Sometimes, it is easier to notice the bad acting than it is to notice the good when it comes to horror films. But it is important to be aware that how enjoyable a horror movie is can be directly tied to how powerful and believable the performances were. And though there are men who put in powerhouse performances in the genre, no doubt, it seems more is asked of woman when it comes to horror films. To often be both the victim AND the victor is a duality most would not be able to summon in themselves. Lately, I have found myself moved, disturbed, and often floored as the result of the performances that some woman are brave enough to give for these films. The places they must force themselves to “go” for the sake of art and expression. Roles so utterly convincing, I walk away with a a new found respect for the actress and the whole medium in general. Here are five performances that give me chills, every time I see them. This list serves two purposes, actually. One, to point out these performances. And two, to insist you all see these movies, most of which are under-appreciated, in my opinion.
AnnaLynne McCord: Excision
I hate when I open a package of Gushers, and they are already gushing. Pre-gush sucks.
Those who really know me know I have a sort of odd obsession with this film right now. And that obsession stems from AnneLynn McCord’s performance as Pauline in this movie. I have seen a great many horror films (though this is a bit more “black comedy”) that have had a great many memorable performances, but this movie shatters taboo after taboo, and does so effortlessly. Or atleast McCord makes it appear effortless. But I can’t imagine this being an easy character to play. She bounces around from vulnerable, to empowered, to curious, to creepy, with all the glee of a master of her craft. She treads on dark territory, and she makes it near impossible to look away.
Excision is about a teenage girl’s quest to find herself, please her parent’s, and in the process, indulge her fantasies, which seem to border on Bathory levels of blood-letting. I can give it to you in a simpler fashion, though. Excision is about the black sheep in a family, who wants nothing more that to be a surgeon, against all odds. It sounds simple enough, but it is how AnnaLynn plays it. You see, she does some sick shit, no doubt, but you never recoil from her. There is something undeniably wounded about this creature, and though you may get swept up in the black comedy aspect of the film, the end pops up to remind us just how tragic life can be. Also, I feel compelled to show you how she looks outside of the film:
Her eyes are telling me to they want me (to leave her alone).
And in Excision, she looks like this:
Yes, she, she looks like a regular high-school girl. Remarkable what makeup can do, huh?
Honestly, at NO point during this movie did it feel like I was watching a neo-90201 alumni (which she is) playing “fucked up”. From the AMAZING opening scene (where she is sitting opposite herself, watching herself), to the heart-breaking final moments, Pauline was very much real to me. For that alone, and just being brave enough to willingly put on Pauline’s shoes, McCord deserves some serious props. Also, Tracy Lords plays the Mom in this movie. Yup, was sold the minute I learned that. But have been haunted by McCord’s performance since I have seen the film, not being able to shake the impact the character had on me, and not sure I even want to.
Gretchen Lodge: Lovely Molly
Man, those terrorist had better release Ryan Seacrest. He looks exhausted.
Lovely Molly had a really interesting effect on me. I held off on seeing it because everything I heard was so-so, so I subconsciously didn’t let myself get “into” it for a little bit once I began finally watching it. But once the film dug its proverbial claws in me, they never retracted. And the whole movie works because Gretchen Lodge makes us all believe in Molly’s spiral. Wait, getting ahead of myself.
Lovely Molly is about a recently married couple, Tim and Molly, who move back into Molly’s childhood home until they can get a little more ahead, financially speaking. And some things happened to Molly as a child there that are REALLY bad. And Molly has a pretty bad history with drugs, which seem to be how she copes when her husband is away (he is a trucker). You put these elements together, and we see a downward spiral start to take place with Molly. And boy, once is starts, it is one of those “boy, that escalated quickly” situations.
But, the amin question seems to be whether the descent drug-fueled and a result of her traumas, or is there actual evil in the house, feeding off her? You will find yourself asking this question of the movie until the very end (revelations, abound), and it is Gretchen’s performance that makes the whole movie wildly believable. Drugs, abuse, and loneliness are powerful demons in themselves, and you see the aftermath of all she has been through in every scene. She plays agony, and you feel for her. She plays scared, and you are scared with her. Then she does a 180 and plays sexual, and you are stunned. It is seamless when it has no right to be.
The darkest aspect of it, for me, was the eerie death of Johnny Lewis not long after finishing the movie.
I feel like a good deal of people wrote this movie off because of the ending (which, I will admit, is a bit “odd”), but I sat with the movie for a long time after I saw it and realized more and more that Gretchen Lodge gave one of the best portrayals of growing madness I have ever seen put on film. Tragic side note, as mentioned above. The actor who plays her husband in the film, Johnny Lewis, died in away that can be said is very reminiscent of Molly’s descent in this film, with him consuming drugs, brutally murdering an old woman, and then jumping off the roof off his house to kill himself. No one knows what really happened to him in those final moments, and considering I watched the movie a night BEFORE his death, it made it all seem tat much more real to me.
Demons exist, people. It’s the angels you never hear about. Speaking of angels…
Angela Bettis: May
Bettis is that girl who lurks in the shadows, that you secretly love, but you never tell anyone about.
I have spoken about Bettis and May on countless occasions, and I will continue to, until all the world has seen it. Like the past two performances on the list, this doesn’t feel like acting in so much as it feels like her just “being”, and us being lucky enough to be witness to that. Though Angela Bettis has starred in MANY horror films over the years, none can live u p the perfection she reached in May. Awkward and broken, but oddly likable, very few could it off like Angela Bettis did.
May is about a lonely girl who cannot quite figure out how to make connections, but never stops trying (very much like Pauline in Excision, though not nearly as outwardly-confident). She plays wounded so well that you watch the movie and wish you could just pick her up your arms and rock her. She is f*cked up, yes. You can see that behind her innocent eyes, constantly. But regardless, she plays it so perfectly that it is hard not to feel for her. Does she do some messed up things by the end of the movie? Yes. But do you love her any less for it? No. And that final shot. Can we talk about how perfect the final shot to that film is?
No, we can’t, because we don’t want to spoil the majesty for people who haven’t seen it? Fair enough.
Chloe Moretz: Let Me In
I need to take a ton of drugs and make a weeks worth of poor decisions for my eyes to look that hopeless.
First off, HUGE props to Lina Leandersson, who played Eli in the original film, Let The Right One In. She was mesmerizing, and no less powerful than Chloe, but for different reasons. Chloe’s Eli felt like she was an adult TRYING to play a child (which is what the character is supposed to be), which just sold me more. Also, she is set to play Carrie, and this girl has AMAZING chops, so like it or not, she will probably be sticking around the horror genre for a long time. Atleast I hope she will.
Chloe Moretz has stolen every movie she has been in so far, with a few exceptions (Dark Shadows, which no one stole because it sucked), and her performance as the 100-plus-year-old vampire in Let Me In is mind blowing. You find yourself believing that there is an old, ageless soul within this little girl. And though you are aware she has to do monstrous things to survive, at no point do you view her as a monster. That is what makes this performance so good.
Also, for all the people who think that the ending is tragic, and that she is only keeping him to be her caretaker, you do know there is a short story sequel to the original book, right? You do know we KNOW what happens after they get off the train, right? It’s called Let The Old Dreams Die, and he specifically wrote it because everyone had the view of their relationship so wrong in his opinion.
Do your homework, people!
Beatrice Dalle: Inside
Easily the most terrifying performance on the list, she is more akin to a feral animal than a human at points in this movie.
It takes a lot to scare me. I feel like I have seen all that horror has to offer, and, though I often get moved or impressed with a performance, I rarely get truly unsettled. Well, French actress Beatrice Dalle is the exception to that rule, for her role as “The Woman” from the 2006 horror film, Inside.
I talk about my love for French horror here, a bit more in depth. But basically, I believe this to be the scariest female ever put on film. Yup. I said it. I know the have been SO many amazing female antagonists, all portrayed to perfection by some of the greats (Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction immediately comes to mind), but there is something different about Dalle’s approach. Rather than over-the-top, there are scenes she plays with a quiet determination, which is something you rarely see in the bad guy. Or girl, in this case.
She wants the protagonists’s baby, and she will not let irrational thought or emotion get in the way. She wants the unborn baby. She feels it belongs to her. So she tries to take it. And you believe it. You really, really do. Oh, and that “stabbed in the dick” scene? The violence in the movie just seems so real, as does Beatrice Dalle’s representation of the maternal instinct, gone to the extreme. Have seen her in some movies she did BEFORE Inside, and she is a sex symbol at times. Yet, I cannot get past just how terrifying I find her as a result of her performance in this film.
Naomi Watts in Funny Games: From the strip scene to the prayer scene, what this woman is forced to endure is heart-wrenching, and she makes us feel every second of it.
Linda Blair in The Exorcist: She may have inexplicably sucked in every film since, but she is a powerhouse to behold in this movie.
PollyAnna McIntosh in The Woman: she conveys SO MUCH using only her eyes and no dialogue that it blows my mind. Have actually been lucky enough to have a few email exchanges with this wonderful creature, and she is the exact opposite of this role in every way (namely, lovely and quite civilized) but see this movie and try NOT to be blown away by her.
This is the look I get right before sex, which tells me I need to stop having sex with wild animals.
Cecile De France in High Tension: Wait, she’s French and her last name is France? That seems convenient. Either way, she floored me in this film.
Alright guys, I think I covered them all, but if there are some performances you loved that I missed, make sure to tell me in the comments. The best movies are often recommended to me by Unreality readers. And if you guys dig this horror stuff that I talk about so much, please check out my weekly column with Matt Donato, called The Last Stand. We discuss a different genre of horror every week, and you might get a kick out of it if you are as troubled as me.
Also, for the REALLY absurd and twisted stuff, check out my site. Two people have told me it is “Better Than Bacon”, and they both live in my head.