This may be a hard thing for horror fans to understand, but not every movie is a horror movie. The actors and filmmakers from our favorite genre have an annoying tendency to branch out and make comedies, dramas and action movies, which may be awesome and may suck but aren’t the scary movies from which we know them best.
Which is why is may behoove us once in a while to take this “other” movies and reduce them to their common denominator. Behind practically every film is a whole bunch of horror movies that elevated the actors and filmmakers to stardom, or at least gave them a black mark on their permanent record that they’ve been striving for years to erase with higher quality product.
And since no film this month is bigger than THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2, that’s as good a place to start as any. Some of the younger actors in this highly lucrative young adult franchise are so new that they don’t even have any horror movies to their credit yet (we’re looking at you, Liam Hemsworth), but the majority of the filmmakers and actors have at least one scary movie on their resumé. Let’s take a look at the whole cast and figure out what their all-time horror highlight is!
As Katniss Everdeen, Jennifer Lawrence is one of the biggest movie stars in the world. But she has one of the lousiest horror pedigrees of the entire HUNGER GAMES cast. In 2012, the same year the first HUNGER GAMES came out, Lawrence also starred in the unremarkable thriller HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET, in which she ignores her mother’s wishes and dates a cute boy who may or may not be a killer. The movie is about as scary and conservative as a Lifetime Original Movie. Fortunately for Lawrence, this movie has already been almost completely forgotten just three years later.
Donald Sutherland’s exemplary career had already spanned decades before he was cast as the evil President Snow, and he’s got several classic horror movies under his belt to prove it. He was a scene-stealing psychic in the “Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper” thriller MURDER BY DECREE, and he headlined Philip Kaufman’s acclaimed (and still terrifying) 1978 remake of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. But his best horror film is probably Nicholas Roeg’s dreamy and creepy DON’T LOOK NOW, about a grieving husband and wife who think the ghost of their dead daughter is haunting the Venice canals.
Accomplished character actor Stanley Tucci has over 100 performances on his resumé, but not as many horror movies as you might expect. The man who would be Caesar Flickerman has a key role in George A. Romero’s memorable killer capuchin movie MONKEY SHINES, but he earned his only Oscar nomination for a terrifying turn in Peter Jackson’s THE LOVELY BONES, as a serial killer with an eye for little girls.
Wes Bentley never quite became a superstar after 1999’s Oscar-winning AMERICAN BEAUTY, but it wasn’t for lack of trying, even in the horror genre. Besides playing Seneca Crane in THE HUNGER GAMES, Bentley played the villainous Blackheart in the supernatural superhero disappointment GHOST RIDER. He’s also appeared in multiple seasons of AMERICAN HORROR STORY, but he probably turned in his scariest performance in the little seen claustrophobic thriller P2, in which he terrorizes Rachel Nichols in a parking garage over the Christmas holiday.
Before she was the A-list director of PITCH PERFECT 2 and the breakout comic relief star of THE HUNGER GAMES, Elizabeth Banks co-starred in two horror movies that failed to make a dent in the box office. THE UNINVITED was a forgettable remake of the Korean classic A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, but SLITHER earned itself a respectable cult following thanks to over the top gore effects and an excellent sense of humor, courtesy of future GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY writer/director James Gunn.
Josh Hutcherson has taken a couple of stabs at the horror genre when he wasn’t playing the rock throwing hunk from THE HUNGER GAMES. The less said about CIRQUE DU FREAK the better, but the time traveling, genre bending horror comedy DETENTION has earned itself a die hard audience of hardcore fans since its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it release in 2011.
Woody Harrelson’s scariest performance was as the ultraviolent mass murderer Mickey Knox in NATURAL BORN KILLERS, but it’s a matter of some debate whether Oliver Stone’s 1994 media satire qualifies as a real “horror movie” or not. Fortunately, Harrelson also starred in one of the best horror comedies in recent memory, ZOMBIELAND, in which he plays a Twinkie-obsessed survivor of the undead apocalypse.
HUNGER GAMES co-host Claudius Templesmith may seem like a funny guy, but he’s played by Toby Jones, whose genre chops are nothing to be trifled with. In addition to his tearjerking role as Dobby in the HARRY POTTER movies, he also co-starred in the nihilistic Stephen King adaptation THE MIST. But his best horror role is undeniably BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO, a psychologically complex tale in which Jones plays a meek sound designer who slowly loses his mind while working on a psychedelic giallo film.
If you thought Isabelle Fuhrman was scary as the psycho HUNGER GAMES contestant Clove, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Check her out in the wicked 2009 thriller ORPHAN, in which she plays a young girl who develops a sick obsession with her adopted father, plays with guns and turns on her well-intentioned adopted mom. It’s one of the most irresponsible horror movies in recent memory.
The first HUNGER GAMES director, Gary Ross, doesn’t have any horror movies to his credit. But Francis Lawrence, who directed the last three films in the hit series, made a name for himself in the scary movie genre. His biggest hit was the (loose) adaptation of Richard Matheson’s apocalyptic vampire classic I AM LEGEND, but his best film is probably CONSTANTINE, a stylish take on the Vertigo Comics antihero that muddles the storyline a bit but gets the “up yours” attitude just about right.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
The late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman only dipped into the horror genre a couple of times, once in the well-cast (but otherwise mediocre) Hannibal Lecter movie RED DRAGON, and once in Bob Balaban’s quirky zombie comedy MY BOYFRIEND’S BACK. In the latter film, Hoffman plays an anti-undead racist who accidentally shoves an ax in his own head. He had much better roles since then, but this oafish supporting turn is still hilarious.
Acclaimed actor Jeffrey Wright doesn’t get enough screen time in THE HUNGER GAMES, but if you ask us anyway, it’s still a better role than he got in most of his horror movies. LADY IN THE WATER, THE INVASION and EYE SEE YOU are best left forgotten altogether, but Wright did have one great role in one great horror movie. In Jim Jarmusch’s romantic vampire drama ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE he plays the doctor who supplies Tom Hiddleston with fresh blood, and he does it with a spring in his step.
Amanda Plummer has an impressive horror resumé, with memorable roles in FREEWAY, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, NEEDFUL THINGS and the TV series HANNIBAL. But our favorite horror performance from this wonderful character actor was in the 1995 biblical horror thriller THE PROPHECY, in which she plays a corpse brought back to life by renegade angel Christopher Walken, and who longs to once again be dead.
Like many of the younger stars of THE HUNGER GAMES, Sam Claflin doesn’t have many films to his credit yet, at all. His sole horror offering (unless you count SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, which you shouldn’t) is the 2014 possession thriller THE QUIET ONES, which was critically panned but unfairly so. It may not be a spectacular film but it’s a moody supernatural thriller that cleverly changes genres in the third act, and ends with an over the top bang.
Johanna Mason is one of the great badasses of the HUNGER GAMES series, and Jena Malone is perfectly cast. The actress has only starred in a couple of horror movies, and although DONNIE DARKO is the best it’s arguably more of a sci-fi movie than a scary one. Fortunately THE RUINS is scary enough on its own, telling the story of a group of idiot tourists who get stuck on a Central American pyramid and do more damage to themselves than any of their aggressors.
Danny Strong is an acclaimed screenwriter, working on not only THE HUNGER GAMES movies but the award-winning TV movies RECOUNT and GAME CHANGE, and the hit series EMPIRE. But before he became a writer he was a recurring co-star on the cult TV show BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, where he earned our sympathy as the nerdy wallflower Jonathan before turning to the dark side and becoming one of the “Big Bads” in the series’ later seasons.
She is one of the finest actresses of her generation, but the horror genre hasn’t been particularly kind to Oscar winner Julianne Moore. The took on the thankless task of replacing Jodie Foster in the SILENCE OF THE LAMBS sequel HANNIBAL, played the mentally unbalanced mother in the forgettable CARRIE remake, and THE FORGOTTEN is – true to its name – more or less forgotten now. Gus Van Sant’s experimental PSYCHO remake may be her most fascinating horror movie to date, even though it too is arguably a huge misfire.
She may have turned heads in THE HUNGER GAMES, GAME OF THRONES and ELEMENTARY, but Natalie Dormer hasn’t appeared in any horror movies… yet. That’s set to change next year, when she’s set to star in the supernatural spookfest THE FOREST and the zombie thriller PATIENT ZERO, which will also reunite her with her HUNGER GAME co-star Stanley Tucci.
Everyone loves Elden Henson in THE HUNGER GAMES and DAREDEVIL, but not enough people saw him in the underrated horror comedy IDLE HANDS back in 1999. The film stars Devon Sawa as a slacker whose hand becomes infected by a homicidal spirit, and who kills his best friends, played by Henson and Seth Green. Fortunately, they both come back from the dead to hang out with him again. Henson spends a lot of the film carrying his severed head in his hands, a joke that he manages to keep funny throughout the whole running time.
There’s an unwritten law that says that Michelle Forbes has to guest star in every television series. Before she co-starred in MOCKINGJAY – PART 2, Forbes also appeared in hit genre shows like BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, LOST, THE KILLING and STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, to name just a few. But her scariest performance came in HBO’s TRUE BLOOD, where she turned an entire town into an orgiastic mob of worshippers who would do anything for their spooky queen. We can’t say we blame them.