From the classic era of Boris Karloff and Vincent Price to the later years of Jamie Lee Curtis and Bruce Campbell, the horror scene has occasionally seemed to treat its acting community like a closed-doors club. More than any other genre does horror have its own collection of consistent players, which actors best known for other areas of cinema have seldom been able to break into. This looked to be the case right up until 2015, however, when viewers began to see favorites like Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, Jason Bateman, Elijah Wood, Adam Scott, Toni Collette, and Elijah Wood all break into the horror scene. But then, there are many A-List actors we forgot were in horror movies over the years.
If you caught Wilson and Bell’s No Escape, Bateman’s The Gift , Scott, Wood’s Cooties, or trailers for Scott, Collette, and David Koechner’s upcoming Christmas-themed horror comedy Krampus, then perhaps you’ve already begun to rethink the exclusivity of Hollywood’s circle of horror movie actors and actresses. But, while 2015 offers the greatest density of these exceptions, we’ve seen actors of the non-horror variety sneak their way into some genuinely scary flicks before.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite screen players, known in no way as horror regulars, who have managed to breach that ghoulish realm at one point in their careers.
His stab at horror: Return to Horror High (1987), the sole feature directing credit of Outer Limits producer Bill Froehlich. That king-of-the-A-list Clooney once played a supporting part in a certified B movie is enough to make this worthy of watching.
Her stab at horror: The Gift (2000), not to be confused with the 2015 Bateman film of the same name. Blanchett plays a clairvoyant bent on finding a missing girl in this horror thriller directed by Sam Raimi and written by Billy Bob Thornton.
His stab at horror: Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998), the seventh installment of the franchise kicked off by John Carpenter with 1978’s Halloween. Gordon-Levitt starred in this venture in the first chapter of his career: pre-hiatus, pre-revival, pre-stardom. Back then, Halloween sequels were a good get for this longhaired newbie.
Her stab at horror: She’s got two, in fact! Joel Schumacher’s Flatliners (1990), about med students tempting the intoxicating notion of death, and Mary Reilly (1996), a romantic spin on the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde story. Roberts has stuck pretty rigidly to drama since.
His stab at horror: I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998), in which he appeared in an uncredited role. Actually, the schlocky film is only Black’s second most enjoyable pre-fame throwback to revisit.
Her stab at horror: The Astronaut’s Wife (1999), in which Theron stars opposite veteran of the macabre Johnny Depp. Unlike her company on this list, Theron has not shied away from the degree of gripping intensity that you’d often find in horrors and thrillers throughout the bulk of her career. In everything from Monster to Mad Max: Fury Road, Theron has employed chills as heavily as charms. But her ’99 sci-fi picture is the only installment in her filmography that might qualify as true horror.
His stab at horror: The Burning (1981), the kind of summer camp slasher flick not uncommon in its surrounding years. If you think you’ve seen George gettin’ upset, try watching him succumb to gruesome death during a lazy outing on the camp lake. Scarily enough, the movie was written by Harvey Weinstein.
Her stab at horror: Black Swan (2010). The Oscar-winning picture wages a lot of good karma for the horror genre, which many snub as a community of second-rate cinema and hokey acting. Darren Aronofsky’s masterpiece is as thoughtful as it scary, and Natalie Portman’s performance more than keeps up with the film’s jarring pace.
His stab at horror: Critters 3 (1991), which was his film debut. Yes, you might also count Shutter Island, but wouldn’t you rather remember Critters 3? Of course you would.
I'm not saying this list was an excuse to get you to check out all of these movies this Halloween season, but at the same time... what are you waiting for?
Images: Fox Searchlight Pictures