*Guest post by Billy Russell
Most people know Kevin Bacon was in Friday the 13th and that Crispin Glover was in that series’ third sequel. Tom Hanks got an early start in He Knows You’re Alone and George Clooney popped up early in Return to Horror High. Below are some people who aren’t really known for their work in the horror genre:
Spielberg struck it big with Jaws. And I mean big. Jaws is often referred to as being the first blockbuster movie event. It was a phenomenon. Before that, though, he made his mark with two episodes of “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery” and the Richard Matheson-scripted classic Duel, about a man terrorized by a seemingly demonic semi-truck. Being well-versed in horror very early in his career makes sense when watching some of the pure terror he can wring out of PG-rated classics like E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I’ve always thought of Saving Private Ryan as a subverted slasher movie where a group of teens are now soldiers and instead of summer camp, it’s Nazi-occupied France. And, instead of a masked killer, it’s war. This group of plucky teens is picked off, one by one, by the psycho, in increasingly macabre ways. Oh, and the virginal “last girl” who learns how to fight is played by Jeremy Davies.
You might know Harvey Weinstein best as “the guy who pretty much owns Hollywood now.” His name is on every new Tarantino flick and I can’t even remember the last time there was an Oscar-nominated film he wasn’t attached to in some way or another. Before somehow convincing everyone on the Academy that Shakespeare in Love was the best movie of 1998, he set out with a little Friday the 13th-esque slasher movie in 1981 called The Burning (which also boasts early appearances from Jason Alexander who’s somehow young, not bald and kind of attractive; Holly Hunter appears super quickly, too). Directed by Tony Maylam and gored by Tom Savini, The Burning is a solid, if derivative, scarred-evil-doer-murders-teens venture.
Before there was Blood Simple and Fargo and The Big Lebowski, there was The Evil Dead. Working in the editorial department on one of the most gruesome and outrageous horror films of all time was a logical beginning for one of the two Coen Brothers who, as a team, also edit all of their directorial efforts under the pseudonym Roderick Jaynes. There, he and Sam Raimi met and a long friendship ensued, combining frenzies forces for such films as Miller’s Crossing, The Hudsucker Proxy and Crimewave.
It’s not surprising that Halloween, THE definitive and penultimate slasher was lensed by the man who went on to shoot Jurassic Park, Apollo 13 and Back to the Future. What is surprising is that, before Halloween, he was also the cinematographer for one entry of one of the all-time sleaziest horror sagas of all time, Ilsa. His venture was on Isla: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks.
In 1975, Roger Ebert won a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. He was a man who seemed to love horror movies and hate them in equal measure (fawning over Last House on the Left while vomiting over I Spit on Your Grave; giving positive write-ups to Halloween and Evil Dead 2 while not caring much for the original Evil Dead or any of the Friday the 13th movies). In 1970, a full five years before winning his Pulitzer, he penned Beyond the Valley of the Dolls for Russ Meyer, a man famous for his love of breasts and vivid colors. Mostly breasts, though. Described by the screenplay’s author as “the first exploitation-horror-camp-musical,” this doesn’t seem likely… until the horrifying, unexpected ending that shifts from pure camp to something wholly unsettling.