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A Bloody Good Time 01.19.12: The Best Horror Films (With The Biggest Stars)

January 19, 2012 | Posted by Joseph Lee

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With the politics out of the way, welcome to A Bloody Good Time.

Last week I looked at some of the worst films with the biggest stars. A lot of you responded, in fact more than my Best of 2011 column. I guess that means that people love to hate more than anything else. Let’s look at that feedback.

Heebies asked: No hate for the number 23, or does that not qualify as horror/was jim carrey already past his prime in your eyes?

Mostly I just forgot it. Which is weird, because I hate that movie. Probably would have had it at #4.

Dan Baltrusis said: I swear Joseph Lee, I think you and I were separated at birth. Another great list and I hardly ever disagree with anything you write about. Sometimes I even forget I watched a movie because of how bad it was and then you put “Godsend” on here and it brings back memories.

You have my most sincere apologies for that.

Liop said: Number 1 is of course Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, starring Renee Zellwegger and Matthew McConaughey.

Or it would be, if either one of them were famous when it came out.

Lori Laughlin(!) replied: Thanks for leaving Amityville 3D off the list. Agree with all, except choosing Godsend over Hide and Seek as the DeNiro debacle example. Great work otherwise.

I would never insult your name, good lady….wait. You’re not actually her, are you? Damn it people, stop preying on my emotions!

Playstation Nerd complained: You called the Playstation the “PSX” which is actually a Japanese console that is basically a PS2 mixed with a DVR. The PS1 is not the PSX. Also, you misspelled Battle Arena ToshiNden… Not that it matters it’s an absolute garbage game.

Ha, well I never claimed to be a video game affcianado. Although it would help to do a little research before making jokes. Nice catch.

Finally, we have Adam with: I hope next week is the Best Horror Films with big stars, would be kinda cool.

Can do!

Yes, this week we’re going to go to the opposite side of the spectrum and look at the best horror films with big name stars in them. It’s funny, because all of the usual suspects either have no-name casts (Night of the Living Dead), stars just starting out that would be much more famous later (Bruce Campbell in The Evil Dead) or older actors that aren’t quite as popular as they once were (Donald Pleasance in Halloween). So it was just a little bit harder to come up with this list than I thought it would be. Mainly it involves looking up the stars and trying to determine if they were famous enough actors to be called stars.

So let’s look at the best horror films with the biggest stars. Here’s some honorable mentions first. Well, actually just one.

The Thing: I would have had this on the list, but I’m a little unsure of Kurt Russell’s star power at the time this film came out. I know he had just finished Escape From New York, but this was also before some of his bigger hits. Plus the film itself kind of bombed at the box office. Either way, it’s one of my absolute favorites and probably would get in the top three.

#10: The Omen (1976)

It’s amazing how one’s opinion can change over time with certain films. Take The Omen for example. When I first saw it, I didn’t care for it. On subsequent re-watches I appreciated what it was trying to do but still felt it was, for lack of a better word, overrated. But it gets better with every viewing, so I’m loving it more and more each time I watch it. I think it has something to do with the film’s star, Gregory Peck.

Peck is one of the world’s greatest actors and he’s known for some pretty big films, including To Kill A Mockingbird. I may be cheating a little by including him, because Mockingbird was over a decade before The Omen, but he was still a big enough draw that they could build an entire film around him, which is what they do here. And he excels at it. Neither Peck or Lee Remick were quite in the twilight of their careers just yet, and proved it by delivering a powerful horror film. Lesser actors would have made the movie very forgettable.

#9: Predator (1987)

I really don’t think I need to explain the big star here. It’s Schwarzenegger. This was during his heyday, too. He had already made Commando and The Terminator. The Running Man was due out later that year. He was already a pretty big star, and he hadn’t even hit the levels of popularity he would reach in the 90s after Terminator 2. If you weren’t around for this time period, and only know Arnold from his politics/celebrity scandals, you really can’t comprehend just how huge this guy was.

Now Predator is not a strict horror film. Obviously it has elements of action and sci-fi, but at it’s core it is definitely a slasher. A group of people go into the woods and are picked off one by one by a mysterious assailant? Put a hockey mask on the monster and change Arnold’s gender and you have any of the Friday the 13th films. It’s perhaps not as scary as it could be, with Arnold throwing one-liners around, but it certainly is fun.

#8 The Others (2001)

One of the reasons I’m excited for The Woman in Black and the return of Hammer horror is that there just isn’t enough gothic horror films anymore. Everyone wants to set their film in modern times so they can get all the pop culture in there. The Others isn’t exactly set in that same time period but it has that same sort of feel. Although outside of a few details here and there, it really could be in any time because they almost never leave the house.

The Others of course has Nicole Kidman, who was definitely an A-lister at the time. Whether or not she can be now is debatable. But at that time she was just coming off of Moulin Rouge! and Eyes Wide Shut. Obviously she’s a well-rounded actress because those two movies, along with The Others are all completely different. This film is also very good, as it showcases the old adage that it’s not about what you see, but what you don’t see. Something many films today seem to lack.

#7: Frailty (2002)

I’m very happy that every time I mention Frailty, I get almost unanimous praise from the comments. Not because I like the attention (I do), but because it means this movie is as beloved as I think it needs to be. Frailty is one of those horror films that should have been a much bigger deal than it was. In spite of the fact it had Matthew McConaughey (who is still a box office draw in 2011, just see The Lincoln Lawyer) and Bill Paxton and barely broke even is a shame.

It had the star power, and it has the story. Paxton also directed this film and the story focused on a man who believe he’s being told by God to kill demons. The problem is that they look like regular people and his son doesn’t believe that what they’re doing is right. There’s not a single thing wrong with this movie. Even McConaughey, for all the criticism that gets thrown at his other films, is pretty great. If you are one of those who haven’t seen this, you’re really missing out.

#6: Silence of the Lambs (1991)

We’re getting to the point now we’re I’ve talked about a film so often I am running out of things to say. But when a film is good, it’s good, and Silence of the Lambs is great. Considering it’s the only horror film to sweep up all the major Academy Awards. So I don’t need to explain to you why this is a great movie and why it’s on this list. Instead I’ll just focus on who is in the movie and why you should care.

Jodie Foster has never been a huge box office draw to my knowledge, but she was popular at this time. Three years earlier she won the Academy Award for The Accused so she certainly had critical credibility. Anthony Hopkins is Anthony Hopkins. He wasn’t as famous before Lambs as he was after Lambs, but he still held some name value. It was enough, along with the acclaim and hype to get the movie $272 million dollars at the box office and make Hannibal Lecter a household name.

#5: The Shining (1980)

Um, duh. Jack Nicholson. Jack already had a string of commercial and critical successes, including One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Chinatown, and he wasn’t even at his most famous yet! There’s two other names that deserve mention. The first is Stephen King. While the film doesn’t resemble much of King’s novel, it does bear his name. At the time the film came out, King had already written Carrie, ‘Salem’s Lot, The Shining and The Stand. The movie versions of the first two had already been made.

Meanwhile Stanley Kubrick was both a critically and financially successful director. While A Clockwork Orange wasn’t the biggest hit (at the time), 2001: A Space Odyssey was, as was Spartacus way before. Kubrick’s one of the rare directors that’s almost as big a draw as the stars, like Scorsese or Spielberg today. About the movie? Well, it’s The Shining. Even if it’s not true to its source material, it’s a great film with a lot of scary moments.

#4: Aliens (1986)

Remember when Sigourney Weaver was a big deal? I still enjoy her work but there was a time when she was just as big a draw as anyone, and this came out during that time. She was coming off of Alien and more recently, Ghostbusters. She was one of the most popular actresses at that time. Meanwhile, all James Cameron had to his name was a little sci-fi film called The Terminator. Then there’s just the name value of Alien itself. The first film was obviously a huge success.

The film itself is a great combination of action and horror. The xenomorphs are both scary and cool-looking at the same time. The movie has quite a few suspenseful scenes and some of the best action moments in the genre. If Weaver wasn’t already a star by the time she said “Get away from her, you bitch”, then she certainly was after she said it. Aliens was an even bigger hit than its predecessor.

#3: The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

We’re stretching back quite far with this one, but it deserves its spot here. Boris Karloff was the biggest star in horror. Yes, he was even bigger than Lugosi, as great as he was. Karloff at this point had not only played the Frankenstein Monster already (the role that made him famous), but he was also Fu Manchu and The Mummy. In the world of horror, Karloff was it. He was a certified cash cow who was guaranteed to bring in money for Universal.

Karloff wasn’t just famous because he could wear a lot of makeup and portray a monster. If that were true, Kane Hodder would certainly be a bigger name today. Karloff could act, and he brought a personality and humanity to the creature that made the original Frankenstein, as well as this sequel, more than just a typical monster movie. Those old Universal films aren’t just classics because some people got together and decided it. They’re classics because they’re great films.

#2: Scream (1996)

Scream is an odd choice, for me, because at the time this film came out, most of it’s stars were popular for television, not film roles. Although Neve Campbell did have the successful The Craft, she was known more for her role in Party of Five. Likewise, Courteney Cox was on the very successful show Friends. No, the biggest star in this film is the one that’s killed off in the first fifteen minutes. Which is exactly why that’s a ballsy move.

Drew Barrymore was a child star who was known for E.T. and Firestarter among others. Of course she was also known, unfortunately, for her drug habits and suicide attempt which were well-covered by the media. When Poison Ivy came out, she was all grown up. While she was the biggest star in the film and a known name, she wasn’t exactly a proven box office draw either. Scream is a great movie, loaded with a name cast who delivered the goods. Wes Craven was already being called a “master of horror” at this point, and most knew him as the guy who made Freddy. It’s no surprise why this one got popular and became a huge success.

#1: Psycho (1960)

Another week, another Psycho film. This time, however, we have the good one. Psycho is a flawless film that still holds up today thanks to the direction, the acting and the story. There is not a single thing wrong with this film. It’s one of the best horror films of all time and eventually paved the way for the entire slasher subgenre. To sum it up, Psycho is Psycho. You know the movie already, and you know why it’s the top choice here.

The stars themselves include Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins, who were box office draws. Perkins in particular was known for his award-winning role in 1956’s Friendly Persuasion. Leigh had previously been in Touch of Evil. Then there was Alfred Hitchcock. Like the film itself, Hitchcock is synonymous with quality. At the time, he was also synonymous with money, as he had a string of hits in the States, including Rear Window, North by Northwest and Vertigo. Then he made Psycho, which is (arguably) his biggest hit.

That’s it for me. What’s your favorite horror film from this year? Let me know here on or my Twitter. See you next week!

Closing Logo courtesy of Kyle Morton (get your own custom artwork and commissions at his Etsy account)

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Joseph Lee

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