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Horror’s Iconic Director/Actor Teams

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Whale and Karloff

There is a long and respected history of filmmaking teams, whether they’re writers and directors (like Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader), directors and producers (like Danny Boyle and Andrew MacDonald), or directors and actors (like Tim Burton and Johnny Depp). It’s clear that some filmmakers bring out the best in each other, and in working together, audiences get the best from both of them.

This is definitely true in the horror arena, where directors and actors reteam with regular consistency. So who are the iconic horror director/actor teams? Who is the Scorsese/De Niro duo of gore? The Kurosawa/Mifune team of the supernatural? This is a list of some of the most frequent and enjoyable collaborations in horror film history (in no particular order):

10. Wes Craven and Robert Englund

If the only thing they’d ever worked together on was the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, they would still be a legendary team with a fantastic partnership. However, Craven was smart enough to know when he’d found an entertaining and versatile partner, and he brought Robert Englund back for other roles as well.

There are the obvious reteams, of course: he worked with Englund again on A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors, for which he wrote the initial draft of the script. Later, Craven revisited the series to give it a meta-horror spin by taking Freddy Krueger out of the films and into the real world in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Englund had a chance to play dual roles in the film, playing both a fictionalized version of himself as well as the darker “dream demon” version of Freddy.

They did work together again, albeit briefly. In 1992, well before the television horror boom was in swing, Craven create the short-lived dark fantasy series “Nightmare Café.” The series revolved around a mystical café that appeared in various locations in time to help people in trouble. Englund played Blackie, the mysterious owner of the café. The show was cut short at only six episodes, and Craven sadly passed away in 2015 before they could work together on any other projects.

9. Stuart Gordon and Jeffrey Combs

When Stuart Gordon began his directing career, it was in the theatre in Chicago. Across the country in Los Angeles, young actor Jeffrey Combs was taking small film and television roles, trying to make a name for himself. There was no reason they should ever meet or know each other, until a film called Re-Animator brought them together. It was the beginning of a fruitful collaboration.

After playing Dr. Herbert West in Re-Animator, Combs returned in the lead role for Gordon’s film the following year, another Lovecraft film called From Beyond. While it wasn’t the cult success that Re-Animator was, it is a fun, bizarre film that reunited not only them but the writer, Dennis Paoli, and actress Barbara Crampton.

Combs had a very small role in Gordon’s Robot Jox, but their next proper reteaming was with 1991’s The Pit and the Pendulum, the first of their collaborations dealing with Edgar Allan Poe. Combs popped up as a weird inmate in Gordon’s Fortress, and then they reformed the full team of Gordon, Combs, Paoli, and Crampton in 1995’s Castle Freak.

Combs had another small role in Gordon’s David Mamet play adaptation Edmond, but then they returned to one of Combs’ great loves, Edgar Allan Poe, in an episode of “Masters of Horror” called “The Black Cat.” It was an offshoot of Combs’ one-man stage show, Nevermore. Combs has been steadily working since, but Gordon has only made one additional feature, Stuck, so hopefully audiences will have a chance to see them work together again.

8. Larry Cohen and Michael Moriarty

Most people who remember Michael Moriarty now have vague memories from “Law & Order” or his recurring role in the children’s movie series Shiloh. Before all that, however, he was a daring experimental actor doing socially conscious work disguised as exploitation horror movies. The man who made those movies was the icon, Larry Cohen.

Their first collaboration was Q, the Winged Serpent in 1982, with Moriarty playing a small-time New York criminal who knows where to find the nest of a giant Aztec monster attacking citizens of the city. They amped up the crazy for their next teaming in The Stuff, a dark satire that skewers advertising and the FDA, telling the story of a strange new food product that is turning people into zombies.

They then teamed for a one-two punch of sequels. First was It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive, the trilogy-completing film that showed what happened to the mutant babies from the first films when they were all grown up; Moriarty’s intense and unusual performance is a standout. Second, they made a theatrical sequel to a very popular Stephen King TV movie A Return to Salem’s Lot, in which Moriarty plays a borderline sociopath recruited by the town’s vampires to write their story.

Both continued to work regularly, though not together, until nearly two decades later. Moriarty gave a tour de force performance as Jim Wheeler, the truck driver serial killer, in Cohen’s episode of “Masters of Horror” titled “Pick Me Up.” Moriarty has only been in five films since, and Cohen hasn’t directed anything else, so it may be their last collaboration. If so, what a fun way to go out…

7. Lucky McKee and Angela Bettis

Director Lucky McKee is one of the few male directors consistently creating horror films focused around strong, complex female characters, and he found his muse with his first feature theatrical film, May. Angela Bettis played the troubled but hopeful outcast with the dark hobby, and audiences immediately connected with her pathos.

Four years after that film, they reteamed for a “Masters of Horror” episode called “Sick Girl,” in which Bettis plays a similar role to the outcast in May, but with the addition of insects and some gruesome body horror elements. McKee’s next two films, The Woods and Red, were bigger films, and Bettis doesn’t appear in them; however, McKee found a way to sneak Bettis into The Woods, casting her vocally as the disembodied voice in the woods.

One of their most powerful collaborations, however, was their most recent. An adaptation of a Jack Ketchum book, The Woman is a gut punch of a movie with powerhouse performances from Bettis, Pollyanna McIntosh, and Sean Bridgers. The film deals with gender roles, deviant sexuality, and societal norms in thoughtful and disturbing ways. Both the actress and director are still active, so there’s a chance audiences may get another chance to see more of their intelligent, subversive work.

6. Guillermo del Toro and Doug Jones

Due to Guillermo del Toro’s love for the humanity of monsters, it comes as no great surprise that he has partnered with Doug Jones so many times. Jones’ remarkable physical skill and ability to emote through any level of make-up he is put under makes him the perfect muse for del Toro’s vision.

Their first collaboration was in del Toro’s Hollywood debut, Mimic, in which Jones played the enormous mutant insect. It was seven years before they worked together again, this time on Hellboy with Jones playing the super-intelligent fish-man Abe Sapien. He returned for the second film, this time taking on the vocal performance from David Hyde Pierce.

In-between the sequels, though, was perhaps Jones’ greatest challenge. In the dark fantasy fairy tale Pan’s Labyrinth, Jones played both the titular faun and the nightmare-inducing Pale Man. That performance led to a semi-regular appearance on del Toro’s vampire TV series, “The Strain,” in which Jones played The Ancient, another make-up-heavy role that he brought fantastic life to.

In del Toro’s upcoming The Shape of Water, Jones plays a mysterious aquatic creature captured by the American government. Though only a trailer has been released, the imagery looks spectacular, and if this performance is any indication, the fruitful relationship between del Toro and Jones will continue to bring audiences riveting work.

5. Darren Lynn Bousman and J LaRose

Many people know Darren Lynn Bousman, the hardest-working director in horror with a whopping eleven feature films, two anthology entries, and a handful of shorts in just twelve years. But who is J LaRose? By the time audiences recognized LaRose for his role as the chained man in the opening of Saw III, he’d already worked with Bousman three times, in a short film, a feature called Identity Lost, and in the short version of Repo! The Genetic Opera.

He returned very briefly in Saw IV, then teamed up with Bousman for both his “Fear Itself” episode “New Year’s Day” as well as appearing in the feature version of Repo! The Genetic Opera in a different role from the original short.

He popped up in small and sometimes uncredited roles in Bousman’s Mother’s Day, 11-11-11, and The Barrens, and had a role in both entries in the musical horror series The Devil’s Carnival. Most recently, he can be seen in Bousman’s horror noir, Abbatoir. With no sign of either of them slowing down, viewers are bound to see another of their collaborations soon.

4. Dario Argento and Asia Argento

Though there are some examples of famous parent-child teams of directors and actors (like John and Angelica Huston in The Dead), oftentimes a family team-up might seem like nepotism (like Francis Ford and Sophia Coppola in The Godfather Part III). Other times, you get edgy performances that can only be captured by family members with their own language who know exactly how to get the best from each other.

Asia Argento first acted for her father in 1993 with the film Trauma, playing a woman trying to solve her parents’ murder after escaping from a psychiatric facility. They followed that film up three years later with The Stendhal Syndrome, another film in which a woman tries to solve a series of murders while dealing with a debilitating psychological disorder.

She joined her father again to create a dark, brooding version of The Phantom of the Opera in 1998; they would reteam many years later for another famous literary horror adaptation, Dracula 3D. She also joined the cast of Mother of Tears in order to help her father complete the “3 Mothers” trilogy that he began in Suspiria and continued in Inferno.

Though they’ve not always had the best off-screen relationship (she ran away as a teen), the work they bring to the screen is undeniably thrilling.

3. Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell

This is likely one of the most famous collaborative teams in horror history, due mostly to the Evil Dead movie franchise. However, their working relationship extends back into their teenage years. Starring in Raimi’s amateur comedy and horror films, like 1977’s It’s Murder!, Campbell also appeared in Within the Woods, the short test concept for what would eventually become Evil Dead.

He played the villain in Raimi’s over-the-top crime comedy Crimewave, and had a cameo as the final on-screen face of Darkman in the first film of the series. Though his scenes in The Quick and the Dead ended up on the cutting room floor, he had a regular role on both “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” and “Xena: Warrior Princess”, series produced by Sam Raimi.

Campbell had small but funny roles in all three of Raimi’s Spider-Man films, playing a wrestling announcer, a movie usher, and a restaurant manager, and he’s nearly unrecognizable under make-up for a cameo in Oz the Great and Powerful.

Eventually, it all came full circle when Starz greenlit a television continuation of the Evil Dead franchise called “Ash vs. Evil Dead.” Raimi came back to direct the pilot, and Campbell returned as the dense but effective Ash. The show is a bit hit for Starz, currently shooting its third season, and audiences can expect that, as long as Raimi is making movies, Campbell will keep popping up in them in one way or another.

2. Joe Dante and Robert Picardo, Dick Miller, and Kevin McCarthy

Sometimes, a filmmaker finds a muse in an actor because that actor captures something distinct and unique about their filmmaking style and message. And sometimes, directors are just loyal to the people who started with them, and they enjoy having fun, talented people around them.

In this case, Joe Dante constantly works with actors he likes on multiple occasions, from Rick Ducommun to Henry Gibson. But by far, his most frequent collaborators have been Robert Picardo, Dick Miller, and Kevin McCarthy.

Dick Miller has been with Dante since the beginning, appearing in Hollywood Boulevard when Dante worked for Roger Corman. McCarthy joined one movie later, in Piranha, and Picardo joined the troupe in 1981 as the villain in The Howling. Since 1981, Dante has made 14 feature films and there hasn’t been a single movie that hasn’t had at least one of those three actors in it. The real question is, when Dante makes the Roger Corman biopic The Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes next year, will Dick Miller play himself from fifty years ago?

1. John Carpenter and Kurt Russell

There are few who would argue that the films Kurt Russell and John Carpenter made together aren’t some of the most entertaining and influential films in recent history. Their off-camera friendship brought about those collaborations, so thank God they got along so well.

The worked together for the first time in 1979 when Carpenter cast Russell as Elvis Presley in the TV movie “Elvis”. It was only two years later that they reteamed, bringing one of the most memorable anti-heroes in cinema to life; Russell growled his way through Escape from New York as Snake Plissken, the cool as ice criminal.

The next film they made was not a huge success in theaters, but The Thing went on to be a smash cult hit that is generally considered one of Carpenter’s greatest films. The nihilistic ending, complete with Russell embracing his mortality, still echoes strongly.

Their next pairing was also not a big box-office success, and was much more expensive. The martial arts-comedy-fantasy film Big Trouble in Little China was hilarious, bizarre, and ahead of its time, with Russell delivering a dead-on satire of the John Wayne hero role.

After the failure of that movie, Carpenter went back to the indie world while Russell found success in mainstream dramas and action films. However, not to be dissuaded from getting together and having fun (and incidentally making a movie during that fun), they got the band back together for the sequel movie Escape from L.A. More satirical than the original and nowhere near as dark, the film has its followers but never connected with mass audiences.

Hopefully, with Russell once again a hot commodity thanks to The Hateful Eight and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and with 1980s Carpenter nostalgia at an all-time high, we might just get one more collaboration out of them. And if it happens, it will be the celebration of the decade.

So what other director/actor teams do you love in the horror genre? Let us know in the comments!

Whale and Karloff

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Vampire Hunter D: The Series Gets Writer For Pilot Episode

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It’s been a little while since we’ve heard news about “Vampire Hunter D: The Series”, the CG-animated series based on Hideyuki Kikuchi’s titular character. However, some new news broke today over at ANN as they’ve reported that Brandon Easton, who is writing the scripts for new Vampire Hunter D comics, has been tapped by Unified Pictures to write the pilot for the series. The pilot will be based on Kikuchi’s “Mysterious Journey to the North Sea” storylines, which make up the 7th and 8th titles in the book series. Unified is making this series in conjunction with Digital Frontier, the Japanese animation studio behind the CG Resident Evil titles.

Easton told the site, “I’ve had to manage the expectations of three entities: the creator Hideyuki Kikuchi, the producers at Digital Frontier and Unified Pictures, and ultimately myself. This means that you have to find new and exciting ways of telling a story that has a set of concrete rules that have been fully established by the novels.

Meanwhile, the studio has also announced that Ryan Benjamin is taking over as the artist and colorist on the Vampire Hunter D: Message From Mars series with Richard Friend inking the issues.

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Watching A Quiet Place’s John Krasinski Get Scared by Freddy on Ellen Will Brighten Your Day

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I was just researching the new Platinum Dunes horror-thriller A Quiet Place and stumbled across this video. It features the film’s writer-director and star John Krasinski getting scared by a man dressed as Freddy Krueger on “Ellen.”

It’s as much fun as it sounds, and I’m sure it will make your day. It sure as hell just brightened mine.

Give it a watch below, and then let us know what you think!

John Krasinski directs the film, which will be the opening night entry at this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, TX. Emily Blunt stars alongside Krasinski, Noah Jupe, and Millicent Simmonds.

A Quiet Place will then open wide on April 6.

Synopsis:
In the modern horror thriller A Quiet Place, a family of four must navigate their lives in silence after mysterious creatures that hunt by sound threatens their survival. If they hear you, they hunt you.

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Interview: Director Jeff Burr Revisits Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III

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Director Jeff Burr was gracious enough to give us here at Dread Central a few minutes of his time to discuss the Blu-ray release of his 1990 film Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. Recently dropped on 2/13, the movie has undergone the white-glove treatment, and he was all-too-happy to bring us back to when the film was being shot…and eventually diced thanks to the MPAA – so settle in, grab a cold slice of bloody meat, read on and enjoy!

DC: First off – congrats on seeing the film get the treatment it deserves on Blu-ray – you excited about it?

JB: Yeah, I’m really happy that it’s coming out on Blu-ray, especially since so many people bitch and moan about the death of physical media, and this thing made the cut, and it’s great for people to be able to see probably the best-looking version of it since we saw it in the lab back in 1989.

DC: Take us back to when you’d first gotten the news that you were tabbed to be the man to direct the third installment in this franchise – what was your first order of business?

JB: It was fairly condensed pre-production for me, and there really wasn’t a whole lot of time to think about the import or the greatness of it – it was basically just roll up your sleeves and go. It was a bit disappointing because a lot of times in pre-production you have the opportunity to dream what could be – casting had already been done, but certain decisions hadn’t been made yet. A very condensed pre-production, but exciting as hell, for sure! (laughs)

DC: R.A. Mihailoff in the role of Leatherface – was it the decision from the get-go to have him play the lead role?

JB: No – I totally had someone else in mind, even though R.A. had done a role in my student film about 7 years earlier, and we’d kept in touch, and I’d felt strongly because I’d gotten to know him a bit that Gunnar Hansen should have come back and played Leatherface, which would have given a bit more legitimacy to this third movie. He and I talked, and he had some issues with the direction that it was going – he really wanted to be involved, and it ended up boiling down to a financial thing, and it wasn’t outrageous at all – it wasn’t like he asked for the moon, but the problem was that New Line refused to pay it, categorically. I think the line producer at the time was more adamant about it than anyone, and Mike DeLuca was one of the executives on the movie, and he was really the guy that was running this, in a creative sense. I made my case for Gunner to both he and the line producer, and they flat out refused to pay him what he was asking, so after that was a done “no deal” I decided that R.A would be the right guy to step into the role. Since New Line was the arbiter of the film, he had to come in and audition for the part, and he impressed everyone and got the part. He did an absolutely fantastic job – such a joy to work with, and he was completely enthusiastic about everything.

DC: Let’s talk about Viggo Mortenson, and with this being one of his earliest roles – did you know you had something special with this guy on your set?

JB: Here’s the thing – you knew he was talented, and I’d seen him in the movie Prison way back in the early stages of development and was very impressed with him, and he was one of those guys that I think we were really lucky to get him on board with us. I really believe that The Indian Runner with he and directed by Sean Penn was the movie that truly made people stand up and notice his work. Every person in this cast was one hundred percent into this film and jumped in no questions asked when it was time to roll around in the body pits.

DC: It’s no secret about the amount of shit that the MPAA put you through in order to get this film released – can you expound on that for a minute?

JB: At the time, I believe it was a record amount of times we had to go back to the MPAA after re-cutting the film – I think it was 11 times that we went back. What a lot of people don’t realize is after Bob Shaye (President of New Line) had come into the editing room and he thought that it was very disturbing, and cut out some stuff himself. He thought that it would have been banned in every country, and it was banned in a lot of countries but so were the previous two. It was definitely on the verge of being emasculated before even being submitted to the MPAA, and I would have thought just a few adjustments here and there – maybe a couple of times to go back…but eleven? It was front-page news in the trade papers then, and I think that the overall tone of the film was looked at as being nasty. The previous film (Chainsaw 2) had actually gone out unrated, and with the first film being so notorious, I think it was a combination of all of that, and now even the most unrated version of this would be rated R – that’s how far the pendulum has swung in the other direction.

DC: Looking back at the film after all this time – what would be one thing that you’d change about the movie?

JB: Oh god – any film director worth his salt would look back at any of their films and want to change stuff up, and with this being 28 years old, I can look back and say “oh yeah, I’d change this, this and this!” You grow and learn over the course of your time directing, and this was my third movie and my first without producers that I had known, so the main thing that I’d do today would be to make it a bit more politically savvy. I had always thought that they wanted me to put my vision on this film, and that wasn’t necessarily the case, so maybe I’d navigate those political waters a little better.

DC: Last thing, Jeff – what’s keeping you busy these days? Any projects to speak of?

JB: Oh yeah, I’ve got a couple of movies that I’m working on – I’m prepping a horror movie right now, and then I’ve got a comedy film that I’m doing after that. You haven’t heard the last of me! I’ve had a real up and down (mostly down) career, but I still love it – it’s what I love to do, and it’s still great that after 28 years people still want to talk about this movie, and are still watching it – that’s the greatest gift you can get, and I thank everyone that’s seen it and talked about it over all these years.

BUY IT NOW!

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