Horror Actors Who Did All Their Own Stunts
Stunt work can be dangerous. Unless an actor is Tom Cruise, performing one's own stunts often carries with it a huge liability for the production. Additionally, stunt performers — having long gone unnoticed by the Academy, it should be noted — are trained to perform death-defying feats, often with accompanying contracts and insurance policies taken out just in case anything goes awry. While moviemaking is exceptionally safe, accidents still happen and consequently, care and attention should be of the utmost concern, especially when stunt work is involved.
Here, we'll be looking at 11 horror actors who have performed their own stunts. While some of the roles are more demanding than others, these actors were committed to their craft, taking on scrapes, cuts, and bruises in service to the final project. Especially in the horror realm, immersion is everything, and these performers augmented the innate terror of their respective features by getting down and dirty with the best of them.
Ashley Bell In The Last Exorcism
Daniel Stamm's "The Last Exorcism" got pretty wild with its marketing. A found-footage subversion of conventional exorcism tropes, "The Last Exorcism" took to Chatroutelle and banned posters to advertise its PG-13 horrors. It's strange since the movie's biggest attraction was there all along, and no amount of gimmicky marketing could overshadow the work of star Ashley Bell. Bell stars as Nell, a young girl at a rural farmstead whose father is convinced she's possessed by Satan.
While "The Last Exorcism" never truly commits to bucking trends (other than a pretty wild finale), it does have Bell at its center, screaming and contorting in such monstrous ways that audiences would be forgiven for thinking it's the result of special effects. It isn't. Bell performed all her own stunts, bending over backward — quite literally — to fully embody Nell's possession. It's the movie's lynchpin, and without it, "The Last Exorcism" might not have been the success it was.
Jennifer Carpenter In The Exorcism Of Emily Rose
Giving Ashley Bell a run for her money, Jennifer Carpenter's performance in "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" comes with an irresistible anecdote. The way Carpenter contorted her body and twisted her face in the throes of full possession was deemed so scary that the movie was originally given an R rating not for gore, language, or nudity, but by dint of Carpenter's sheer ferocity as a possessed young girl. That's a piece of trivia worth celebrating.
Carpenter stars as the titular Emily Rose in a loose adaptation of the true story of Anneliese Michel, a young woman who died after enduring several exorcisms. After Emily Rose is killed during an exorcism gone awry, Laura Linney goes full "Primal Fear" as the defense attorney for the priest (Tom Wilkinson) accused of killing her. Demonic banter abounds, though the movie is at its best in flashbacks to Emily's possession. Adroitly conveying fear, Carpenter's performance will leave even the most secular of audience members believing in true evil.
Courteney Cox In Scream
Wes Craven's original 1996 "Scream" is already notorious for its laborious 6-week finale shoot. With cold temperatures and cast members covered in fake blood, it was a difficult enterprise to pull off. "Scream" endures as a benchmark for the slasher genre. Courteney Cox was among the original stars, and through her prowess, has survived five entries thus far, including 2022's aptly-titled sequel "Scream."
As reporter Gale Weathers, Cox has always been an accessible entryway for non-genre audiences. Not as versed in the genre as other cast members, Cox is an audience surrogate, frequently spouting off at the incredulity of the entire ordeal. In the most recent entry, Cox maintained the same degree of authenticity as she did in the original, performing all her own stunts. While her role is less demanding than in the original, Cox recalls feeling the hurt a bit more at 57. Cox is already confirmed for "Scream 6," and will be back squaring off with Ghostface once again, though hopefully, it hurts a little less next time.
Zoë Bell In Death Proof
Zoë Bell is the sole reason "Death Proof" works. That isn't to take away from the work done by director Quentin Tarantino or Kurt Russell's chief antagonist "Stuntman Mike" McKay, but Bell's performance in the finale seals the deal. Bell plays herself, and in the finale, she and her friends decide to play "Ship's Mast," a game that involves strapping Zoë to the hood of a car with belts. The game goes fine at first, but in the midst of it, Russell's homicidal stuntman appears, smashing the car and jeopardizing Zoë's life.
Bell has been vocal about the enormous work that went into performing the stunt. She really was strapped to that car. As dangerous as it was, it's what makes "Death Proof" such a thrilling homage to grindhouse cinema. Better still, it's a testament to the work stunt performers like Bell do daily. Bell worked in the industry for over a decade before "Death Proof" only announced her as a massive talent and simultaneously awed audiences with the sheer ferocity of her stunt work. It's a sight to behold.
Jamie Lee Curtis In Halloween
Courteney Cox may have gotten the idea to perform her own stunts from Jamie Lee Curtis and the similarly unclearly titled "Halloween," a 2018 entry in the "Halloween" canon that is miraculously both a sequel and a reboot. Arguably the movie that popularized the horror legacy resurgence, Curtis returns as a much older, much tougher survivalist variant of classic final girl Laurie Strode. Having lived in isolation for years, still traumatized from the events in 1978, Strode returns to the fray when Michael escapes, this time targeting (however indirectly) both her daughter and granddaughter.
At 62, Curtis not only smashed box office records for women over 55 but did it while performing all the demanding stunts on her own. They weren't easy stunts, either. Director David Gordon Green was wise to conclude his legacy sequel with a duel between Michael and Laurie, and consequently, Laurie is stabbed, punched, choked, and even thrown from a second-story window. All of that is Curtis herself, proving that Laurie's indomitable horror spirit isn't just an act — it truly lives within her.
Milla Jovovich In Resident Evil
While fans are split regarding whether Paul W.S. Anderson's long-running "Resident Evil" series gets better or worse as it progresses — believe me, there are some diehard "Resident Evil: Afterlife" fans out there — there's little doubt that the original "Resident Evil" is a worthwhile sci-fi horror outing. While it diverges considerably from the titular game series, Anderson has enough distinct vision to make it work, and the best part might be casting Milla Jovovich in the lead as Alice, an amnesiac Umbrella employee who plays a key role in the outbreak and containment of the T-virus.
In the first entry, Jovovich famously performed all of her own stunts sans one deemed too dangerous that involved a pipe leap amidst a web of wires. Otherwise, Jovovich was there, gliding and sliding and kicking zombie butt with the best of them. As the series grew in scale, the stunts became impractical for Jovovich to perform, resulting in a famous case of negligence on set that permanently injured stunt performer Olivia Jackson. In the original, however, is a testament to how bigger isn't always better. Small in scale with grounded effects and stunt work, the first "Resident Evil" is worth more than its price in zombie viscera.
Meagan Good In The Intruder
Horror fans might have missed "The Intruder," another entry in a long-running line of Black-led domestic horror thrillers. It's a shame since the likes of "No Good Deed" and "Traffik," the latter of which "The Intruder's" Deon Taylor also directed, are more than worth the price of admission, thrilling enterprises that never veer too far into exploitation. While "The Intruder" plays it a bit too safe, it does have a dynamite Meagan Good at its center, a performer horror fans might remember from both "Venom" (the 2005 slasher, not the Marvel movie) and "Saw V" among several other horror properties.
Good stars as Annie Howard, who alongside her husband (Michael Ealy), purchases a Napa Valley estate from Dennis Quaid's conspicuously unwell homeowner. Quaid's Charlie is at first amenable to the sale, though he has an odd habit of popping up unannounced, going so far as to landscape the property, despite having sold it. Of course, he harbors sinister intentions, and when everything hits the fan, Good is up to the task. With a soft spot for both horror films and doing her own stunts, Good grounds the climax in her battle for survival against Quaid. It's thrilling stuff, and given her resume, it's more than enough to cement Good as a scream queen in her own right.
Kane Hodder In The Friday The 13th Franchise
Like Zoë Bell, this entry might seem a bit like cheating since Kane Hodder is a stunt performer. Yet, that doesn't diminish just how much skill goes into playing a hulking, hockey mask-wearing serial killer. Diehard fans of any slasher franchise can immediately spot the distinctions between the actors who portray their favorite killers. From stature to gait, some performers get it right, and others see their franchise entries languish with a killer that just doesn't seem right. Having played him in four entries, Hodder is the most successful Jason Voorhees, his final performance as the Crystal Lake killer being in 2001's "Jason X."
Hodder's first entry as Jason is in the supernaturally tinged "Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood," the seventh entry in the series that sees Jason squaring off against Lar Park Lincoln's Tina Shephard, a young girl with telekinetic abilities. It's silly stuff, but Hodder embodies Jason Voorhees at his most physical and at the time, vulnerable. Jason is thrown through stairwells, crushed under piers, and even set on fire at one point in a scene Hodder reflects fondly on in a 2018 documentary. It's the stuff that helps to ground narrative cohesion and the suspension of disbelief, and Hodder delivers an effective Jason Voorhees in spades. He truly is a gift to horror.
Bruce Campbell In Evil Dead II
"Evil Dead II" is a considerable improvement over its predecessor, "The Evil Dead," a horror classic in its own right. While both are sensational, must-watch pieces of horror history, "Evil Dead II" acts as a soft reboot of the first, starting much the same way but showing an alternate sequence of events. It's one of the best horror movies ever made, both for Sam Raimi's classic, splattery direction and icon Bruce Campbell's inimitable performance as Ash Williams, the face of the franchise.
Campbell famously performed most all his own stunts, and while it wasn't an easy shoot, it contributes to the gritty, low-budget nature that's part and parcel of "Evil Dead II's" charm. Whether slicing up deadites with his chainsaw or blowing them away with his boomstick, Campbell is a performer willing to get down and dirty with the best of them. While it's a shame he won't be returning for the forthcoming "Evil Dead Rise," Campbell will always occupy a special place in the hearts of horror fans everywhere.
Javier Botet In...everything
Spanish actor Javier Botet was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome at just five years old. A rare genetic disorder, those with Marfan syndrome develop complications with their connective tissue that result in elongated extremities and tall, thin bodies. Consequently, Botet has parlayed his condition into some famous on-screen scares. Often cast as monsters, the 6-foot-seven-inch tall Botet is the rare performer who can embody even the most creative of horror creatures. Niña Medeiros, the antagonist of the "REC" series? That's Botet. "Mama" or the Crooked Man from "The Conjuring 2"? Also Botet. Although Botet has been in many movies, he's nearly unrecognizable in almost all of them. Several of this century's most famous horror releases wouldn't be the same without him.
In an interview with BBC News, Botet remarked, "Because a lot of people knew that my work without CGI is almost as good — it doesn't need much more help in digital." Botet also reflected on being modern horror's nightmare machine with Entertainment Weekly. An unsung hero, he is one of the essential performers in the genre, and without him, the cinematic landscape would look a lot more digital and a lot less scary.
Ellen Burstyn In The Exorcist
Ellen Burstyn was an Oscar nominee for her profound work in William Friedkin's "The Exorcist," the 1973 adaptation of William Peter Blatty's seminal novel of the same name. While her role as Chris MacNeil, mother of Linda Blair's possessed Regan MacNeil, is less physical than others, she endures her fair share of injuries. Burstyn performed all her own stunts in the film, remarking in an interview with The Huffington Post that the shoot was "physically grueling."
Burstyn was thrashed and thrown around, and in one famous scene, she is knocked to the floor by her daughter. To achieve the effect, Burstyn was strapped into a wire, with another production member pulling her down through a curtain on the floor when the timing was right. The pain on-screen isn't simulated. Burstyn permanently injured her spine in the fall. As worthwhile as performing stunts might be, there's real danger involved. While Burstyn's performance is one of the greatest in horror history (and she'll be back for the Blumhouse sequel), it's a cautionary tale. Stunt performers deserve recognition. Their work isn't easy.
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