With the latest A24 slasher Bodies Bodies Bodies set to release soon, fans are talking about Pete Davidson’s role in the meta thriller. Known for his comedic work, Davidson’s fans are curious to see the Saturday Night Live alumnus try his hand at a horror – thriller, even one that appears to be darkly humorous.
But Davidson is far from the first comedic performer to star in a horror flick. Some comedians have helped deliver the scares either by playing against type and playing dark characters or by embracing their comic talents and helping to provide some necessary relief in otherwise tense films.
Kevin James – Becky (2020)
By the time Kevin James starred as the villain of this home-invasion thriller, he had been known for his work on the sitcom The King of Queens and for his frequent collaborations with fellow comedian Adam Sandler in big studio comedies like Pixels and I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry.
That’s why it was so shocking for fans to see him play Dominik, a sadistic Neo-Nazi that escapes captivity and preys upon the titular high-schooler. The polar opposite of James’ usual adorably-hapless everyman character, Dominik showed his range to a dramatic extent that his fans probably could never have expected.
Paul Reubens – Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
After becoming a household name with his beloved Pee Wee Herman character, Paul Reubens tried something different by starring in this cult classic film that spawned the iconic television series about Buffy Summers, a cheerleader turned vampire slayer.
A far cry from the whimsical and naive Pee Wee, Reubens plays an incompetent vampire and promptly hams it up. While it’s hard to even recognize him under his gothic attire, Reubens becomes a highlight of the film through his self-aware and campy performance, and he stands in perfect contrast to the more serious elements of the movie, such as Rutger Hauer’s eerie and devilish portrayal of the main bad guy, Lothos.
Riki Lindhome – The Last House On The Left (2009)
One half of the legendary comedy songwriting duo, “Hall & Oates,” Riki Lindhome has actually been in a few horror movies, such as The Wolf of Snow Hollow. But none of them showed off her range and versatility like the remake of The Last House on the Leftwhere she played a sadistic fugitive that brutalizes two young women in acts of unspeakable horror.
Lindhome embraces the role with such ferocity and demented energy that it’s hard to believe that she’s spent most of her career making people laugh, which is probably the highest praise for a performance like this. There might not be a more humorless film that a high-profile comedian has taken part in, but at the same time, it’s near impossible to look away from Lindhome’s twisted performance.
Paul Rudd – Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1996)
Before he was effortlessly charming audiences with roles in rom-coms and Marvel flicks, Paul Rudd actually made his debut in this sequel to the original classic, playing a young boy that was traumatized by Michael Myers at a young age. Rudd is normally delivering hilarious quips with a laid-back vibe, so his performance as Tommy Doyle couldn’t be more different.
An anti-social loner obsessed with serial killers, Tommy is an off-putting loner that barely cracks a smile. Seeing Ant-Man himself face off against one of the most iconic slashers ever is too surreal to describe. While it’s a curiosity to see him here, the film’s troubled production and subsequent bombing probably mean that he won’t even revisit the horror genre. In fact, when asked about the movie today, he can’t even remember the movie’s full title.
Aubrey Plaza – Child’s Play (2019)
Thanks to her unique brand of comedy, Aubrey Plaza had become one of the iconic comedians of the 2010s after playing April Ludgate in Parks and Recreations. That’s why fans were more than a little intrigued when she was cast as the mother in the Child’s Play remake, hoping that Hollywood wasn’t wasting her talents on a one-dimensional role.
Thankfully, she brought her same snarky, dead-pan delivery to this role, turning what could’ve been a stock female character into one of the most entertaining characters of the film, and certainly one of the most ending. She basically modernized the role while making the character entirely her own, which should be the first priority of any remake. And it’s hard to argue that there isn’t a more perfect foe for Chucky than April Ludgate herself. Certainly, nobody else could match his sense of humor.
Jason Alexander – The Burning (1981)
Long before the days of Seinfeld, Jason Alexander starred in this grisly slasher classic about a deformed camp counselor who starts killing off the campers. Based on the “Cropsey” urban legend, The Burning is as bloody as an early slasher movie can get, making it all the more jarring to see George Costanza himself in the middle of all this chaos.
Alexander plays one of the young counselors, a good-humored kid that stands out as one of the more likable characters. He’s not one of the main characters, but it’s impossible not to watch him given how much of a novelty it is to see him in such a fun-loving role, contrasted with the always-uptight George Costanza.
Lil Rey Howery – Get Out (2016)
After doing stand-up comedy, Lil Rey Howard got his true breakthrough with his role in Get Out, playing the best friend turned only hope of the movie. He spends most of the movie trying to help Chris, played by Daniel Kaluuya, who suspects that his white girlfriend’s family is out to get him. When Chris ultimately disappears, Howard is the only one trying to find, helping to give the movie an additional sense of urgency.
But, just as importantly, he also provides levity and has a hand in some of the movie’s funniest moments. While Howard doesn’t get to share most of his screen-time with Daniel Kaluuya, they still manage to create wonderful chemistry and their interactions together provide great relief in a film that’s one of the more unnerving horror films of the modern era.
Robin Williams – One Hour Photo (2002)
While Robin Williams had won an Academy Award for his dramatic performance in Good Will Hunting, he was still largely associated with his comedic work. He certainly wasn’t associated with psychological thrillers, making his villainous turn in One Hour Photo all the more disturbing. He plays a lonely photo developer who becomes obsessed with his customers and starts to entangle himself in their lives.
Things turn deadly when he starts to interfere and he becomes furious about how much they’re taking their supposedly perfect lives for granted. Despite his acclaimed dramatic work, nothing in Williams’ career could have prepared audiences for his performance here, which is tragic, unhinged, friendly, and pathetic. Thankfully, Williams received considerable acclaim for his work here and decided to play another villain in insomnia, just further proof of how much range comedians truly have.
Bill Hader – It: Chapter 2 (2019)
One of the most accoladed and respected performers from SNLboth comedy and horror fans were delighted when Bill Hader was cast as the grown-up Richie in It: Chapter 2. He even got the endorsement of Finn Wolfhard, who played Richie in the first movie. Thankfully, Hader still gets to flex his comic delivery throughout the movie, especially since Richie has become a stand-up comic.
But more importantly, he helps to raise the dramatic stakes of the movie through his performance, playing up the sheer terror that Pennywise is inflicting on the main characters. while It: Chapter 2 has a star-studded cast, Hader still manages to stand out because of how ingenious his casting was, and because of how well his background in comedy informs his performance.
Chris Rock – Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021)
Chris Rock not only stars in spiral, but he also spearheaded the whole production. A huge fan of the saw franchise, Rock took it upon himself to reboot the franchise and cast himself as a detective facing off against a Jigsaw copycat that’s targeting dirty cops.
Reactions to Rock’s casting ranged from curious to skeptical, but his wise-cracking, fast-talking persona works perfectly for an LAPD detective, and Rock remains convincing throughout the more intense sequences, of which there are many. While critics have always accused the saw movies of just being “torture-port,” Rock’s participation elevates the film in many ways, and his background as a world-class comedian helped bring more interest to the franchise than it had seen in decades.
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