There's nothing quite like a good cameo - that moment in a movie where someone you totally didn't expect to be in the movie suddenly pops up on screen. We've seen a plethora of awesome ones over the years in the horror genre, from Hulk Hogan leaping out of the wrestling ring and into Gremlins 2 to Bill Murray's hilarious surprise appearance in Zombieland... to name just a couple of the more memorable ones.
But it's not actor cameos we're here to talk about today – it’s director cameos. More specifically, those moments where filmmakers moved from behind the camera to in front of the camera, and inserted themselves into their own horror flicks. Here are ten examples of this type of cameo!
Alfred Hitchcock - Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock is and will forever be the reigning king of the cameo – having cast himself in small blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em moments in a whopping 39 of his 52 films. So often did the master of suspense appear in his own movies that his cameos become a signature of his films – a proverbial Easter egg hunt for the fans. The above shot is from Hitchcock’s cameo in Psycho, where he is briefly seen standing outside of the realtor’s office Marion Crane works at, just as she’s walking into the building. Loitering in his own movie… that's the Hitch for ya!
Interesting to note: In tribute to Hitchcock’s penchant for cameos, the makers of Psycho 2 actually inserted his likeness into that film, which was made a few years after his death. See if you can spot him, next time you watch the movie!
George A. Romero – Dawn of the Dead
Much like Hitchcock, George Romero has played very small roles in the majority of his films, including Night of the Living Dead and The Crazies. He pulled double duty in Dawn of the Dead – first appearing as a TV reporter in the opening of the film (above) and then popping up for a split-second much later on, as a biker who is for whatever reason clad in a Santa suit. You’ll notice that Romero is wearing a plaid scarf in the above shot – given to him by his wife, Romero considered it his lucky scarf, and wore it on the set of all of his films!
John Carpenter – The Fog
After voicing Annie’s boyfriend in Halloween (heard only over the telephone), John Carpenter decided to try his hand at doing some real acting a couple years later in The Fog, playing Father Malone’s assistant Bennett. Carpenter found himself incredibly nervous to be acting alongside a real actor like Hal Holbrook, and he admits to feeling that he did a terrible job in his brief scene in the beginning of the film. Realizing he was a better director than actor, Carpenter’s cameo as Bennett ended up being the only role he ever gave himself where he actually delivered lines – though he did appear very briefly in subsequent movies.
Wes Craven – Scream
There’s perhaps no greater director cameo in the history of horror than Wes Craven’s in Scream, where he played the role of Fred the janitor. An obvious bit of self-referential humor, Fred was completely decked out in the outfit of Craven’s greatest creation, wearing Freddy’s fedora and iconic Christmas sweater. The director went on to appear in small uncredited roles in all of the Scream sequels – though his role as a coroner in the fourth one was cut from the finished film. Proof that not even the director of a movie is safe from finding himself on the cutting room floor!
Sam Raimi – The Evil Dead
Though mostly known as a director, Sam Raimi has actually acted in more films over the years than he has directed, showing off his chops in movies like Maniac Cop and Intruder. He can even briefly be seen in The Evil Dead, as one of the hitchhiking fishermen who waves at the gang as they pass by, on their way to the ill-fated cabin in the woods. His hitchhiking buddy was played by Rob Tapert, the film’s producer.
Tobe Hooper – Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Part 2
Tobe Hooper is not a guy who often puts himself in his own movies, or does any sort of acting at all – which makes his brief appearance in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Part 2 all the more special. Early in the film, Stretch pays a visit to Lefty at the hotel he’s staying at, where a bunch of drunk football fans are causing all kinds of ruckus in the halls. As she knocks on Lefty’s door, waiting for an answer, a cigar smoking man wearing an orange hat with horns on it walks directly past her and gets pelted with a handful of ice – that man is none other than Tobe Hooper, who throws his beer can at the drunks and quickly makes an exit off screen.
David Cronenberg – The Fly
As far as utterly disgusting scenes go, it doesn’t get much more revolting than Veronica’s nightmare sequence in David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly – wherein she gives birth to a giant larva. Quite fittingly, the doctor tasked with delivering the hideous creature in the scene is the same man who conceived the scene – David Cronenberg. Though his face is almost completely hidden by a surgical mask, you don’t need to see much more than his eyes or hear his voice to know it’s the master of body horror underneath those scrubs. Cronenberg of course blew this cameo completely out of the water several years later, getting killed off by Jason in Jason X!
John Landis – An American Werewolf in London
Here’s something you might not know about John Landis: Before becoming a filmmaker, he did work as an actor and even a stuntman – performing stunts for various spaghetti westerns, including The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. While making An American Werewolf in London, he decided to put his experience as a stunt performer to use, appearing briefly on screen towards the end of the film. In a scene that lasts only about a second, a man wearing a bandana is hit by a car and hurled through a window during the chaotic final sequence of the movie – that man is John Landis, serving as both extra and stuntman!
Eli Roth – Cabin Fever
Before proving himself to be a pretty good actor in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, Eli Roth appeared in his debut film as a stoner by the name of Justin (aka Grim). The role was originally going to be played by Michael Rosenbaum, who at the time was playing Lex Luthor on the TV series Smallville. Rosenbaum was unable to break away from the set of Smallville, so Roth inserted himself into the part. Though Justin doesn’t survive the film, Roth nevertheless reprised the role in 2001 Maniacs, a brief cameo that serves as a prequel story for the character. He mentions that he’s headed off into the woods, alluding to the fact that the events of 2001 Maniacs are taking place at the very same time as the events of Cabin Fever.
Rob Zombie – House of 1000 Corpses
Rob Zombie has only five acting credits on his resume – four of which are for voice work. The only time he ever actually appeared on screen in a movie was in House of 1000 Corpses - his debut as a director. The film kicks off with a clip from the fictional TV show ‘Dr. Wolfenstein’s Creature Feature Show,’ and Zombie’s original plan was to play the host of the show. Covered in oodles of monster makeup, in order to look like a werewolf, Zombie felt that he didn’t look much different in the makeup than he did normally, so he bowed out of the role. Instead, he decided to play Dr. Wolfenstein’s assistant, getting his Gallagher on and smashing a pumpkin for a scene that lasts all of a couple seconds. The idea was that Zombie wanted to hide in the movie, rather than actually appear in it, which is why he reduced his role.
Can you think of any other cameos from filmmakers in their own horror films, that you got a kick out of seeing? Comment below and let us know!