Today is Friday the 13th. To celebrate the ominous day, we look at 14 actors who got their first break in an old (and probably very crappy) horror film.
Words: Lauren Burgess, Subeditor: Yasmin Harding
Friday the 13th is a day for embracing ridiculous superstitions, there’s even a recognised phobia of the day – paraskevidekatriaphobia (Try saying that three times fast.) Despite this apparent unlucky day of superstitions, it has brought us one of the most iconic horror villains ever known; the indestructible Jason Voorhees. We are all too familiar with the formula for these blood-filled slasher films. Nondescript teenagers turn up in an obscure wooded area, nudity and murder ensues. Every now and then, one of those nondescript teenagers ends up an A-list film star. Which is exactly what happened to Kevin Bacon.
Long before he sold his soul to EE he was taking an arrow to the neck courtesy of Mrs. Voorhees, but Kevin’s not the only one. Here’s 13 more actors who started out in some truly dire horror movies (and a couple of semi-decent ones).
Then: In his very first film role as Oliver the security guard in 1987’s Return to Horror High. Aww!
The horror comedy is currently holding a *strong* 4.1 user rating on IMDb.
Fun fact: Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t actually a sequel. The “return” refers to the film crew that go back to a (now abandoned) high school where a string of grisly murders took place years before.
2. Tom Hanks
Now: Multiple Oscar-winning acting veteran and film producer. Best known for breaking hearts with his undying love of Wilson the volleyball.
Then: His first role of any kind as psychology student Elliot, in the ominously named 1980 wedding-themed slasher He Knows You’re Alone.
He Knows You’re Alone just edges out Return to Horror High with 4.8 on IMDb. Good show!
Fun fact: Elliot was originally meant to be killed off in the film, but after seeing Hanks play him they couldn’t bear to do it. They can’t have loved him that much though since he only got $800 for it.
3. Keira Knightly
Now: Period drama regular and noblewoman turned swash-buckling pirate in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
Then: As the rich and sulky popular girl Frankie in 2001 psychological horror The Hole.
The Hole achieves an impressive 6.2 and may actually be worth watching.
Fun fact: Keira does a scene where she walks into a boys shower room. Unfortunately some of them got way too excited and she had to ask them to leave. The ad-libbed line made it into the film.
Then: A 17-year-old Joseph played Jimmy in the *creatively named* 1998 film Halloween H20: 20 Years Later.
The 7th film in the series (yes, you read that right, by 1998 there was already SEVEN) garnered a middling 5.6 IMDb rating.
Fun fact: *SPOILER ALERT* Little Jimmy is the first to die in the film. He takes an ice skate to the face. Nice. Bonus: this film also featured a young Michelle Williams and was Josh Hartnett’s film debut.
5. Jennifer Aniston
Now: Best known for being in one of the most popular sitcoms ever made, Friends, and starring in a string of successful romantic comedies.
Then: In her first film role as lead actor Tory Reding fighting off the titular killer in 1993’s Leprechaun.
This film, which possibly inches into the so-bad-it’s-good arena, fetched a disappointing 4.6 on IMDb.
Fun fact: Warwick Davis, who plays the leprechaun, initially disliked the film. In the next few years it gained a cult following and eventually spawned five sequels. It’s now one of his favourites.
6. Johnny Depp
Now: Long-time collaborator of Tim Burton and go-to actor for weird and wonderful characters.
Then: A fresh-faced 22-year-old Depp playing Glen Lantz proves that anyone can rock a crop top in 1985’s horror classic A Nightmare On Elm Street.
It beats the competition by miles with a well-deserved 7.5. The Wes Craven spectacular set the bar high for all future horror.
Fun fact: Johnny Depp never intended on auditioning for the film, Wes Craven saw him and asked him to read for a part. He was just going along with friend and aspiring actor Jackie Earle Haley who would eventually go on to play Freddy Krueger in the 2010 remake.
Then: Leo’s first film role as Josh, a survivor of a flesh-eating space alien attack in 1991’s Critters 3.
Another poor showing in the ratings. An abysmal 4.2.
Fun fact: Here’s some advice if you ever find yourself cornered by a ‘Krite’ – “A Krite’s bite is shown to be extremely effective and difficult to extricate. In most cases, a victim is forced to beat on the Krite’s snout like that of a great white shark or crocodile, or stab the Krite with sharp objects enough that it releases its hold.” For anyone complaining that this isn’t a “fun fact”, this could save your life one day. You’re welcome.
8. Amy Adams
Now: The newest incarnation of Lois Lane and Oscar nominated star of American Hustle.
Then: Amy’s first film role as bikini-girl eye-candy ‘Marvel Ann’ in 2000’s horror comedy Psycho Beach Party.
One of the better IMDb ratings on the list: an impressive 6.3
Fun fact: More than half of the main cast has either appeared in or starred in TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
9. Charlize Theron
Now: Commanding the screen as the real star of hugely successful Mad Max: Fury Road.
Then: Blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, she can be seen in her uncredited first role as scythe-fodder in 1995’s Children of the Corn 3: Urban Harvest.
We’ve reached dizzying new lows in our ratings here, with a pitiful 4.0.
Fun fact: The director, James D.R. Hickox, was only 26 at the time of filming. Which could partly explain why it’s so bloody awful.
10. Paul Rudd
Now: Leading man in Marvel’s Ant Man and star of a number of brilliant comedies. Also still a go-to for sweet, goofy, husband-type characters.
Then: Star of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. Sixth installment of the franchise, second installment on this list. Paul plays Tommy Doyle, the now grown child that Laurie babysits in the first film.
A 4.9 IMDb rating places this firmly in the middle of the pack for our increasingly dire list.
Fun fact: Even though Clueless was released earlier in the year, Halloween is still considered Paul Rudd’s film debut since it was filmed first.
Then: Starring as final-girl Rachael in a film that deserves the most unnecessary sequel ever award, American Psycho 2.
American Psycho 2 inches out a paltry 3.9. Nice try.
Fun fact: This is the first item of trivia on the IMDb page and it deserves to be repeated: “Mila Kunis is ashamed of this film.”
12 & 13. SPECIAL DOUBLE BONUS ROUND!
Matthew McConaughey and Renée Zellweger
Now: Matthew is fresh off a string of critically acclaimed films and last year won his first Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club. Renée shot to fame in 2001 for her role as the titular star of Bridget Jones’s Diary. She’s reprising the role for the third film in the franchise, due out next year.
Then: As killer and victim in 1994’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation.
My god, we’ve done it, it’s a new record! This carnival of human misery scored a diabolical 3.1 on IMDb. *slow clap*
Fun fact: There are none, there’s nothing fun about this film.