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View Full Version : Horror Icons: Where did they all go?



Mike T
09-22-2011, 01:57 PM
Y'know, once upon a time actors were the selling point of the great horror films of history. You go back to Universal, and you had Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jnr., John Carradine and so on. Of course, you had people like Lon Chaney Sr., Peter Lorre, Laird Cregar and their like predating them. I can't vouch for the fifties much, as there's not a lot of genre filmmaking of that era that ever interested me, but by the sixties we had Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Vincent Price, Anthony Perkins and their like.

I don't know if you can truly say that the seventies carried that over, as some of those actors remained at the top of the genre, but in the eighties there was this marked attempt at a return of the great horror actor: we had Angus Scrimm, Bruce Campbell, Robert Englund, Jeffrey Combs and others. But since then, it's all pretty much dried up...even Tony Todd, who started well, disappeared into DTV bollocks pretty fast (and that's not a way to maintain the mantle).

I can't think of a single prominent iconic horror actor or actress from the last fifteen years or more. There's the odd ones on the indie circuit that have their loyal (underground) cult followings, but in the mainstream now the idea of the horror icon seems dead...unless you count Bill Moseley, but why would you?

So, what do you think folks? Is the horror icon as a pop-culture figure dead? Or is there a new wave of horror kids around the corner that will evolve into the Price's, Lee's and Cushing's of tomorrow?

Paul Casey
09-22-2011, 02:27 PM
I can't think of a single prominent iconic horror actor or actress from the last fifteen years or more. There's the odd ones on the indie circuit that have their loyal (underground) cult followings, but in the mainstream now the idea of the horror icon seems dead...unless you count Bill Moseley, but why would you?

So, are you not counting him because he disproves the point you made in the previous sentence or are you not counting him because you don't like him?

Ian Jane
09-22-2011, 02:35 PM
I wouldn't count Mosely or Sig Haig or Tony Todd or any of those guys simply because they're not marquee draws like Price, Cushing, Lee, etc. used to be. I dont' think we have anyone on that level anymore. Haven't in a while. I wouldn't put the eighties guys like Campbell or Englund on that level either, to be honest. There isn't one 'horror star' I can think of who works consistently and primarily in the genre that is a box office draw, which is kind of sad really.

That said, I think there's still plenty of good horror movies being made, they just don't have the star power attached to them that a lot of better remembered older titles do.

Mike T
09-22-2011, 02:36 PM
I'm actually counting Mr. Moseley out because he's not the well-known quantity that the other examples I used are. There was a time where everyone, even mainstreamers, knew the other names I mentioned. But I can't think of anyone I know, IRL, that I could mention Moseley's name to that would have heard of him. Only the online, predominantly American, online genre scene seems down wit Bill. I mean, some people I know might recognise his name from TCM2, but I'd put money on the fact that they couldn't tell you who he played.

In short: I don't believe that he's on the same playing field as the iconic names from previous decades that I mentioned. He's just really a "horror film regular" than an icon.

PS: It was also intended as a "joke", being that Mr. Moseley isn't exactly held in the highest regard by a large percentage of online genre buffs. But, as with much of my humour, this fact also appears to have fallen flat on its face.

bgart13
09-22-2011, 03:24 PM
Part of the problem is the lack of a strong studio presence. Maybe the new Hammer will work on that, since it was part of their power, having a steady stable of character actors. We need a new Michael Ripper.

2196

Todd Jordan
09-22-2011, 03:26 PM
Couple thoughts for people to make fun of me on...

1. I wouldn't count any of those people as icons that you mentioned in the 80s. The movies were iconic and the characters were icons, but when Freddy was huge and little kids were dressing up as him or other mass murderers for Halloween, I'll be you 50 cents the kids not the parents could name the actors that played the characters they were imitating. Icons are household names in my opinion. I would also say the effects and make-up were more the draw than the actors. Maybe they replaced the icons.

2. Tony Todd doing DTV garbage...the icons from days of old you mentioned like Bela Legosi and John Carradine were in tons of shit movies. If they had DTV, rest assured they would have taken any job that came at them, just like Tony Todd.

Ian Jane
09-22-2011, 04:49 PM
I would also say the effects and make-up were more the draw than the actors. Maybe they replaced the icons.

I'd say this is a key factor. Once the make up and latex became more important than the person undernearth, personality mattered less. You could probably make a sound argument that films like the Friday The 13th and Halloween series went a long way towards the death of the 'horror icon' - it could be anyone under the mask, whereas it took personality and character to play Dracula. There are plenty of classic horror films where make up matters a lot more than others - the Universal stuff for example. It could be anyone in the creature suit, really, but then, you've got Karloff as Frankenstein who manages to make the role his own.

I'm rambling.

Mike T
09-23-2011, 01:57 AM
The folks listed from the eighties were more "comparatives" than anything else. I wrote the post on my way to bed, as I had an early morning GP appt. and needed some sleep. But, each to his own I guess. Apart from Scrimm, there was a time when I'd actively seek out films with any of those actors in them. Of course, the quality to shit ratio taught me to be more discerning after a short while. Same applies to the old horror icons, as Lugosi, Karloff, Carradine and Chaney Jnr. all made some appalling drivel towards the ends of their careers. Only Lee, Cushing and Price seem to have made their way through a life in the movies with their integrity intact (and of that aforementioned drivel, it was definitely the DTV of its era - but you all know I like DTV crap, so...meh).

The only factor point I forgot is that, for a long while there, there was a certain stigma attached to being typecast as a "horror actor"; folks would do a few, like Jamie Lee Curtis, make a BIG name for themselves and then almost immediately state in interviews "Oh, I don't want to be typecast as a horror actor, and that's why I'm doing other stuff in other genres" that in turn saw them leave the genre that made them popular in the first place. But hey, if you want to be taken seriously as an actor then the horror genre isn't exactly the corner of the film industry to actively inhabit...

Also, in the instance of the older actors, a lot of them either came from stage/theatre backgrounds, or managed a successful stage/theatre career alongside their film work. These days, most people don't have that kind of regimented, classical background. The majority just jump from TV to film, and TV's not exactly the high benchmark of classical Shakespearean training, is it? ;)

But, you know, the only modern equivalents of the horror icon (as Ian stated, actors who had marquee value) are the action and porn industries. People will see a Seagal, Van Damme, Willis, Statham, Li etc film, not because of what it's about or anything but who the name is headlining it. Same goes for porn, for all you pornhounds (I am sure the majority pick their "singled-handed" viewing therein more due to who's in the production than, say, the fact it's a 2 & 1/2 hour compilation of cumshots).

Newt Cox
09-23-2011, 07:58 AM
The folks listed from the eighties were more "comparatives" than anything else. I wrote the post on my way to bed, as I had an early morning GP appt. and needed some sleep. But, each to his own I guess. Apart from Scrimm, there was a time when I'd actively seek out films with any of those actors in them. Of course, the quality to shit ratio taught me to be more discerning after a short while. Same applies to the old horror icons, as Lugosi, Karloff, Carradine and Chaney Jnr. all made some appalling drivel towards the ends of their careers. Only Lee, Cushing and Price seem to have made their way through a life in the movies with their integrity intact (and of that aforementioned drivel, it was definitely the DTV of its era - but you all know I like DTV crap, so...meh).



Even people like Lee anc Cushing have appeared in schlock like "Jocks" and "The Stupids".

Mike T
09-23-2011, 08:45 AM
Well, there you go. So disregard everything I've written in this topic so far, as obviously I'm absolutely and utterly wrong about everything. :p ;)

But all joking aside, I love that no-one ever agrees with anything I say here - keeps me on my toes and the old grey matter charged. :biggrin:

Ian Jane
09-23-2011, 08:50 AM
Lee even appeared in Captain America II which was made for TV, as close to the era's DTV drech as you can get!

I think Todd's point more or less nailed it though. Make up effects, in a large way, started to overshadow character in the 80s and that's about the time that the horror icon went away. That can't be a coincidence, can it?

Mike T
09-23-2011, 08:56 AM
I think Todd's point more or less nailed it though. Make up effects, in a large way, started to overshadow character in the 80s and that's about the time that the horror icon went away. That can't be a coincidence, can it?

This is all true...but as Todd seemingly wanted us funning on him by his post I wasn't sure whether or not I should award him the points. ;)

Todd Jordan
09-23-2011, 09:00 AM
Come on, Mike. Isn't this a place for discussion? Isn't that what forums are for? If everyone agreed with everything everyone said, how boring would that be?

Todd Jordan
09-23-2011, 09:04 AM
This is all true...but as Todd seemingly wanted us funning on him by his post I wasn't sure whether or not I should award him the points. ;)

Well I don't want to be made fun of for stating an opinion, but I'm not a student of cult/genre films. Just a fan. Most people can talk circles around me with their knowledge of these things, so I put that out there as a disclaimer of sorts. Kind of "yeah I know I ain't to smart" comment.

Mike T
09-23-2011, 09:05 AM
Are you shitty at me because I didn't award you points for the makeup call? I'm just funning with you all - no-one ever agrees with anything I say here, that's just the way it is and I accept that (you all really have to stop taking things I write at face value). We wouldn't have any discussion otherwise. ;)

But yes, you were spot-on right: the makeup guys became the new horror icons in the 80s and thereafter it became less about the actors and almost solely about content. :think:

Mike T
09-23-2011, 09:07 AM
Well I don't want to be made fun of for stating an opinion...so I put that out there as a disclaimer of sorts. Kind of "yeah I know I ain't to smart" comment.

I don't think anyone likes being made fun of, or poo-pooed for stating their opinion...but it happens. As for the rest, though you might think that - you'd be wrong. Whereas I ramble a bit and tend to work my way around a subject before zeroing in on it, you just cut straight to the chase. That much easier to work with than what I do...

Ian Jane
09-23-2011, 09:09 AM
But yes, you were spot-on right: the makeup guys became the new horror icons in the 80s and thereafter it became less about the actors and almost solely about content. :think:

Having said that and agreed with that, I now have to state that Freddy isn't Freddy without Englund under the make up, the NOES remake proved that. I still think the make up angle is a big part of it though.

I wonder though if it's just a long term shift in style and a change in trends? I guess since you're right, you still get action hero icons and porn icons and to a certain extent comedy icons in modern movies that maybe it's not. I dunno. I'm thinking about this and getting confused. haha.

Todd Jordan
09-23-2011, 09:20 AM
no-one ever agrees with anything I say here...

I disagree with you on that.

Mike T
09-23-2011, 09:21 AM
Having said that and agreed with that, I now have to state that Freddy isn't Freddy without Englund under the make up, the NOES remake proved that. I still think the make up angle is a big part of it though.

I was going to mention that. Although it could've been anyone under that iconic makeup, Englund (like Karloff eta al before him) made it his own. When the remake came along, no-one that I read about or knew went to see it because Jackie Earle Haley was the new Freddy. They either went to see it because it was a remake and they wanted to see how it shaped up, or they went because they'd seen everything else at the local multiplex and it was half-price ticket night. But I don't recall anyone saying: "I have to see this because Haley's playing Freddy!"

Mike T
09-23-2011, 09:22 AM
I disagree with you on that.

Ha! :biggrin: