This upcoming month, there are two interesting genre titles playing on FEARNET that you should take note of; 'Eden Lake' and 'Dahmer.' Why? Because they both represent early movies for actors that have proved to be outstanding performers in the arts long before they honed their craft. In the case of 'Eden Lake,' the film is fronted by Michael Fassbender, long before he played Magneto in the 'X-Men' films, stole the show in Quentin Tarantino's 'Inglourious Basterds' & played the android David from 'Prometheus' with such cold, calculated perfection. Also, you can catch 'Dahmer,' the bio pic from director David Jacobson, which stars Jeremy Renner in one of his first cinematic lead roles. Now he's an Avenger in the Marvel Universe! So it got me thinking about other examples of successful stars you may have totally forgotten were in genre films. With all due respect, I was recently back in New York on family business and uncovered my entire Fangoria magazine collection and one of my favorite columns they did over the years was the "Skeletons In The Closet" bit where they'd showcase a now famous actor in their pre-fame horror role. So this one is dedicated to you, Fangoria and the "Skeletons In The Closet!"
Henry Cavill – 'Hellraiser: Hellworld'
Long before he took to the skies as Superman in Zach Synder's 'Man Of Steel,' Henry Cavill was floating between various projects both on television and on the big and little screen. But did you know that he shares a screen credit with Pinhead? That's right, Cavill was in the direct to video sequel 'Hellraiser: Hellworld,' that forgettable entry that took place in a sleazy nightclub where people wore white masks and Pinhead is resurrected by the Internet. Who would've thought the douchey guy getting a hummer on a couch by a masked woman would one day go on to be the world's greatest superhero? But it's true! (Go to You Tube for the evidence.) But hey, Lance Henriksen is in this one too, so there's that! Also of note, both Cavill and Michael Fassbender also appeared in Joel Schumacker's underrated nazi zombie horror flick 'Blood Creek!'
Ben Affleck – 'Phantoms'
I've come to enjoy and respect the work of Ben Affleck both as an actor and in particular as a director, but there was a time I couldn't take him seriously because he always looked like he was about to burst out laughing in the middle of a scene. There's no better example of this than the miscast-across-the-board Dimension flick 'Phantoms' directed by 'Halloween 6: The Curse Of Michael Myers' helmer Joe Chappelle. Yeah, yeah. I know according to Kevin Smith, he's the "bomb" in this movie, but after revisiting it again recently for the first time in over a decade, the movie takes a huge nose dive from an otherwise effectively creepy opening sequence the moment that Affleck's Sheriff Bryce Hammond and his troops show up. Among his camp is 'Scream's Liev Schriber who also delivers one of the worst performances of his career. I ended up turning this one off with 40 minutes left to go on my last attempt to revisit it, because there comes a certain point where you just don't give a damn how a movie ends. This however marks the one and only time that Affleck appeared in a genre film. For a short period, he was on queue to direct a movie adaptation of Stephen King's 'The Stand,' but that's no longer on the slate for the future Batman. Here's hoping we'll see him in at least one more genre picture in his career now that he's truly come into his own as a performer.
Jeffrey Donovan – 'Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2'
It's nice to see after all the years the cult following that's slowly been amassed for the often misunderstood 'Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.' And unlike the first film's cast, almost everyone in the cast for the second film has gone on to have healthy & respectable cinematic careers. Kim Director who played the gothic Kim has appeared in several Spike Lee movies. Fan favorite Erica Leerhsen has made a mark in the genre in both 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' remake and 'Wrong Turn 2.' But it's lead Jeffrey Donovan who plays the Blair Witch merchandising entrepreneur Jeffrey in the sequel that came to have tremendous success in television with the show 'Burn Notice.' He gets to act alongside another genre vet, Bruce Campbell! 'Blair Witch 2' is a wonderful satirical look at the first movie and the media phenomenon that it instigated in the wake of its release. This one's worth a revisit and it just so happens to be playing on FEARNET this month too!
Evangeline Lilly – 'Freddy Vs Jason'
This one I didn't even know about until I began researching prospective actors for this article! But did you know that Evangeline Lilly of 'Lost' and 'The Hobbit' fame made a blink-and-you'll-miss her appearance in the monster mash-up hit 'Freddy Vs Jason?' Her super brief appearance as "school girl next to locker" is uncredited, but this makes for a fun bit of trivia that's most likely going to stump even the most knowledgeable of genre fans!
Seth Rogan – 'Donnie Darko'
'Donnie Darko' is a film I like to revisit during the Halloween season. After all, the story takes place over the course of the month of October and it perfectly encapsulates that gloomy, melancholy feeling of the Fall. So this past October, I was pleasantly surprised to be reminded that Seth Rogan played Ricky Danforth, one of the two bullies that harass Donnie on a regular basis. (The other bully Seth Devlin was played by Phantom Planet lead singer Alex Greenwald.) While there's plenty of amazing character actors filling out the cast of 'Donnie Darko,' Rogan's most quotable line "didn't your dad like... stab your mom?," would never lead you to believe that he'd one day go on to be the comedic superstar that he currently is. Fun to see him here in one of the most famous cult movies of all time.
Rainn Wilson – 'House Of 1000 Corpses'
This one's a fairly obvious choice, but one I think people often forget about. Before finding a mass audience with his hilarious portrayal of Dwight Schrute in NBC's 'The Office,' Rainn Wilson faced off against the likes of Sid Haig and Bill Moseley in Rob Zombie's controversial debut feature movie 'House Of 1000 Corpses.' He doesn't pull the sort of laughs you'd grow to expect from him, but instead plays it pretty straight, not taking the severity of his situation too seriously. That is until he's eventually turned into a grotesque half-human/half-fish work of art, compliments of the Firefly clan. Eww!
Scarlett Johansson – 'Eight Legged Freaks'
It's easy to forget just how long Scarlett Johansson has been in the business! After making an indelible impression on movie goers along side 'American Beauty's Thora Birch in the indie cult classic 'Ghost World,' she later dipped her toe in the genre by playing the daughter to Kari Wuhrer in 'Eight Legged Freaks!,' the loving homage to the atomic monster movies of the 50's! So if you want to see an 18 year old Scarlett Johansson getting webbed up Spider-Man style, fresh out of the shower, this is the movie for you! Also, I have to mention that the trailer to 'Eight Legged Freaks' has always been a personal favorite of mine in terms of just showcasing the fun of the whole absurd concept. I remember this playing at a Fangoria Weekend Of Horrors convention crowd to thunderous applause!
Mark Ruffalo – 'The Dentist'
"Are you a model?" Yep, Mark Ruffalo (who happens to be one of my all time favorite actors out there these days) uttered those sleazy words to a barely legal Sarah (Virginya Keehne) in an attempt to recruit her for a "photo shoot" in Brian Yuzna's insane horror flick 'The Dentist!' Long before his monstrous take on Bruce Banner/The Hulk in 'The Avengers,' Ruffalo was pounding the pavement as an indie actor for many, many years. Before 'The Dentist,' he appeared in both 'Mirror Mirror 2' and 'Mirror Mirror 3' in completely different roles, but more recently, his best performance in a genre related pic was as real life Inspector David Toschi in David Fincher's 'Zodiac!' Next time you spot 'The Dentist' on the FEARNET schedule, be sure to keep an eye out for him!
Michelle Monaghan – 'Constantine'
'Constantine' is a movie I remember next to nothing about, mainly because it bares little resemblance to the DC Vertigo comic book 'Hellblazer' that it's based upon, which at the time of it's release I loved. And while the flick boasts plenty of interesting character actors like Tilda Swinton and Peter Stormare and even the not-quite-famous-yet but not-famous-anymore Shai LaBeouf, the one person I completely forgot was in it is Michelle Monaghan; who is currently lighting up the small screen on the HBO's hit series 'True Detective.' She also stole Tom Cruise's heart in 'Mission: Impossible 3' and Robert Downey Jr.'s in 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.' While her role in 'Constantine' is rather small, she appears more prominently in the deleted scenes both on the DVD release and floating around You Tube.
Jack Black – 'I Still Know What You Did Last Summer'
Last but certainly not least, taking the award for one of the most annoying characters to ever grace the screen in a horror sequel is the wanna-be Jamaican stoner pot dealer Titus Telesco played by an uncredited Jack Black! It's one of those few cliché horror movie characters that from the moment you meet him, you pray he will suffer a terrible untimely demise at the hands of the killer, and thankfully that's exactly what happens! His only other flirtation with the genre was in an episode of 'The X-Files' and Peter Jackson's 'King Kong' if that counts. But sir Black, credited or not, we will not forget that you were in 'I Still Know What You Did Last Summer!'
There are tons of other examples out there. Who are some of your favorite celebrities that appeared in genre pictures that most people have forgotten about?