! So we're keeping the traditional alive with a special look at
the 100 Greatest Horror Movie Performances. Once again, we've teamed up
with the resident horror geniuses at
Trash Film Orgy to put our spooky heads
together and come up with a list that really honors the greatest performances in
horror movie history.
By Robert Berry
#100 Allan Trautman
as The Tar-Man
Return of the Living Dead
The Tar-Man from the 1985 zombie
Return of the Living Dead,
is easily one of the most eerie undead creations to ever appear on screen.
As he screams for brains, this tall skinny freakazoid looks like some crazy
robotic creation. But it's the incredibly skilled physical acting of Allan
Trautman that brings this head-chomping dude to life. Allan has a pretty
versatile career, appearing in many shows and film, as well as doing a lot of
puppeteer work in films like Babe, Cats and Dogs, and even several Muppet
productions. You can visit Allan's website
and see some cool behind the scenes photos as Tar-Man, as well (and pick up an
autographed photo, while you're there).
#99 Kane Hodder
in Friday the
13th VII, VIII, IX, and Jason X
Though several men have played the unstoppable machete wielding retard Jason
Voorhees in the Friday The 13th series, it's the portrayal by Kane Hodder that
fans of the series love the best. The only man to actually repeat the
role, Kane has appeared in 4 consecutive Jason films. Kane's ability to
perform physically demanding roles has resulted in acting jobs in over 30 films,
and stuntman work in over 60. Unfortunately, New Line chose someone else
to play the part in FREDDY vs. JASON, a move which prompted Hodder to say, "I
guess they wanted Jason to look like a skinny little bitch this time." (quote
from IMDB.com). Hodder always brought a special charm to the character
that was evident under the bloodiest of hockey masks. Here's hoping he'll
wear it yet again, someday.
CLICK HERE To see a QuickTime trailer for Jason
#98 Julian Beck
II: The Other Side
Poltergeist II: The Other Side is a sequel that isn't quite worthy of the
original, but has some great touches in it that still make it worthwhile.
Not only do you get Wil Sampson and some great monster design by HR Giger, but
Julian Beck is a scream as an evil preacher, Kane. As he walks down the
street and sings, "God is in his Holeeeeee temple!" it's enough to make your
skin crawl. Unfortunately Beck died of stomach cancer almost immediately
after filming was completed, so we never got to see his wonderful work again.
#97 Nastassja Kinski
Nastassja has always been a retroCRUSH favorite and her work in Cat People ranks
among her most fascinating. The movie a mostly forgettable, stylish and
slightly empty remake of the original 40s version, but Kinski's performance in
the film makes it watchable. Her feline features and catlike movements
make her a natural choice as Irina, a woman who transforms into a were-creature
during sex. The original draft of the film had her turn into a large rainbow
trout during sex, but the scenes of her flopping around the bed gasping for air
proved to be too disturbing to audiences. Kinski hasn't done too much
acting as of late, appearing only in a bizarre German porn film that cashed in
on her former glory titled "Scat People".
CLICK HERE to watch the trailer.
#96 George C. Scott
as John Russell
We covered the wheelchair scene in our
Movie Moments, but I'm happy to give George C. Scott recognition for
his fine performance in this movie, too. It's a very grounded, down to
earth performance that helps balance out the freaky happenings in this haunted
#95 Sam Neill
as John Trent
in In the
Mouth of Madness
What a treat to see Sam Neil do such a fine job in this movie. Though it'
not an HP Lovecraft story, In The Mouth of Madness is one of the more
Lovecraftian (you just have to use that word once before you die) films ever
made. Neil's character is institutionalized at the movie's beginning, and
he does an amazing job letting the tale unfold from there. A great scary
and twisted performance in an equally great and underrated film.
CLICK HERE to watch the trailer.
#94 Heather O'Rourke
as Carol Anne Freeling
Darin from Trash Film Orgy was very vocal about child stars NOT being included
in this list, but I fought long and hard for the inclusion of Heather. Her
portrayal of an innocent little girl taken to some hellish "other side" while
she screams for help through the TV showed a skill beyond her years. And
the physical stress and special effects hassles she had to endure are
commendable on their own. Sadly, Heather died after the sequel was made.
Her family keeps an interesting official memorial site in her memory that you
can look at if you
#93 Tom Savini
as Sex Machine
in From Dusk Til Dawn
It's a great small part, but Savini steals the show as Sex Machine, a rough and
tumble character hanging out in The Titty Twister bar, who has a special pistol
that pops out of his cod-piece, making him the ultimate American male, and
inspiration to us all. It's a shame that they never made a Sex Machine
movie, because his character was the best thing going on in the film. Not
bad for a makeup FX man.
#92 Nicole Kidman
as Grace Stewart
in The Others
I'll admit, I could watch a movie of Nicole Kidman
sleeping for 2 hours (and I have several different videos of this if you'd ever
like to come over and see them), but she's particularly hypnotic in this
haunting tale. I'll say little about the performance, so that I don't
spoil anything with this movie (that's unfairly compared to The Sixth Sense all
too often), but I think she does a fantastic job as a mother of two children who live
in a strange house where things aren't what they seem.
#91 Rory Calhoun
as Farmer Vincent
in Motel Hell
Rory Calhoun is as a sausage maker who uses mysterious
ingredients in his products. After all, his slogan isn't "It takes all
kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent's fritters!" for nothing. It's a
great role with a lot of comedy that the veteran actor Calhoun plays with
relish. And what other movie gives you the chance to have a climactic
chainsaw fight while wearing a pig's head? We're showing this film on
October 30th at The Crest Theater, as a part of the Halloween Trash Film Orgy.
#90 Gregory Peck
as Robert Thorn
in The Omen
Peck plays the adoptive father of The Anti-Christ with a
masterful and controlled performance that gives an integrity to the film that
makes it all the more believable. Peck reportedly was eager for work and
took the part when Roy Scheider, Charlton Heston, and William Holden turned the
role down. He took a reduced salary in exchange for 10% of the gross,
which ended up giving him over $6 million in 1976 money (which is equal to $53
CLICK HERE to watch the trailer.
#89 Dee Wallace
as Patricia Bradley
in The Frighteners
Christy from Trash Film Orgy told me she felt Dee deserved
inclusion here because, "I hate everything she's ever done, but I loved her in
The Frighteners so that says a lot." Indeed she does a great job as a
demented woman who is incredibly freaked out by ghosts, yet may have more going
on than we are lead to believe. It's a nice change of pace from the
disturbed yet resolute mother figures she had been typecast as playing in ET,
Cujo, and the like.
CLICK HERE to watch the trailer.
#88 Sherman Howard
as Bub The Zombie
in Day of the Dead
Though most of the zombies in Romero's "Dead" films are just
shambling, mindless flesh-eaters, Sherman Howard brings a soul to "Bub", the
reanimated corpse of a soldier, who is being taught to use a gun. The deep
expressions with his eyes shine through the Savini makeup and result in a
loveable zombie that has been given quite a cult following in the 20 years since
the film was released. Sherman's made
career outside of this role, as well, with may acting and voice-over
parts in TV, Film, and even videogames.
CLICK HERE to watch the trailer.
#87 Gunnar Hanson
in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Though a few people have played the chainsaw wielding retard,
it's Gunnar Hanson's performance in the 1974 original (damn, is it already 30
years ago?) that is the best by far. Long before Jason Voorhees, Michael
Myers, or Freddy Krueger, Leatherface became the prototype slasher with a
gimmick. And hats off to Gunnar for refusing to appear in the 2003 remake,
feeling it insulted the integrity of the original. You can watch a
gorgeous 17MB QuickTime trailer for the original film if you
CLICK HERE, and see Gunnar in all of his glory.
#86 Melinda Clarke
as Julie Harper
in The Return of the Living Dead III
The sexy pain-freak goth girl is taken to the extreme with
interesting departure in the third Return of the Living Dead film. Her
character, Julie, is killed in a motorcycle accident, and reanimated by her
boyfriend with the help of the famous zombie gas. Unfortunately, she wants
to eat brains, but finds that she can curb her appetite for brains by self
inflicted pain. Since there's no Linkin Park records to listen to yet, she
ends up cutting and mutilating herself to the point where she looks like Clive
Barker's custom Real Doll. She makes what should have been a throwaway
crap sequel into a very watchable, and tragic film. You can get a 7 day
free pass with Cinema Now and watch the entire film on your computer for free if
#85 Lance Henriksen
as Ed Harley
Lance has certainly been a great player in genre work, with
his roles in Aliens, and the wonderful Fox series Millennium, but his role as the
father in Pumpkinhead who seeks revenge against teens responsible for his son's
death by getting a witch to bring a horrible creature forth to let the killing
commence. It's a great conflicted performance which makes him both the
villain and the hero in the same film. You can watch the preview if you
#84 Angus Scrimm
as The Tall Man
Angus is wonderful as The Tall Man in the Phantasm series.
Blending humorous charm with a creepy menacing quality, he makes the series of
films a lot of fun to watch. Angus has a lot of neat trivia about him,
among the more quirky is that he's an accomplished writer of CD liner notes and
has even won a Grammy for his work. There's a bunch of great clips of
Scrimm in action you can view at Phantasm.com if you
#83 Roberts Blossom
as Ezra Cobb
While Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Psycho both use the
real-life crimes of Ed Gein as their influence, it's the story of Ezra Cobb in
1974's Deranged that tells the tale more accurately. Blossom gives a great
over the top performance in the necrophilia themed film who's poster slogan
read, "Pretty Sally Mae died an unnatural death, but the worst hasn't happened
to her yet!" There's a great double DVD that features Deranged and Motel
Hell on the same disc that's worth a look. Blossom also had some great
work in Christine, Escape from Alcatraz, and Home Alone.
in The Return of the Living Dead
James Karen does a fantastic jobs as the manager of a medical
supply warehouse that is soon filled with corpses, butterflies, and even
bisected puppies that are reanimated because of a top secret zombie-gas that
leaks from a barrel in the basement. His reactions to the madness are
hilarious as he and his younger employee try to first cover up the mistake, then
succumb to it. His lectures about Night of The Living Dead being a true
story, and how all skeletons come from India (and wondering how they all have
such perfect teeth) are priceless.
CLICK HERE to watch the trailer.
#81 Werner Krauss
as Dr. Caligari
in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
The German film from 1920 is not only one the earliest horror
films, but it's still one of the most visually striking movies ever made.
Werner Krauss as the title character is amazing, in this completely silent film,
yet conveying more emotion than many speaking actors ever could.
Unfortunately, this film is in the public domain which means there's a wide
variety of shitty versions of it on DVD to choose from, so I recommend the
beautifully restored and authoritative version from KINO that you can buy if you
#80 Jeffrey Allen
as Mayor Buckman
in Two Thousand Maniacs!
This is one of my all time favorite bit parts in a film!
Jeffrey Allen only appeared in a handful of Herschell Gordon Lewis films, and
wasn't in another movie after 1972, but his performance as the super friendly
but evil Mayor Buckman in Two Thousand Maniacs is one of the great guilty
pleasures of horror film. He's part Mr. Haney from Green Acres, part Boss
Hogg from The Dukes of Hazzard, and his own unique ingredients inbetween.
I can't help but smile when he joyously exclaims, "We're havin' us a BARBECUE!"
to read our article about 2000 Maniacs Director Herschell Gordon Lewis.
And while you're at it
to listen to the 2000 Maniacs theme song.
#79 Kevin Van Hentenryck
as Duane Bradley
in Basket Case
This was the role Kevin Van Hentenryck was born to play.
Well, it's about the only role he's ever played, so it'd better be. Duane
is a character that is burdened with carrying around a sentient lump of flesh
that just happens to be his Siamese brother that was surgically removed and
dumped into the trash at a young age. He brings a goofy and disturbed
innocence to the role that really works well, as a fish out of water from a
small town plopped into the seediest part of New York City.
CLICK HERE to see the trailer for Basket Case.
#78 Randy Quaid
as Nick Lamele
Sure, he's known for big goofy oaf characters,
but his great range in films like Midnight Express and Parents aren't as
appreciated by the masses as they should be.
Trash Film Orgy princess Christy Savage says
Parents is one of her favorite movies, and Quaid's a big reason why. His
performance as a typical 50s everyday dad that might just be a cannibal is a
kick, and is one of the best things he's ever done.
CLICK HERE to see the trailer.
#77 John Carradine
as Erle Kenton
in The Howling
A veteran of nearly 250 films from 1930-1988, John Carradine
has no shortage of wonderful roles, but it's one of this later parts, as an
aging Werewolf in The Howling that's one of my favorites. Carradine gets
to chew up the screen in a fun role with a who's who of cheezy horror vets like
Forrest Ackerman, Roger Corman, and other impressive legends like Slim Pickens
in this great flick.
To see the trailer.
#76 Ellen Burstyn
as Chris MacNeil
in The Exorcist
In a film that's chock full of the freakiest, scariest stuff
ever to put on screen, Ellen Burstyn's role as the Mom dealing with the
unthinkable gives The Exorcist the grounding it needs to be more believable.
She represents how you or I would act when confronted with such demonic madness.
She certainly put up with a lot of abuse during the filming, as she suffered a
severe back injury when "thrown" off the bed via a cable that pulled her sent
her crashing into a wall. Her cries of agony in the scene are genuine.
CLICK HERE to see the trailer.
#75 Jonathan Pryce
as Mr. Dark
in Something Wicked This Way Comes
20 years before Ray Bradbury was attacking Michael Moore for
ripping off the title of Fahrenheit 451 for his anti-Bush documentary, he was
busy ripping off Shakespeare for this wonderful film. Jonathan Pryce is
wickedly demonic and fun to watch as the villain, Mr. Dark, who torments a small
town with an evil circus that he drags in with him in a quest for souls.
He manages to be larger than life, scary, and charming all at once. It's
an amazingly dark film to bear the Disney name for the time, and a movie I
highly recommend seeking out if you haven't seen it yet.
#74 Donald Sutherland
as Matthew Bennell
in Invasion of The Body Snatchers '78
Sometimes a remake can be as good as the first, in the case
of this 1978 retelling of the 50s classic. This is thanks to a rock-solid
performance from Donald Sutherland who is fantastic throughout the film, but
it's his memorable final scene (which you can read more about by
HERE) that clinches the deal.
CLICK HERE to
see the trailer.
in Nosferatu (1979)
Klaus Kinski did a phenomenal job of
bringing Max Scheck's eerie and iconic work as the lead in the original 1922
silent masterpiece, into a full color flesh and blood character with depth and
dimension. He brings a tortured, lonely, and sad flavor to the character
had never been seen in previous incarnations.
Lon Chaney, Jr.
in Spider Baby
With the impossible shoes of his immortal
father to fill, Lon Chaney, Jr. was relegated to acting behind makeup roles with
little more to offer than pale replacement acting for parts Boris Karloff didn't
want any more. Even his starring role in Universal's The Wolf-Man was more
of a special effects showcase, than a true use for his talents. His
alcohol ravaged voice and body proved to be perfect, however, for the fatherly
Bruno in Jack Hill's '69 wacko-fest, Spider Baby. Chaney even gets to sing
title song of the film! Chaney agreed to
play the part for $2500, and stayed off the sauce for the entire production, and
it shows. To read more about the production of this film,
CLICK HERE and check out our interview with the film's director, Jack
in Ju-On and The Grudge
Next to that girl who made the Pepsi
commercials years ago, Yuya Ozeki may be the creepiest kid to have ever appeared
on film. But unlike the Pepsi girl, it was achieved through acting (CLICK
HERE to see what a charming kid he is in real life). With those deep
black eyes and that guttural groaning sound, I get chills even thinking about it
as I write this. Both Ju-On, and the American remake, The Grudge, are just
a mess of goofy scare effects, but Yuya's presence in both make it far more
eerie than the films deserved to be.
as Crazy Ralph
in Friday The 13th I and II
Walt passed away in March 2004, leaving
many poor teenagers free to wander into Camp Crystal Lake without the proper
drunken warning of "You're all DOOOMED!" Nobody did it better, and nobody
ever will. According to pitofhorror.com, "Walt
Gorney was so devoted to the role that he was frequently overheard talking to
himself on the set, presumably to remain in character."
as Godzilla in 12 Godzilla Films!
It may seem silly to give acting credit to a guy in a Godzilla
suit, but the fact Haruo Nakajima played the true King of Monsters in a dozen
films is an Olympian feat, to say the least. According to the Internet
Movie Database, Nakajima suffered a ton of Godzilla style injuries while filming
the role, including burns, electrical shock, and near-suffocation.
in The Ring
A part of few words, young Chase brought a
creepier than hell grace to the part of the spectral Samara that easily made her
one of the scarier movie monsters of all time. Aided by great makeup and
camera trickery, Chase's portrayal gives me chills just thinking about it now.
For a good scare, look at the picture on
THIS PAGE for about 10
as Dr. Sam Loomis
The late Pleasance has been in nearly 200 films,
but it's his role as the Captain Ahabesque Dr. Loomis, determined to hunt down
Michael Myers, that he's most fondly remembered for. According to the
IMDB, the role was originally turned down by both Christopher Lee and Peter
Cushing, which gave Pleasance a chance to bring his reserved yet manic style to
as Lady Sylvia Marsh
in Lair of the White Worm
Based on a little known Bram Stoker tale, 1988's
Lair of the White Worm is not particularly good, but Amanda Donohue's
performance as the creepy Lady Sylvia Marsh makes it quite watchable.
She's sexy as hell and owns every second the camera spends on her. Shame
on the folks behind the DVD release for shrinking her picture down on the cover
in favor of a giant head of Hugh Grant, instead. You can
CLICK HERE to watch the trailer.
as Simon Feck in River's Edge
and Frank Booth in Blue Velvet
and Lt. Enright in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
Though not a horror film in a supernatural sense,
1986's River's Edge is certainly a shocking and scary look at a bunch of
disconnected teens who do absolutely nothing when they find out a friend
murdered his girlfriend, and left her body by the river. The film is full
of star performances, particularly by Crispin Glover as the twitchy broken
inside Layne, but the movie is owned by Dennis Hopper in perhaps his craziest
role of all time. He plays Simon Feck, a whiskery old drug dealer who
lives with an inflatable woman. And not content to rest on his laurels,
Hopper turned out a more over the top but equally masterful performance that
same year in David Lynch's Blue Velvet. In Velvet, Hopper plays the
nitrous oxide huffing sadistic bastard Frank Booth who shouts out gems like,
"I'll FUCK ANYTHING THAT MOVES!" Add these performances to the
hilarious job he did as Lt. Enright in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and you
have a 1986 Triple Crown Victory in Horror film acting that few people have ever
pulled off. You can catch Dennis returning to horror when Land of the Dead
is released on DVD October 18th.
in The Hills Have Eyes
Like Rondo Hatton and Lindsay Lohan, Michael
Berryman has joined the ranks of actors with physical afflictions that have been
used to their advantage. Resembling a bald hybrid between human and
dinosaur, Berryman needs no special effects to bring the element of terror to
the roles he plays. But it's too easy to talk about the physical
appearance to Berryman and overlook the creepy misunderstood charm that shines
underneath. He can bite off a chicken head one minute, and make you feel
sorry for him the next. Berryman has found lots of work in the horror genre
since this 1977 showpiece, and his work in 2005's The Devil's Rejects was a
funny comedic departure from the creepy mutant roles he usually tackles.
With Berryman being a similar root surname to my own, I'm honored at the
possibility that we could be related. It would certainly explain my sister
a lot more.
as Dr. Phillip K. Decker
As the director of The Fly, Scanners, The Brood,
The Dead Zone, and Videodrome, David Cronenberg is clearly one of the greatest
horror film creators of all time. So to see him do such a masterful job
acting in Clive Barker's Nightbreed was an amazing feat. As the serial
killer therapist Dr. Decker (a year before Anthony Hopkins portrayed Hannibal
Lecter), Cronenberg shines as a deliciously evil and sleazy villain. It's too
bad he hasn't had more of a chance to show off his acting skills, but as long as
he keeps making wonderful movies, one can't complain.
as Rosemary Woodhouse
in Rosemary's Baby
I always thought this movie would be scarier if
it were reworked with Rose Marie from The Dick Van Dyke show and it was just a 2
hours of graphic birth footage, but beggars can't be choosers. Mia is
simply fantastic in this role, even though she had to cut her hair like a 10
year old boy and lose her Mrs. Sinatra status in the process. Mia plays
the tormented mother of the title character with a class and skill that rarely
come aboard on most horror films. Of course, having Roman Polanski direct
you doesn't hurt, either.
CLICK HERE to view the original trailer.
as Charles Manson
in Helter Skelter
To many kids of the 70s, Steve Railsback, who
played Charles Manson in the TV film Helter Skelter, was Charles Manson.
With only still photos and news stories to go by of the real thing, Railsback's
eerie portrayal of the cult leader was the only live action version people saw.
It's a fantastic performance indeed, and according to the IMDB, the film was the
highest rated film on TV until Roots was released. Of course, nothing can
top the real Manson appearing on a cheezy TV interview with Geraldo Rivera in
the 80s, in which he proclaimed to be god, and claimed to be able to have
Geraldo's head cut off and delivered in a basket.
as Carole Ledoux
As previously written in our 100 Greatest Movie
Scenes feature (#44) "Roman
Polanski's Repulsion is a great slow brooding look into madness and
hallucination. Catherine Deneuve plays a mute woman who is freaking out inside
of an apartment with visions and fantasies of rape and murder. With no dialogue
to speak of in these scenes, you're completely sucked into the atmosphere of
terror she's experiencing. There's a ton of creepy events, which you, along
with the main character, often wonder if they're really happening, or not..."
as Jacob Singer
in Jacob's Ladder
Robbins does an incredible job in this "head
games" classic as a traumatized Vietnam vet losing his grip on reality.
Next to The Shawshank Redemption, I think this is the best thing that Robbins
has ever done (well, maybe third if you count hooking up with Susan Sarandon).
I remember inbetween the theatrical and video release of this film, MaCaulay
Culkin became a huge star with Home Alone, and although he's in Jacob's Ladder
only sparingly, they reformatted the promotional posters so that Culkin was
featured as the prominent star, much to the dismay of Robbins' fans.
in The Tenant
Polanski, who both directed and starred in The
Tenant, did such an amazing job with the film that his close friend Stanley
Kubrick was reportedly moved to make his own classic horror film, The Shining.
Polanski plays a man who moves in to an apartment, who's previous tenant
committed suicide by jumping out of her window. Paranoia kicks in as he
slowly becomes convinced that his creepy neighbors are trying to get him to
accept the same fate. Polanski does an amazing job in a role as memorable
as the guy who gets to cut open Jack Nicholson's nose in Chinatown.
I'm not a big fan of the Hellraiser movies at
all, as I find them dull, stodgy, and a bit too snobby feeling to truly enjoy.
But even with my dislike of the series, I can't deny the incredible job Doug
Bradley does playing the lead baddie, Pinhead, in all eight of the Hellraiser
films. You can visit Doug's official website if you
as Benjamin Fisher
in The Legend of Hell House
Roddy McDowall was always fantastic in damn near
any film he's ever made. My favorite roll of them all was as Cornelius in
the Planet of the Apes films, but since I have to choose a horror film, I'll
pick The Haunting of Hell House. McDowall has plenty of creepy lines in
this film where a bunch of folks are forced to stay in a haunted house of evil.
Roddy had one of those great presences and voices that made it him perfectly
watchable, and probably the best actor named Roddy to ever appear in a film,
until Hell Comes To Frogtown was released.
as Eleanor Lance
in The Haunting (1963)
Julie Harris plays Eleanor Lance, who like many
characters portrayed on this list, is living through a spooky hell that may
either be real, or all in her head. If you've only seen the awful modern
remake, you owe it to yourself to check out the 1963 original. Based on
Shirley Jackson's novel, The Haunting is a great moody and scary piece,
complimented perfectly by Julie's excellent performance.
as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)
As one of the first great American films, not to
mention one of the greatest and most underappreciated horror films made, John
Barrymore's incredible performance as the title characters in this silent
classic is incredible. As the first film adaptation of the Robert Louis
Stevenson classic, Barrymore's portrayal was the first real life look at the
character and certainly set the tone for the legion of remakes that would follow
for the next 85 years. As a heart throb matinee idol of his day, he took
quite a chance playing this horrific part, and we're glad he did.
#53 Tony Todd
I don't know how this guy gets swarms of bees to
fly out of his mouth, but Tony Todd deserved an Oscar for his spooky ass
performance in this film! Armed with creepy Clive Barker dialogue and a
scary visage that'd freak out anyone in a dark alley, Tony's portrayal of
Candyman is incredibly frightening. What's really cool, though, is that he
makes everything that he bakes, satisfying and delicious.
as Jud Crandall
in Pet Sematary
Fred cut his horror teeth as Herman Munster in
the ever popular Munsters TV show, but his work in Pet Sematary, one of his last
films is great, making an otherwise "OK" film, a lot more special than it
deserved to be. With great lines like "Sometimes Dead is Better" and a
really unique story about a special graveyard that brings things that are buried
in it back to life, Gwynne shines.
as The Creature
in Frankenstein The True Story (1973)
Next to The Bride of Frankenstein, this is the
best version of Mary Shelly's novel that I've ever seen. It was a made for
TV movie back in 1973, and is a bit closer to the original story. Michael
Sarrazin's performance as "The Creature" is markedly different than any other
portrayal. In this take, Frankenstein's creation looks, moves, and talks
just like a regular educated man. He's even taken to social functions and
passed off as a normal guy. But he begins to rot and when the town turns
against him, and tries to burn him, things go south. I used to own a VHS
copy of this film, but its long out of print and not available on DVD, which is
a damn shame. The film also features Jane Seymour as the creature's would
be bride, only in this version, he rips her head off after she screams at his
sight. Though Karloff's take on the character is without equal, Serrazin's
emotional and tortured work does a great job of evoking terror and sympathy at
the same time.
#50 Rutger Hauer
as John Ryder
in The Hitcher (1986)
Rutger Hauer is one of the great underappreciated
character actors in the world, primarily due to fantastic work like he's given
in The Hitcher. Hauer plays John Ryder, a seriously twisted serial killer
who's ends up stalking C. Thomas Howell for making Soul Man. In the
process, he frames his murders on the poor guy, and even tricks him into almost
eating a finger in a bunch of french fries! This was nearly 20 years
before the Wendy's finger in the chili fiasco, so one could really say Hauer was
a Renaissance man with body parts in fast food.
#49 Ernest Thesiger
as Dr. Pretorius
in Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
To truly appreciate what a fantastic film Bride of Frankenstein is (in my
opinion one of the best movies ever made, horror or not), and the great
performance given by Ernest Thesiger, you simply have to treat yourself to
a triple feature of Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, and the docudrama Gods
and Monsters. Though not in the original Frankenstein pic, Thesiger was
brought on board to play Dr. Frankenstein's peer, Pretorious when the studio had
wanted Claude "The Invisible Man" Rains to play the role, but director James
Whale refused, bringing on Thesiger instead. He pulls off a mad scientist
madder than Dr. Frankenstein himself, wonderfully.
#48 Edwin Neal
as The Hitchhiker
in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Though Leatherface and his cannibalistic family
of crazies are certainly spooky as hell, it's Edwin Neal's portrayal of the
twisted hitchhiker that still stands out as the scariest thing in the movie to
me. Neal plays a greasy, dirty redneck who gets a ride from stupid
teenagers and goes on to extol the virtues of eating headcheese and humane
slaughterhouse practices, before he tries to light a fire in their van and even
cut its passengers. His pain is evident in the film, and the IMDB quotes
him as stating that making the film was more miserable than his service in
Vietnam and said that he might kill director Tobe Hooper
if he ever saw him again. IMDB also reports that Neal has one of the
largest collection of movies posters from 1900-present, and is the proud owner
of Leatherface's apron from the original film.
#47 William Marshall
The title suggested that Blacula would be a
cheezy throwaway flick in the exploitation film genre, but Marshall brought a
regal style and grace to the role that makes it one of the better 70s horror
films. Children of the 80s may remember Marshall as The King of Cartoons
in Pee-Wee's Playhouse. Sadly, Marshall passed away a couple years ago
because of complications from Alzheimer's disease.
#46 Tim Curry
in Stephen King's IT
As if clowns weren't already scary enough, Tim
Curry's insanely spooky portrayal of the evil clown Pennywise in Stephen King's
It mini-series was the stuff of legend. Curry is no stranger to over the
top roles, with the memorable Dr. Frank N. Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture
show and numerous others under his belt, but his work as Pennywise kept many
kids unlucky enough to have seen him in action afraid to ever go asleep again.
According to the DVD commentary track, he was so creepy that many members of the
crew actually avoided him on the set.
#45 Christopher Walken
as Johnny Smith
in The Dead Zone (1983)
Christopher Walken has such a creepy cool persona
about him that his day to day existence could qualify as a great horror movie
performance. I was torn between his work on The Prophecy and The Dead
Zone, but ultimately felt his work in David Cronenberg's film was the best.
Walken plays a man who awakens from a coma with the power to see the future of
people who he touches. With all the attention the Anthony Michael Hall TV
series is getting, its amazing that there isn't a nice deluxe version of the
original film on DVD. I'd kill for a version of this with a Cronenberg and
Walken commentary. I highly recommend watching The Best of Christopher
Walken on Saturday Night Live DVD for a fun parody of his Dead Zone part with a
skit called "Trivial Psychic" in which he only sees boring prophetic events like
"You're going to forget your coffee at the shop".
#44 Colin Clive
as Dr. Henry Frankenstein
in Frankenstein (1931)
Playing a mad scientist on film before anyone
else, Colin Clive had new trails to blaze as Dr. Frankenstein. Though the
character in Mary Shelly's novel was intelligent and troubled, it wasn't very
deeply developed, so Clive had a lot of room to make the character his own.
His maniacally excited delivery of the line "It's ALIVE!" is one of the more
memorable movie quotes of al time. Clive went on to repeat the role in
Bride of Frankenstein, 2 years later, and sadly passed away from pneumonia at
the tragically early age of 37.
#43 Ken Foree
in Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Hats off to
George Romero for casting strong black actors in both Night of the Living Dead
and Dawn in lead roles that didn't even necessarily have to be black characters. Foree is an amazingly cool and funny man and if you have a chance to see him at
one of the many horror conventions he makes appearances in, you're in for a
treat. Don't miss Foree as Charlie Altamont in The Devil's Rejects, which
will be released on DVD November 8th.
#42 Shelly Duvall
as Wendy Torrance
in The Shining (1980)
When compiling a list of the great scream queens,
you can't omit the fantastic performance given by Shelly Duvall in The Shining.
Nicholson's performance is so over the top and eats up the camera with every
second he's on screen, so Duvall had quite a challenge to stand up to him.
As amazing as Nicholson's axing through the door scene is with the immortal "Heeeerrrrrreee's
JOHNNY! line, without Duvall's perfectly broken and terrified screaming face on
the other side of the door to sell it, it just doesn't work. And let me
just take this space to give kudos to Duvall for perfectly bringing Olive Oyl to
life in the otherwise dismal Popeye movie.
#41 Joe Spinell
as Frank Zito
in Maniac (1980)
Sometimes we have to see movies with killers
played by slick Hollywood actors like Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves, but in Bill
Lustig's Maniac, we get Joe Spinell, who plays the creepy sleazy Frank Zito with
enough authority that you have no trouble believing he might be taking the
bloody scalps of women and bringing them home to put on mannequins in his
apartment. He even impressed now-executed clown serial killer John Wayne
Gacy enough to request that he play him in a biopic. Unfortunately Spinell
passed away in 1989 when he bled to death after accidentally cutting himself
during a heart attack.
#39 Sid Haig
as Captain Spaulding
in The Devil's Rejects (2005)
I wasn't too impressed with Rob Zombie's first
film, House of A Thousand Corpses, but the scenes featuring Sid Haig's
performance as a the psycho clown Captain Spaulding were simply fantastic.
Capitalizing on this strength and learning from his rookie filmmaking mistakes,
Zombie turned out an excellent follow up, The Devil's Rejects, and let Haig go
wild. Stealing every shot he's in, he's the most deliciously sleazy new
horror character in quite some time. Not to be missed are a scene in which
he takes a car from a mother with child and tells the poor frightened boy, "I'm
gonna come back here and check on you and your momma and if you ain't got a
reason why you hate clowns, I'm gonna kill your whole fucking family!" The
Devil's Rejects will be released on DVD November 8th.
#39 Dwight Frye
in Dracula (1931)
Every good evildoer needs a good Toady, and there
have been none better in the history of cinema than Dwight Fry's fly-eating
Renfield in Tod Browning's Dracula (though I do have a fondness for Tom Waits
incredible take on the character in Coppola's Dracula). The scene where
Renfield is discovered as the only survivor of a ship who's entire crew has been
#26 on our Scariest Movie Scenes of all time.
#38 Kurt Russell
as R.J. MacReady
in The Thing (1982)
Kurt Russell has always been a great Hollywood
treasure, with an expansive career that's given us some of the most fun films
ever made from his childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Next to his work
as Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, my favorite role of his as the grizzled RJ MacReady
in John Carpenter's The Thing (which is a rare remake of a horror film classic
that's arguably better than the original).
#37 Griffin Dunne
as Jack Goodman
in An American Werewolf in London (1981)
American Werewolf is a great classic horror
comedy that's was a great mix of gore and laughs that hadn't been scene since
Herschell Gordon Lewis' Two Thousand Maniacs back in the 60s. Fresh off
Animal House, Director John Landis decided to follow it up with this film.
And while the studio was pushing to have John Belushi an Dan Akroyd in the two
lead roles, Landis wisely pushed to have relative unknowns David Naughton (who
impressed Landis with his performance in a Dr. Pepper commercial) and Griffin
Dunne. Dunne's work as Jack, an early victim of the werewolf, who
reappears throughout the movie in progressing stages of decay, is brilliantly
#36 Christian Bale
as Patrick Bateman
in American Psycho (2000)
I'll be honest, when I first learned that Bret
Easton Ellis' tedious exploitation novel was going to be made into a film, I
figured it'd be a piece of shit, but by taking a dark comedy approach and using
the inspired casting of Christian Bale as the lead, the end result was a highly
entertaining (yet still incredibly sick) comedy. Bale is fantastic as the
fucking loony Bateman, who can extol the virtues of Huey Lewis music, before
chopping a hapless guest to bits. I'm convinced that the skill exhibited
by Bale in this multi-layered role convinced the folks at Warner Brothers that
he'd be an ideal choice to play Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins. Also, avoid
the unrelated sequel at all costs.
#35 Patty McCormack
as Rhoda Penmark in The Bad Seed (1956)
When I interviewed Alison Arngrim, who played
TV's Nellie Oleson on Little House on The Prairie, she confessed that The Bad
Seed was one of her favorite films, and would even have sleepover parties where
she and her guests would put their hair in pigtails and watch the film, in
tribute to Patty McCormack's evil little shit character. There's an
outstanding and reasonably priced ($15.98)
special edition DVD of the film that features a
Patty McCormack commentary track that I highly recommend. Rhoda is a kid
SOOO bad that God himself has to take her out at the end of the film. 50
years after its release, her performance is still amazing by today's standards.
#34 Jeffrey Combs
as Dr. Herbert West
in Re-Animator (1985)
Combs is wonderfully creepy as the geeky and
dangerous Herbert West in the 1985 independent gross out flick Re-Animator.
A great mixture of Dr. Frankenstein and Ichabod Crane, Combs is a delight to
watch throughout the film. Combs went on to play West in Bride of the
Re-Animator, and a third film Beyond Re-Animator. For great trashy fun,
they're all a great watch.
#33 Bruce Campbell
as Ash in The Evil Dead series
Perhaps no actor is more loved by his fans for a
single character than Bruce Campbell in Sam Raimi's Evil Dead series. With
his trademarked square jaw, and incomparable slapstick comedy talents, Bruce
pulls off scenes like beating himself up with his own hand, and chainsawing his
own arm off with a charm an appeal that's rare in Hollywood. At his
frequent fan appearances, Bruce is continually asked, "When is Evil Dead 4
Coming Out", which he admits there is no plans for, but its a testament to the
fans love of this character. Bruce is a great character actor that's used
sparingly in many big films, but true horror connoisseurs are eagerly awaiting
the day when once again he'll pick up his boomstick and play the wisecracking
badass Ash once again.
#32 Mercedes McCambridge
as the voice of Pazuzu
in The Exorcist (1973)
Though not actually credited in the original
release of The Exorcist, to preserve the integrity of Linda Blair's performance,
it's McCambridges' voice work as the demonic spirit possessing the young girl
that is one of the scariest things about the film. In a documentary about
the film, director William Friedkin mentioned how McCambridge would smoke and
drink and just go nuts with an unearthly guttural voice that one would hardly
know was the product of a such a seemingly sweet old lady. To imagine
one's grandmother blurting out lines like "Your mother sucks cocks in hell" is
#31 Fay Wray
as Ann Darrow
in King Kong (1933)
The grand dame of scream queens, Fay Wray's
shrieks of terror in King Kong paved the way for tormented women in horror films
for decades to follow. Taking a part refused by Jean Harlow, Wray's name
to this day is synonomous with the great film. Living to just 3 years shy
of her hundredth birthday, Wray remained a beloved icon of film to millions even
in her final days. When Oscar host Billy Crystal decided to surprise Wray
with recognition at the 1998 Academy Awards, the standing ovation was emotional
#30 Ruth Gordon
as Minnie Castevet
in Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Horror films are largely ignored by The Academy
Awards, but Gordon's performance in Rosemary's Baby was too good to pass up,
giving her a Best Support Actress trophy for 1968. She plays a seemingly
friendly elderly neighbor with twisted secrets. She'll certainly make you
think twice about eating a Chocolate Mouse ever again!
#29 Kevin McCarthy
as Dr. Miles J. Bannell
in Invasion of The Bodysnatchers
Nobody plays a paranoid "Nobody believes me,
everyone's going to kill us" freak as well as Kevin McCarthy did in this film.
As our #15 Scariest Movie Moment, we wrote of McCarthy's performance, "The
ending of the 1956 classic Invasion of The Body Snatchers is one of the most
dismal of any horror film. There's no happy conclusion or triumph over the evil
menace that's taking over the world, just despair. As Kevin McCarthy's
character, Dr. Miles J. Bannell, tries to get help, as everyone he knows has
been replaced with pod people, he runs to the street and warns passerbys in
their vehicles, only to find that they're all pod people, too. "They're already
here! You're NEXT! YOU'RE NEXT!!!" he screams, finally looking at the camera
before the film finally ends." You can view the original trailer if you
#28 Margot Kidder
as Danielle Breton and Dominique Blanchion
in Sisters (1973)
An underrated must see film, Brian DePalma's
Sisters is an incredible movie thanks to the awesome performance by Margot
Kidder as separated siamese twins, one of which is apparently batshit insane.
Though I'm sure I'll get emails wondering why Jeremy Irons isn't on this list
for his work as twins in Cronenberg's Dead Ringers, I really think Kidder's work
on this film really set the stage for his performance. Plus she looks a
lot sexier in a negligee.
#27 Danny Lloyd
as Danny Torrance
in The Shining
Next to Linda Blair, Danny Lloyd's work in
Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is the best child performance in a horror film of
all time. Even though he protected the boy from the film's grisly subject
matter, Kubrick was able to coax an acting job out of Lloyd that would make you
think he's staring into the gates of hell at times. That scene where Lloyd
is riding his Big Wheel in the carpeted halls of the overlook only to see those
two creepy sisters, capped with the most insane look of terror even seen on a
child that wasn't at Michael Jackson's house. After the film, Danny
decided he just didn't want to be an actor anymore, and never made another film.
#26 Peter Lorre
as Hans Beckert in M (1931)
Even though the film in German, Lorre's
performance as the child murder is incredible and one of the highest regarded
films in cinematic history. Unless someone can prove otherwise, I believe that
this role is the first serial killer character ever to appear in a movie, paving
the way for Norman Bates, Hannibal Lecter, and Norma Rae in the decades that
followed. Even more remarkable is that his starring role in M was his very
first film role. Lorre later appeared in small insignificant films like
The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. He's also a lot of fun in The Raven
(1963), if you ever get a chance to see it.
#25 Bette Davis
as Baby Jane Hudson
in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
The pairing of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford is a
gay movie fan's dream come true! It doesn't seem like a horror film at
first, but Stephen Spielberg called the film his favorite 'Haunted House' movie;
the Hudson mansion acting as the haunted house and Baby Jane Hudson as the
'ghost' who haunts it. The less you know about this film before you see
it, the better, so do yourself a favor and check it out! Over 40 years
later, it still holds up as a masterpiece. Though its about time a special
edition DVD of the film was released.
#24 James Woods
as Max Renn
in Videodrome (1983)
James Woods plays a scuzzy TV producer who
becomes obsessed with a strange television channel. Woods then becomes
trapped in a whirlpool of nightmarish images conceived by director David
Cronenberg including guns made out of human flesh, vagina-like VCR openings, and
Deborah Harry putting a cigarette out on her tit. Woods' performance is
the perfect ground to make this crazy shit swirl around. The film has a
lot of prophetic ideas about sex and violence on TV that make it worth a second
#23 Peter Cushing
as Dr. Frankenstein
in the Hammer Frankenstein Movies
When Hammer Films cast Peter Cushing in their
revival of the Frankenstein franchise, they wisely made Dr. Frankenstein who was
often more evil and twisted than any monster he created. While Colin Clive
just seemed like an enthusiastic scientist willing to play god, Cushing's
portrayal of the doctor was decidedly more devious. Though most kids of my
generation remember Cushing for playing the evil Grand Moff Tarkin in the first
Star Wars film, I believe his best work is in these British Frankenstein films.
#22 Jamie Lee Curtis
as Laurie Strode in Halloween (1978)
As important as Fay Wray was in creating the
"Scream Queen" role back in 1933, Jamie Lee Curtis deserves credits for giving
it a shot in the arm with her part in John Carpenter's Halloween. Her
gorgeous girl next door looks coupled with her intelligence made her a woman
that you really felt fear for and hoped she'd make it through all the insane
crap Michael Myers made her suffer. Following Halloween with The Fog, Prom
Night, and Terror Train, Curtis firmly established herself as the reigning
modern day scream queen. When I look at the seemingly endless stream of
modern pretty girls that can't act worth a shit in current films in the genre,
it makes you appreciate Curtis' work even more.
#21 Kevin Spacey
as John Doe in Seven
Just as the 80s was a time for the world's
greatest actors to show their stuff by playing disabled characters, the 90s was
a time for world class thespians to showcase their abilities in playing serial
killers. Kevin Spacey does a fantastic job playing a man who looks like a
harmless guy that could have just been sitting next to you on a train, but is
undertaking a brilliantly evil plan to kill seven different people in a gruesome
fashion representing each of the Deadly Sins. Spacey is such a
professional that in order to preserve the surprise of his appearance, he was
willing to let his name be omitted from all posters and advertising. We've
certainly seen movies that have shown what motivates serial killers before, but
there's never been as disturbing and horrific peek inside as the one provided by
Spacey in this film.
#20 Robert Shaw
in Jaws (1975)
Robert Shaw is a man's man, and his kickass
performance as the grizzled old sea dog leading a crew to hunt down a great
white shark in Jaws shows that. The scene where he describes the mass
shark attack that wiped out the crew of the USS Indianapolis is one of the most
chilling monologues ever captured on film. It ranks
on our scariest movie scenes list, as well. Sterling Hayden was the
original choice for the role of Quint, but legal troubles kept him away, and
lucky for us all, Shaw was brought in, instead.
#19 Max Schreck
as Count Orlok
in Nosferatu (1922)
In one of earliest monster films ever made, Max
Schreck shines as the thinly veiled Dracula character, Count Orlok in Nosferatu.
That a film from 1922 can remain so eerie to this day is a testament to both the
great direction, and Schreck's acting. Though he actually only appears in
less than 9 minutes of the entire film, every single second of his presence is
unforgettable. For a fun fictionalized "Making Of" take on this movie,
check out Shadow of The Vampires (2000) in which its implied that Scheck played
a vampire so brilliantly, because he actually was one.
#18 Elsa Lanchester
as The Bride
in The Bride of Frankenstein
While Fay Wray may get the honors for being the
first scream queen in monster movies, Elsa Lanchester's performance in Bride of
Frankenstein is without a doubt one of the best, and perhaps the first female
monster to appear in a film, as well. James Whale's follow up to
Frankenstein is, in many ways, superior, and it still holds up as one of the
best monster movies ever made. Playing a dual role of both Mary Shelly and
The Bride, Lanchester has an eerie beauty that's hard to stop looking at.
Her long career lasted well until 1980 with a diverse array of film appearances
including Mary Poppins, The Secret Garden, and That Darn Cat!
#17 Michael Rooker
in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
As did Peter Lorre more than 50 years earlier,
Michael Rooker made his film debut playing a serial killer. Mostly based
on the life of real life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas (who may or may not be
the most prolific one of them all), the film is a gritty and disgusting
excursion into the madness. You almost feel dirty after watching Rooker as
the sleazy and oddly charming Henry in some of the most horrific and violent
scenes captured on film. If you're interested, there's a great
20th Anniversary Edition set on DVD with more
extra features than you can shake a bloody stick at.
#16 Vincent Price
Vincent as Edward Lionheart
in Theater of Blood (1973)
Choosing your favorite Vincent Price role is a
bit like finding the best tasting Cheetoh. With a name that's synonymous
with the horror genre, where do you begin? I turned to expert Christy
Savage of Trash
Film Orgy fame, and she recommended his role in Theater of Blood.
The filmmakers let Price do his thing as an over the top evil actor, who gets
revenge on the critics who's reviews nearly drove him to suicide. If you
enjoyed him in the two Dr. Phibes films, you'll totally love him in Theater of
Blood. Just hearing Price talk is wonderful. On a related note, his
appearance in The Muppet Show Season One alone is worth the purchase price.
#15 Bela Lugosi
as Count Dracula
in Dracula (1931)
Though its debatable how good of an actor Bela
Lugosi actually was, you can't deny that is iconic performance as Dracula is
immortal. Its a role that was originally intended for Lon Chaney but
illness led to the casting of Lugosi. Unable to speak English, read his
lines phonetically, which provided an eerie and regal script delivery that is
still fun to watch to this day. Lugosi had already played Dracula on stage 5
years prior, and was instrumental in convincing the widow of Bram Stoker to
lower the price to license a film adaptation of the classic novel it was based
on. Lugosi was so desperate to play the role, that he agreed to play the
part for an even for the time insulting fee of $500 per week. A semi
fictionalized version of Lugosi's final days in Tim Burton's film Ed Wood is
worth a look.
#14 Sigourney Weaver
as Lt. Ripley
in Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986)
Second only to Pam Grier as a pioneer in the
female ass-kicker clan, Sigourney Weaver was such a powerful presence in Ridley
Scott's Alien that James Cameron was able to make her the focal point of the
sequel, as did every director that followed. Smart, sexy, and tough,
without losing one bit of femininity, Weaver is great as Lt. Ripley.
Weaver just celebrated her 56th birthday, and still looks fantastic. Check
retroCRUSH Gallery and see for yourself.
#13 Christopher Lee
The Hammer Dracula Series
Christopher Lee may be the hardest working and
most successful horror actor that's ever lived. With a career spanning
SEVEN DECADES and over 200 FILMS, and substantial roles in the recent Star Wars
and Lord of The Rings trilogies, he's as popular and important as ever. As
is the case with Vincent Price, its difficult to narrow a favorite role of his
down to just one, so we'll cheat and lump all of this Dracula performances into
one. It's a statement that might anger many horror film purists, but I
believe that Lee's Dracula is the best portrayal of that character of them all.
His blend of intelligence, evil, and dashing good looks make Dracula a far more
complex and scary character than Lugosi was able to pull off. For a very
strange bit of Lee trivia, see if you can find him on the cover of
Wings' Band On The Run!
#12 Robert Mitchum
as Harry Powell
in Night of The Hunter (1955)
Mitchum's played his share of psychos, but my
favorite is as the crazy preacher in Charles Laughton's masterpiece, Night of
The Hunter. He can evoke terror simply by singing a church hymn while
riding on horseback. According to a fact in the IMDB, Robert Mitchum was
very eager for the part of the preacher in this film. When he auditioned, a
moment that particularly impressed Charles Laughton was when Laughton described
the character he said, "The preacher is a diabolical shit." Mitchum promptly
answered, "Present!" It's the 50th Anniversary of this underappreciated
classic, and if you haven't seen it yet, you owe it to yourself to do so!
#11 Duane Jones
in Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Not only was this the first horror film to have a
black actor in the leading role, but it's a fine part that wasn't even ethnicity specific. The film's director, George Romero, insisted that Jones was
simply the best actor that tried out for the part. A natural leader, his
character helps the survivors fend of an attack by zombies while they're boarded
up in a house under siege. Jones second film, the little seen vampire
flick Ganja and Hess, is worth finding as well (which is sadly out of print, and
folks are trying to sell it for more than $50 on Amazon as a result).
#10 Linda Blair
as Regan MacNeil
in The Exorcist (1973)
While much is made of the fact that Linda Blair
wasn't deserving of her Oscar Nomination because Mercedes McCambridge actually
provided her voice during the possession scenes, you can't deny that the 13 year
old girl's performance wasn't incredible despite that. Suffering through
insane makeup appliances, freezing temperatures, and revolting special effects,
Blair should have been considered for a Medal of Honor as well as an Oscar.
Her role in the movie freaked so many people out that she received death threats
for months afterward.
#9 Kathy Bates
as Annie Wilkes
in Misery (1990)
Bates take on obsessive fan Annie Wilkes, who
torments her favorite writer after rescuing him from a car crash that is truly
one of cinema's best horror performances. Bates won an Oscar for the part,
and rightfully so. She takes the part from sweet and misguided to straight
out bat-shit insane wonderfully, and the scene she hobbles James Caan is
probably one of the most painful to watch scenes of all time, second only to her
nude hot tub scene in About Schmidt.
#8 Anthony Perkins
as Norman Bates
in Psycho (1960)
As Norman Bates, Perkins created one of the most
memorable movie maniacs of all time. A role that forever typecast the
fantastic actor, but a honor worthy one nonetheless. Troubled, handsome,
and crazy, Bates is a complex character that easily wins the confidence of
Marian Crane, leading to her shower "accident". Perkins later appeared in
3 Psycho sequels made in the 80s, to show these newcomers Freddy Krueger, Jason,
and Michael Myers a thing or two.
CLICK HERE for a really nice profile on
#7 Jeff Goldblum
as Seth Brundle
in The Fly (1986)
While the original version of The Fly was pretty
much a long set up to see a guy with a goofy fly mask on, David Cronenberg's
remake is a film of deep terror and tragedy, thanks to the masterful performance
by Jeff Goldblum. Many critics felt he was snubbed by The Academy when
overlooked for an Oscar, as Paul Newman got the pity "whoops we never gave you
an Oscar yet" award for The Color of Money that year, instead. Playing a
scientist who's experiments with teleportation inadvertently fuse his DNA with
that of a fly's, Goldblum does a great job as he slowly loses his humanity and
resorts to eating donuts after he throws up on them. To this day, its
still the best thing Goldblum's ever done.
#6 Jack Nicholson
as Jack Torrance in The Shining
Perhaps no role was custom made to showcase the
craziness of Jack Nicholson more than his lead part in The Shining. Sure,
it's over the top and Stephen King himself didn't agree with director Stanley
Kubrick's casting, feeling he already seemed crazy from the get go, but
imagining anyone else's face sticking through that axed apart door as Nicholson
snarled his immortal adlibbed line, "HERREEEEEEEEEE'S JOHNNY!" is sacrilege.
Just watch that crappy TV remake that King did and you'll see for yourself.
#5 Robert Englund
as Freddy Krueger
in The Nightmare on Elm Street series
It's easy to dismiss Freddy Krueger as a cartoony
character, but Robert Englund's collective body of work in the 8 (and counting)
Nightmare on Elm Street movies is worthy of immense praise. As the brutal
and wisecracking Krueger, Englund brings the perfect mix of horror and humor.
Sometimes his catch phrases are painful, but its all part of the charm. A
pop culture masterpiece, Freddy Krueger is a timeless villain that works well in
any decade. I sure hope we see him on screen again soon.
#4 Lon Chaney, Sr.
as The Phantom in The Phantom of The Opera
As we wrote about Chaney,
Lon Chaney is certainly one of the
great actors of the early film era, and a godfather of monster movies, but it's
his work as one of the greatest makeup magicians of all time that is greatest
legacy. The shocking scene where he removes his mask in Phantom of The Opera is
a scene of horrific beauty. Chaney not only did his own makeup, but he devised
many clever face changing effects like pulling his nostrils back with
hair-pins. To audiences not yet used to something called a monster movie,
Phantom of the Opera was a chilling masterpiece. Chaney's parents were
both deaf mutes, which may have helped him learn skills to be such an expressive
actor in silent movies. There isn't a place for black and white silent
films any longer, but one can't deny that in that genre, there's no equal to Lon
#3 Sissy Spacek
as Carrie White
in Carrie (1976)
Plenty of films both awful and great have been
made from Stephen King novels, but the first was Carrie, and its wonderful.
Thanks in part to a performance by an eager and impressive young Sissy Spacek,
who was wiling to spend two weeks covered in red karo syrup while filming the
infamous prom scene. Her portrayal of the eternally teased and harassed
girl with telekinetic powers is a thing of beauty. The image of her just
standing there, shocked, after a bucket full of pig blood is something we can
all relate to (well, maybe just me, I had a pretty fucked up Senior Prom).
#2 Anthony Hopkins
as Hannibal Lecter
in The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
After years of getting the shaft by The Academy
Awards, the world of horror films got a rare triple play when Silence of The
Lambs won Best Picture, Actress (Jodie Foster), and Actor. As Dr. Hannibal
Lecter, Anthony Hopkins took a part originally portrayed by Brian Cox (in
Michael Mann's Manhunter) and made him so entertainingly evil that you were
rooting for the bad guy all along. From the way he says "fava beans" to
the brutal prison escape scene, Hopkins is fantastic. Appearing in only 16
minutes of the film, its the least amount of screen time for any Best Actor
performance in Oscar history. His skill in the role make the otherwise "OK"
sequels Hannibal and Red Dragon very watchable, still.
#1 BORIS KARLOFF
as The Monster in Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein
Boris Karloff's work as Frankenstein's monster
had it all. He was scary to look at, acted under incredibly uncomfortable
makeup and costume conditions, and underneath it all, was able to act circles
around his peers without saying a word. He grudgingly agreed to speak some
limited dialogue in the film's sequel, but pulled it off without cheapening the
character one bit. Though the character existed in literary form (and even
a primitive film version in 1911), its Karloff that is the gold standard for all
Frankenstein's monsters. Karloff impressed horror film godfather Lon
Chaney, Sr. enough to show him the ropes, and his work in these Frankenstein
films really shows that work paid off. Trash Film Orgy co-creator Darin
Wood calls the scene where Karloff is with the blind man in Bride of
Frankenstein one of his all time favorites. There'll never be a better
Frankenstein's Monster, ever. As a special treat, here's a special gallery
of Boris Karloff for your viewing pleasure.
So who did we leave out? We'd love to hear
from you! Email me at
firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you