Before winning Academy Awards and starring in box office hits, many high-profile Hollywood actors and actresses got their start acting scared in low-budget horror flicks. Here are the eleven biggest stars who had spooky starts.
Another Halloween is upon us and a new batch of horror movies descends upon the world. While horror movies do good business (especially at this time of year), the stars of these films rarely see further success. Since the horror movies themselves rarely win major film awards, most of the performers get overlooked when attempting to advance to more award-contending drama, big-budget action and high-profile comedy roles. Fortunately, a few stars have moved onto bigger things, but the scares were never better than their first starring role. Here they are, presented chronologically!
1 – Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween (1978)
Who knows where the horror genre would be today without the original Halloween? In the decades before John Carpenter’s classic released, most scary movies focused on monsters or demonic beings with teenagers rarely represented. In Michael Meyers’ first murdering spree, this premiere slasher flick put young talent at the forefront and nobody was more prominent than Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode.
Halloween set the template that many other major slasher franchises followed; debaucherous youths were brutally punished while the more virtuous survived. There’s also centered around the constant pursuit by an unkillable monster who’s fueled by childhood trauma. Jamie Lee Curtis spent a few years during the late 70s and early 80s earning the moniker of “Scream Queen,” and it’s on full display during Halloween, as she faces constant torture while babysitting during Michael Meyers’ rampage.
2 – Kevin Bacon in Friday the 13th (1980)
If you’re playing “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” odds are you rarely find a link with his first major role. As Jake Burell (one of the stab-fodder camp counselors in the original Friday the 13th), Bacon indulges in every vice that a slasher victim can partake in; he’s flippant to authority figures, has sex, and imbibes plenty of drugs and alcohol.
With so many teenager pegged for death in the first Voorhees murdering spree, Bacon doesn’t get quite enough screen time to create a breakout character. Sure, he’s one of the first counselors introduced during the opening road trip, but once the film progresses to Camp Crystal Lake, Bacon doesn’t sizzle quite as much. However, it’s all forgiven once his particularly gruesome death occurs.
3 & 4 – Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Here are two actors that treated their first major role with MUCH different approaches. In what was advertised as Jason Voorhees’ final appearance (he would appear in 7 more movies), The Final Chapter pit the masked villain against a group of partiers and nearby innocents at Camp Crystal Lake. As one of interlopers, Crispin Glover seemed to be attempting some sort of meta prank with his character (simply named Jimmy).
He dances like a complete psychopath and seems like he’s having an out-of-body experience after having sex. He finally acts somewhat composed when searching for a post-coital bottle of wine, but he’s not much longer for the world from then on.
Then there’s Corey Feldman’s performance as Tommy Jarvis. After the rebellious teens are taken care of, Jason Voorhees turns his sights on young Tommy and his innocent older sister Trish. Over the course of a few scenes, Tommy shows true fear when his sister is in danger, moving onto a psychopathic streak in order to face off against Jason, then finally becoming desensitized to the violence when Voorhees is defeated. For an actor barely into his teenage years, this kind of range and characterization is amazing, especially for a horror film.
5 – Johnny Depp in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
With the modern-day Johnny Depp looking, sounding, and acting more like Captain Jack Sparrow with every passing day, it’s a bit of a shock to see a baby-faced 21-year-old Depp as the sweet unassuming boyfriend Glen Lantz in the original Nightmare on Elm Street. When Glen and his girlfriend Nancy Thompson become the target of a monster who kills people in their dreams, Depp’s character does his best to stay awake and keep Nancy from getting caught by Freddy Krueger. Unfortunately, he dozes off when Nancy’s phone goes out and is subject to one of the original film’s most iconic deaths.
Unlike most stars on this list who never looked back at their horror roots. Depp paid homage to the franchise that made him famous by doing a cameo in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare in 1991. With high-profile projects like 21 Jump Street and Edward Scissorhands on his resume at that point, Depp didn’t need to reprise his first role, but he did it anyway, and The Final Nightmare is all the more memorable for it – despite the fact that its three sequels proved it was as “final” and Final Fantasy.
The star of Friends and an Oscar-winning duo had their start in horror flicks we discuss on the next page!