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Prestige Horror: The Hollywood Elite in Horror Films

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This week marks the release of the Spierig Brothers’ new horror flick Winchester starring Dame Helen Mirren as the notorious widower of the Winchester rifle fortune and architect of the Winchester mystery house.

I don’t know about you, but having such a prestige name as Helen Mirren stopping by our beloved genre is a big deal in the eyes of the Dread Central crew. It’s with this in mind that we wanted to look back through semi-recent horror history and seek out some other genre offerings that boast such top quality casts.

What follows is our list of horror/thriller films with prestige casts. Sometimes the films were classics. Sometimes they left us scratching our heads as to what went wrong. Either way, all of the films listed below are worth checking out just for the pedigree of talent behind the scenes.

So let’s get to it!

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Stoker

You’ve got to love Nicole Kidman. She is one of our genre’s most frequent elite actresses, and she seems to be showing no signs of stopping. Not only did she star, alongside Mia Wasikowska, in this horror-thriller from director Chan-wook Park but she has also graced our genre with such quality efforts as The Others, The Invasion, The Beguiled, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and Dead Calm. Damn, The Invasion aside that is one hell of a resume for an Oscar winner. Keep up the good work, Nicole Kidman!

Death Becomes Her

Some people might not call this film a horror movie. They’ll call it a comedy (which it is) or make up some kind of sub-sub-sub-genre to explain it away. But make no mistake, Robert Zemeckis’ Death Becomes Her is a gory, hilarious trip through the underbelly of gothic horror. It’s a blast, and if for some reason you’ve never checked it out, put it at the top of your must-see list and enjoy.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

I’d venture to say that director Francis Ford Coppola’s take on Bram Stoker’s Dracula is the most prestige horror film of all time. From the lavish production design, the epic scale, and of course the pedigree of the cast (wait, is that f*cking Keanu Reeves?) Bram Stoker’s Dracula is as prestige as prestige gets. Does anyone want to argue? Didn’t think so.

What Lies Beneath

Like Death Becomes Her listed above, What Lies Beneath further proves that director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Cast Away, Forrest Gump, etc) is really a massive horror fan at heart. Take for instance this horror-chiller starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford. Sure, it’s more of a Hitchcock-ian thriller, but if this film had starred B-movie actors it would have been called a horror movie no question. But add in the superstar pairing of Pfeiffer and Ford, and flawless filmmaking, and What Lies Beneath is a horror movie even your mother will enjoy.

The Devil’s Advocate

True story: parts of this movie were filmed in my hometown of Gainesville, Fl. Pretty cool, huh? Meh. I’ll take what I can get. But still, as cool as The Devil’s Advocate is, nothing compares to the show-stopping performance by Mr. Al Pacino. One of the acting greats of all time, Pacino played the Devil himself in this horror flick by Taylor Hackford (Trivia Bonus: Hackford is Helen Mirren’s husband) and I still cannot think of an actor better suited to play Lucifer on screen. Maybe Christopher Walken. Maybe.

Hannibal, Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs

Sure, when these films started out the cast wasn’t quite as prestigious as they are now, but that’s only because the original Silence of the Lambs was so damn good that the cast became prestige simply by being in this horror film. Hannibal was arguably even more of a prestige effort as it boasted Julianne Moore, and then Red Dragon sealed the deal with its inclusion of Edward Norton and Ralph Fiennes. In the end, the Thomas Harris trilogy of films will be known as the creme de la creme of fright flick prestige. And that makes total sense.

Interview with the Vampire

Sometimes, even to this day, I’ll watch Neil Jordan’s Interview With the Vampire and marvel at the prestige of its cast. Sure, Tom Cruise was a big deal back in the day, but watch it again and be astounded at the level of talent present onscreen time after time. From Brad Pitt, to Antonio Banderas, to Kirsten Dunst, to one of my favorites Christian Slater, Interview with the Vampire‘s cast will make your jaw drop. But my favorite actor in the whole piece is Neil Jordan’s go-to Stephen Rea. His performance as Santiago is still one of the creepiest performances I have ever seen, and his dance in the tunnel gave me more nightmares as a kid than 10 Pennywises. Brr.

Wolf

Jack Nicholson. Michelle Pfeiffer. James Spader. Enough said, right? Not quite. Add in director Mike Nichols (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Graduate, Closer, etc.) and Wolf is about as prestige a werewolf motion picture as we could only ever hope to see. That said, I’ve never seen the film myself (I know, for shame) but I plan to give it a watch tonight. Finger-crossed.

Sphere

Based on the novel by Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park) and brought to the screen by director Barry Levinson (Diner) Sphere was one of the most anticipated sci-fi horror thrillers of my youth. But then the movie came out… Awkward silence. But still, the film boasts one hell of a cast including Dustin f*cking Hoffman and Sam Jackson. It’s not often someone of Hoffman’s stature stops by the horror genre, so as bad as Sphere is, I’d still suggest giving it a watch just for the fun of it. Not a total waste of time. Merely misguided. Think of it as The Abyss. But without, you know, anything cool happening. Ever.

Fallen

Fallen is so f*cking badass, isn’t it? Love it. If you haven’t seen this film watch it asap. It’s basically a 90’s slasher ala Shocker or The Hidden, but with Denzel Washington, Casey Jones from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and John Goodman in tow. The plot centers around a serial killer demon (yep) who can jump from person to person with merely a touch of the hand. It’s suspenseful, scary, and all-out horror at (most) points. “Tiiiiime is on my side. Yes, it is.”

The House on Haunted Hill

After starring in the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Geoffrey Rush might not seem to be the most prestigious of prestige stars in Hollywood, but let’s not forget that the man is one of the great actors of our time. Not only that, but at the time that Rush agreed to star in director William Malone’s underrated haunted house chiller he was known for Oscar-bait films like Shine, Shakespeare in Love, Elizabeth, and Les Misérables. Plus, you’ve got to love his John Waters meets Vincent Price performance. Classic.

Mary Reilly

This adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – as told through the eyes of his housekeeper Mary Reilly – has been almost completely forgotten within the realms of cinema in general, let alone horror films. And maybe that’s for good reasons. Personally, I have never seen the film, and Julia Roberts isn’t enough of a draw for me to check out this film, but the promise of Malkovich as Jekyll/Hyde just might put this film on my must-watch list. Should I take on Mary Reilly? Let me know below.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Like Francis Ford Coppola’s take on Bram Stoker’s Dracula mentioned above, director Kenneth Branagh’s take on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is about as prestige as prestige gets. From the casting of Robert De Niro as the monster to Helena Bonham Carter as Frankenstein’s tragic lover, this film is a classic. I think. It’s been a few years. But still, I plan to give the film another day in court soon. After all, it was written by Mr. Frank Darabont. And if you don’t know who Frank Darabont is then you’re reading the wrong list on the wrong site. Hope you find your way back to Penny Hoarder safe and sound.

Shutter Island

Here we have yet another film that people love to say isn’t a horror movie. But I strongly disagree. From the escaped mental patients, to the raging storm, to the psychological tension under every scene, Scorsese’s Shutter Island is yet again a film that if it’s cast and crew weren’t as prestige as they are, people would happily slap a “horror” label onto the box and throw it on the shelf next to the Shutter remake. But that’ll never happen. Just look at that cast! This is a “psychological-suspense-thriller-drama” if I’ve ever seen one! Sorry, my keyboard got stuck on the sarcasm there for a second.

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And there you have it. These are our picks for the prestige of Prestige Horror. What do you think? Let us know below!

Winchester starring Helen Mirren hits theaters February 2nd, 2018.

Synopsis:
Inspired by true events. On an isolated stretch of land 50 miles outside of San Francisco sits the most haunted house in the world. Built by Sarah Winchester (Academy Award winner Helen Mirren), heiress to the Winchester fortune, it is a house that knows no end. Constructed in an incessant twenty-four hour a day, seven days a week mania for decades, it stands seven stories tall and contains hundreds of rooms. To the outsider, it looks like a monstrous monument to a disturbed woman’s madness. But Sarah is not building for herself, for her niece (Sarah Snook) or for the brilliant Doctor Eric Price (Jason Clarke) whom she has summoned to the house. She is building a prison, an asylum for hundreds of vengeful ghosts, and the most terrifying among them have a score to settle with the Winchesters…

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