The horror genre in my opinion is so underrated in terms of recognition for performances and in some cases the films in general. The Oscars always seem to turn the other cheek towards them, with the exception of a few iconic ones (Misery, Silences of the Lambs, etc.). Besides dramas, I honestly think horror offers the more stronger performances of other genres. The actors and actresses have to convey so much emotion and sometimes really get into the psyche of the characters they play and channel the hell out of them. This isn’t the case for every horror movie of course, but a person can’t deny that there’s a lot of effort to be put into these performances. This is my personal list of my five favorite male and female performances in horror. Some of them are the obvious and iconic performances, and some are performances that definitely deserve to become iconic and ranked with them.
Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs
Right from the moment we see Anthony Hopkins appear on-screen, you immediately feel a sense of terror and his villainy. The way he stands there anticipating Clarice’s arrival and his greeting. It’s something that shouldn’t be threatening, but the physical way Hopkins portrays Lecter is chilling, and when we get to his dialogue and emotionless expression and the ease of how he speaks, that adds even more to the performance. What really sells Hopkins performance for me every time are his eyes. They burn holes into the viewer and you can see the evil in them. That is a trait that most actors who play villains can’t accomplish. Especially one in which he doesn’t completely act psychotic. He can be sitting there looking at Clarice and the viewer, calm as can be, and you do see the evil in those eyes looking back at you.
2) Kevin Spacey as John Doe in Seven
For such a small amount of screentime, Kevin Spacey leaves one hell of a mark on the film and viewer. Towards the end of the movie when the killer known as John Doe appears and we see Spacey covered in blood, calm as can be, that alone instantly sends you the chills. The rest of the film as Spacey acting as calm as can be, speaking his lines with no emotion and the lines themselves are creep enough. When the field scene comes and Spacey gives his monologue to Brad Pitt leading to the reveal of the box, Spacey is horrifying. This is a role I feel most actors couldn’t accomplish the way Spacey does it. The emotionless, empty, uncomfortably calm performance as this serial killer, along with the reveal in the climax leaves you feeling shaken and disturbed. Without Kevin Spacey’s performance as John Doe, I really don’t think the film’s ending would have had the same impact.
3) John Goodman as Howard in 10 Cloverfield Lane
One of the more recent performances I feel deserves to go down in horror history is John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane. What’s so brilliant about Goodman’s performance here is just how uncomfortable he can make the viewer as well as the characters in the film. There are so many instances where his character Howard can come off as reasonably normal and collected, but in an instant he can change into this monster. Even in scenes where you aren’t even sure of what Howard is going to do next. You think he’s going to completely go crazy, or if he may just shrug it off. But even in silence and without moving, Goodman has a way of bringing in how deranged his character is. In one scene where he lunges at Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character and has her trapped against the wall, you can feel just as intimidated and freaked as she is. This performance is one that I really feel Goodman deserved a chance at the Oscar for because of how into character Goodman gets and leaves you guessing of where his character is going to go as well as scaring you and making you so uncomfortable.
4) Daniel Kaluuya as Chris in Get Out
The most recent performance (and a non-villain one) I think should be recognized in horror history as one where we have the most relatable leading male in a long time. Kaluuya plays Chris as this very down-to-earth and super likable guy. He’s meeting his girlfriend’s parents for the first time and you can tell how nervous he is. This is displayed really relatable as well. But when shit hits the fan during this visit, Kaluuya perfectly shows how uncomfortable Chris is with everything and shows his paranoia. But at the same time, he’s capturing Chris at how he’s trying to keep his cool and not completely lose his head, but also knows he needs to get the hell out of there. Apart from this we see the tortured side of his character when aspects of his past is brought up and Kaluuya just lets out all the emotions his character has been building up. This is such an authentic performance in so many ways, and one that you don’t see too often in horror. We see so many characters that we laugh at and say “oh that’s so me!” but with Kaluuya’s portrayal of Chris, you think, this is a real person acting and thinking like a real person. That is just how much his performance is one worth remembering.
5) Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho
What sets this actor and character apart from the others is that, while the others have more subtle performances that make them incredible, this one is off-the-wall, in your face excellent. Sure, Bale has a few subtly moments in his performance, but when he shows Bateman in full psycho mode, you are immediately freaked out by this guy. And it’s not angry psycho, as most know, but a guy who thinks killing people is just your average routine. And you can see how much he gets a kick out of and has fun with is murders. Bale does all of this so perfectly and disappears into character so well that, like the others, you’re not seeing them as actors, you’re seeing him as Patrick Bateman.