Celebrity cameos are a big draw for viewers and actors, alike. The audience gets to see a quick, punchy appearance by a performer they love and the thespian gets to collect a check for a few day’s work. I like to think of a brief and well-placed cameo by a beloved actor or actress as the icing on the cake. And, in a lot of cases, that’s precisely what it is. Many of the films on this list were made even better by a short (and often unexpected) visit from a familiar face. Keep reading for ten of the most memorable such cameos in horror cinema!
Drew Barrymore in Scream
Drew Barrymore’s appearance in Scream really shook moviegoers in 1996. Hers was (arguably) the biggest name attached to the film. She appeared in much of the marketing collateral for the flick and viewers were expecting to see her hang around for the duration. Instead, she popped up just long enough to experience a short but deadly encounter with Ghostface. Barrymore was dispensed with almost as quickly as she appeared on screen, letting the audience know that anything could happen in this twisty tale of slashy teenage carnage.
Janet Leigh in Halloween: H20<iframe width="560" height="315"
As a lifelong horror fan, I remember being so excited to not only see Jamie Lee Curtis returning to the Halloween franchise as Laurie Strode but also to witness her mother, who famously appeared in Psycho, briefly show up alongside her. In a memorable scene, Janet Leigh’s character (Norma) literally bumps into Laurie and asks if she can “be maternal for a moment”. H20 deserves some recognition for bringing the real-life mother and daughter back together onscreen. The pair previously shared scenes in John Carpenter’s The Fog.
Wes Craven in Scream
Wes Craven was always a director that intuitively knew how to delight his fans. And seeing him show up as Fred, the school janitor, wearing a striped sweater and a fedora was an absolute delight. Horror fans, understandably, went crazy for this not-so-subtle nod to Craven’s quintessential slasher film, A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Sigourney Weaver in The Cabin in the Woods
Sigourney Weaver’s appearance as “The Director” in Cabin in the Woods lends an additional air of authority to the flick, seeing as how the actress stars in Alien, one of the most terrifying horror films of all time, as well as its action-packed 1986 sequel, Aliens. But aside from any clout from past projects, Weaver really just slays in her role. She’s not on screen for long but she makes the most of her screen time. And I can’t think of anyone I’d rather see stop by to explain the rules.
Linda Blair in Scream
Linda Blair appears in Scream in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo. She turns up as an aggressive reporter looking for a story. The entire sequence happens so fast that I didn’t even realize it was Blair the first time I watched the film. But thinking back on it, The Exorcist was the definitive horror film of the ‘70s, so having the star of that flick briefly appear in what is fairly well accepted as the definitive horror film of the ‘90s works on so many levels.
Bobby Brown in Ghostbusters 2
Ghostbusters 2 didn’t quite fill the shoes of its predecessor but the success of the original film did pave the way for a brief appearance by former New Edition singer, Bobby Brown. Brown attempts to score his little brother a proton pack from the film’s ghoul-fighting stars but is quickly reminded that a proton pack is not a toy. In addition to his cameo, Bobby Brown also contributed the song “On Our Own” to the film’s soundtrack.
Hulk Hogan in Gremlins 2: The New Batch
Gremlins 2 writer Charlie Haas seemed to throw a lot of ideas at the wall to see what stuck. Unfortunately, almost everything stuck and the end result is a bit bonkers. But one example where the ‘anything goes’ attitude served the film well was the Hulk Hogan cameo in the theater scene. And I must say that The Hulkster is certainly right about one thing: When people go out to a theater, they want cold sodas, hot popcorn, and no monsters in the projection booth!
R.L. Stine in Goosebumps
In a perfect world, it would have been great fun to see R.L. Stine play R.L. Stine in the Goosebumps feature film adaptation. But, alas, Stine is an author, not a cinematic leading man. So, it was neat to get to see the beloved writer briefly appear in the flick as Mr. Black, a high-school drama teacher.
Carrie Fisher in Scream 3
Carrie Fisher’s cameo appearance in Scream 3 is noteworthy for a variety of reasons. It serves as a meta in-joke that the late Star Wars actress executed brilliantly and managed to pull off with a completely straight face. Fisher plays Bianca Burnette, a Carrie Fisher lookalike who was up for the role of Princess Leia but lost the part to the woman who slept with George Lucas.
If you’re counting, this is the fourth time the Scream franchise has shown up on this list. And, believe it or not, I had to cut a couple of star-studded cameos from the series that I wanted to include to avoid devoting more than half the list to a single franchise.
Bill Murray in Zombieland
I’ve saved my favorite for last. No list of memorable cinematic cameos, inside or outside of the horror genre, would be complete without Bill Murray’s turn as Bill Murray in Zombieland. As he’s prone to do, Murray stole the show with his comedic chops. His brief appearance is one of the first things most people recall when they think of Zombieland. The actor even scored a repeat appearance in the much-anticipated follow-up, Zombieland 2: Double Tap.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for you. Did I miss any of your favorite celebrity cameos in horror cinema? Let me know in the comments section!