7 Stars Who Started Off In Scary Movies

21 May


[Edit’s Note: The bulk of this article originally appeared on ETonline]

With the spooky found-footage horror The Quiet Ones coming out recently and The Signal coming out in June, Bates Motel star Olivia Cooke is well on her way to becoming one of the horror genre’s hottest young stars.

However, she isn’t the first celeb to get her start in the world of spooks, monsters and serial killers. Some of Hollywood’s best-known A-listers got their big break in horror.

In honor of Olivia Cooke’s burgeoning career in scary movies, and because we just love the genre, here are  stars who started in horror…

#7. Jason Alexander in The Burningstars_in_horror_7_Jason_Alexander

The Burning is a standard slasher film that features an early-20s Jason Alexander in his first film performance playing a high school kid at a summer camp being hunted down by a murderous psycho.

The psycho in question is Cropsy, who never ended up taking the horror world by storm like his slasher films colleagues Jason or Freddy. However, his backstory is shockingly familiar. Cropsy was a drunken sadistic, child-hating camp caretaker who ends up getting burned over his entire body when some kids’ prank goes awry. After his release from the hospital he goes back to the camp to get some bloody revenge. If that sounds like a cross between Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday The 13th, you’re half right. Nightmare didn’t come out until 3 years later.

Despite never taking off and getting its own franchise, The Burning is still praised by fans of 80s horror and is a revival house favorite around Halloween. Also, as a side note, this was also Oscar-winner Holly Hunter’s debut film role.

#6. Ben Affleck in Buffy The Vampire Slayer


Well… “role” is such a malleable term. I mean, sure, he’s only in the thing for about 9 seconds, and he looks like a doofus the whole time, but it is still technically one of his very first roles ever. After this, he went on to star in Kevin Smith movies and now he’s Batman. So… that happened.

#5. Leonardo DiCaprio in Critters 3


What’s that? You’ve never heard of Critters 3. Well, you’re not alone and you’re not missing much. This direct-to-DVD second sequel to the actually enjoyable Critters is best known for two things: First, it almost starred Saw’s Carey Elwes. Second, it actually did star Leonardo DiCaprio in the role Elwes turned down.

Released in 1991, only 2 years before Leo’s breakthrough performance in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, its full title is Critters 3: You Are What They Eat, and its 0% Rotten Tomatoes score feels about right for a movie with that title.

If you don’t know anything about Critters, the first film in the series was a horror movie with a sense of humor that focused on a race of furry, psychotic aliens that descend from the sky and terrorize a small farming town. In Critters 3, the humor is totally gone and they move to the city because the producer probably figured it would be cheaper.  Critters 3 was shot at the same time as its amazingly-worse sequel Critters 4, which somehow starred Oscar-nominated actors Angela Bassett and Brad Dourif in early-but-not-debut roles.

#4. Tom Hanks in He Knows You’re Alone


This was Hanks’ first feature film credit, and in fact his first acting credit all together. He’s role in the film is relatively small, but it was his first foray into acting, and the first stone in the mighty tower that his enviable career has become.

The movie itself isn’t exactly a classic. You know you’re dealing with a particularly ignorable feature film when almost every lead has no IMDb profile picture.  I’ve seen the film, but IMDb perhaps summarizes it best with “A young bride-to-be is being stalked upon by a serial killer. She gets help from a former lover, but will they manage to escape?”

Hanks isn’t the lead, he’s just some secondary or even tertiary character. However, he was likeable even then, and this is evidenced by the fact that his character was supposed to die originally, but the filmmakers kept him alive. I mean, who would want to hurt Tom Hanks? Even those Somali pirates came to like the guy…

#3. Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween


Best known for her work in brilliant comedies and dramas like True Lies, A Fish Called Wanda and Freaky Friday, as well as about a million Activia commercials, Jamie Lee Curtis started her career as a scary movie scream queen. The Fog, Prom Night, Terror Train, and Road Games were among her earliest forays into horror, but it all began in 1978 with the release of the iconic Halloween.

In the film Curtis plays high school student Laurie Strode who becomes the target of slasher all-star Michael Myers (no relation to The Love Guru star.) Dressed in blue overalls and a white, terrifying mask, Michael Myers was an unrelenting, unstoppable freight train of horror, and the small, innocent, terrified Curtis was the perfect choice to play the victim who turns the tables.

Later, Halloween went on to spawn eight mostly-terrible sequels, (including Halloween 3, which had absolutely nothing to do with any of the other films in the series and didn’t even include Michael Myers) as well as a reboot, and a sequel to the reboot. Curtis appeared, in some capacity, in 5 of them. Also, for those who don’t know, Michael Myer’s iconic mask is actually a highly modified $2 William Shatner –Star Trek mask the production crew bought from a costume shop.

#2. Jennifer Aniston in Leprechaun


One year before she was cast as the beloved Rachel Green on Friends, Jennifer Aniston was playing a terrified Tory Reding in Leprechaun, who was being chased around a farm house by an evil, unstoppable Leprechaun (obviously), played by what had to be a very uncomfortable Warwick Davis.

The film is not exactly beloved, with a plethora of negative reviews by most major critics and a weak 27% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, it was a financial success. With a reported production budget of less than $1 million, it ended up taking in $8 million in total gross.

It’s mild success was enough to spawn five sequels, each more ridiculous than the last. By Leprechaun 4, the pint-sized villain found himself in space, and then, in the next film, he found himself in “the Hood.” Not a joke. The fifth film in the series is called Leprechaun: In The Hood, while the sixth had the somehow more racist title Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood.

Despite its critical shortcomings, the original, and its hilariously terrible fourth, fifth, and sixth installments, are cult favorites, and Jennifer Aniston’s adorably embarrassing debut it still held in high regard be fans of campy horror.

In new Leprechaun news, it was recently announced  that a prequel/reboot is set to hit theaters later this year.

#1. Johnny Depp in A Nightmare On Elm Street


While Leo and Jen found themselves, later in their careers, straddled with the stigma of being stuck with debuts in semi-terrible camp fests, Johnny Depp had the enviable luck of being part of the start of one of the most enduring horror franchises in Hollywood history.

If you don’t know the story of A Nightmare On Elm Street, your life is lacking severely. You need to stop everything you’re doing and watch it right this second. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

… still waiting… it’s a long movie.

Okay, good, you’re back. Wasn’t that amazing!? Good luck sleeping, sucker!

On the off-chance you didn’t actually go watch it, I’ll give you the gist:


The story is about a child murderer named Freddy Krueger who gets arrested but acquitted on a technicality. In a rage, the parents of the victims find him and set him on fire and he dies. He comes back as a vengeful demon-monster-thing that can kill children in their sleep, so he hunts down the surviving children of the people who killed him. And, one of those children happens to be an 18-year-old Johnny Depp.

As Depp tells it, he was actually not going to audition to be in the film. He was accompanying his friend, actor Jackie Earle Haley, who was set to audition, and the casting director just asked Depp to try out as well. Depp ending up getting cast and Haley didn’t. However, Haley ended up playing the role of Freddy Krueger in the 2010 remake.

The best scene in the film is Johnny Depp’s death. If you can’t click through to the video, let me explain it, but know that just hearing it in word’s doesn’t capture its majesty. Johnny falls asleep listening to music on his headphones, and then… wait for it… he gets sucked into and eaten by his bed and spit out in a literal geyser of blood and gore.

Depp may be revered for his work in thoughtful dramas and huge-budget action adventures, but before his three Oscar noms and hundreds of millions of dollars, he was just a young, wide-eyed actor who got eaten by an evil, possessed mattress.



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