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How I Fell In Love with Horror Icons Before I knew They Were Horror Icons

Despite being fortunate enough to be raised on a healthy diet of horror, I can’t deny the fact I was born in 1990.  I was born long after our most beloved genre actors got their start and made their mark in horror, and there are plenty of horror icons that I didn’t first see in their iconic roles.  Tony Todd, Bruce Campbell, and Jamie Lee Curtis were three actors I was fortunate enough to see in their career changing roles.  However, I know a good amount of horror icons from films they probably wish they could expunge from their resumes.

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HORROR ICON: Lance Henriksen
ROLE I KNOW: Kerchak from Disney’s TARZAN

Lance Henriksen is without a doubt one of my favorite actors of all time, but the first time I ever saw him in action…I didn’t actually see him. Disney’s TARZAN is my least favorite Disney Animated Feature (because I cannot stand Phil Collins’ soundtrack), but even as a nine-year-old, I was absolutely enamored with the voice of Kerchak.  Lance Henriksen gave his voice to Tarzan’s adopted ape-father that struggled with the idea of raising a human child.  His voice was one of the most interesting sounds I’d ever heard at the time, and when Kerchak passed away, I was devastated.  It wasn’t until I was twelve that I finally saw ALIENS and subsequently tracked down all of his filmography.

best-picture-home-alone-2-tim-curryHORROR ICON: Tim Curry

I was only four when I saw STEPHEN KING’S ‘IT,’ but I was too young to process that an actor was behind the clown makeup.  Later that year around Christmas, my parents introduced me to the Chicagoland Christmas staples, HOME ALONE and HOME ALONE 2: LOST IN NEW YORK.  Holy crap, did I love those movies.  I laughed so hard during those films I was crying.  Granted, I was 5 years old, but that’s beside the point.  To this day, I laugh so hard I cry when Marv yells, “SUCK BRICK, KID!” in the second film.  It’s been over 20 years and that scene still kills me.  However, Tim Curry officially earned himself a place as the biggest butthead I’d ever seen in a film thusfar.  The sequence in HOME ALONE 2: LOST IN NEW YORK where it cuts from the image of The Grinch smiling into Tim Curry smiling in the same way is something I will always think of whenever someone mentions his name.  A few years later, I was reintroduced to the man in the form of Nigel Thornberry of THE WILD THORNBERRYS and then CLUE where I instantly knew I loved this man as an actor.  Shortly after CLUE I saw THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW and the rest is history.

Dee Wallace

I was a child in the 1990s living in the Chicago Suburbs.  The Chicago Bulls were bigger than God as a child.  Some of my earliest memories of spending time with my father were spent in front of the TV screen watching Harper, Jordan, Pippen, Rodman and Longley bring the house down during every game.  Michael Jordan was obviously my favorite player, but I loved Dennis Rodman.  He wore dresses, he had tons of tattoos, and his hair was a different color every time I saw him.  Naturally, when the made-for-TV movie BAD AS I WANNA BE: THE DENNIS RODMAN STORY aired, I made sure I was able to watch it.  Before Sandra Bullock was in THE BLIND SIDE, there was Dee Wallace.  Dennis Rodman had a surrogate white family while he was in college that helped him through it all and were a driving force behind him becoming a professional athlete.  Dee Wallace played his step-mother in the made-for-TV movie and I immediately loved her.  She was so beautiful and so kind.  This was the moment where I was convinced I wanted her to adopt me.  Shortly after, I was exposed to E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL and  CUJO, and it was nailed home for me that Dee Wallace is the best movie mom, ever.


HORROR ICON:Vincent Price

Worse than the widows and orphans you drowned? You’re the best of the worst around. Oh, Ratigan. Oh, Ratigan. The rest fall behind. To Ratigan, To Ratigan. The world’s greatest criminal mind! One of the forgotten Disney animated features is THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE which features one of the last feature film roles from the late-great Vincent Price.  Ratigan is still one of my favorite animated villains, and a large part of it comes from the fascinating voice of Vincent Price.  I knew that I was supposed to think Ratigan was the bad guy, but I loved him so much I wanted him to win!  When Ratigan is finally knocked off of Big Ben and fell to his death, I was furious at Basil.  Why couldn’t he have just arrested him? Why did Ratigan have to die?! My next instance of Vincent Price was during EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and again when my baton group twirled to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” I didn’t realize it then, but I must have sounded like a total nerd screaming at 9 years old, “HEY, THAT’S RATIGAN!” It wasn’t until I saw the HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL remake at age 10 and “Ask Jeeves” searched about the film that I learned about William Castle films and finally figured out why this man’s voice was used for villains, a mad scientist, and a Michael Jackson movie.

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ICON: Heather Langenkamp

I’ve been a competitive baton twirler since I was 4 years old and belonged to an “Olympic level” baton corp for over 18 years.  Baton Twirling will never be an Olympic sport because of a rule they have about not bringing in any more events that had to be “judged” rather than have a clear-cut winner through scoring points or finishing first.  Considering there was no twirling in the Olympics, that meant I could obsess about the three most similar sports.  Gymnastics, Rhythmic Gymnastics, and Figure Skating were the three Olympic events that I couldn’t take my eyes off of.  When I first started baton twirling, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan were in preparation for the 1994 Olympics.  I loved Nancy Kerrigan. I thought she was the most elegant figure skater I had ever seen.  I enjoyed watching Tonya Harding’s powerhouse performances, but Kerrigan just inspired me to be a better performer.  After the infamous attack, my mother sort of became enamored with the whole story.  All of the parents at baton class couldn’t stop talking about it and many of the high school age baton twirlers would joke before competitions that they were going to “Tonya Harding” each other in the shins with their batons.  Witness TONYA & NANCY: THE INSIDE STORY.  I wasn’t even in Kindergarten but I was invited over to another twirler’s house because all of the girls were going to watch the made-for-TV movie together.  I was convinced that they had actually gotten Nancy Kerrigan to be in the movie because Heather Langenkamp looked just freaking like her.  I loved Heather’s performance as Nancy Kerrigan and thought she was the most beautiful actress in the world.  It wasn’t until I was about 9 or 10 that my mother finally let me watch A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and I fell in love with Langenkamp’s more famous “Nancy” role.

ICON: Danielle Harris
ROLE I KNOW: Hayley Wheaton from WISH UPON A STAR

Back in the 1990s, Disney Channel original movies were actually pretty awesome.  My favorite however was the Katherine Heigl, Donnie Jeffcoat, and Danielle Harris flick WISH UPON A STAR.  The story followed a very FREAKY FRIDAY style “body switching” film with a dorky younger sister switching lives with her pretty and popular older sister.  If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s currently available on Netflix Instant Watch and it’s pretty wonderful.  It’s CLUELESS meets FREAKY FRIDAY with an amazing soundtrack from Moonpools & Caterpillars.  Shortly after WISH UPON A STAR, my mom (a professional daycare provider) blindly bought DON’T TELL MOM THE BABYSITTER’S DEAD for all of us kids to watch.  Not only did I love every second of the film, but there was my favorite character from WISH UPON A STAR popping in with hysterical one-liners and introducing me to my favorite phrase, “waking up at the butt crack of dawn.”  My mom let me watch HALLOWEEN very early in life, but I didn’t start diving into the sequels until I was a teenager.  Danielle Harris popped up in one of my favorite episodes of  EERIE, INDIANA, but I was too young to realize it was the same person until much later.

ICON: Robert Englund

Oh, man did I love this film as a kid.  THE PAPER BRIGADE was a direct-to-video adventure/comedy film about a boy named Gunther that started a paper route to save money to buy concert tickets in order to impress a girl.  Not only was Gunter (played by Kyle Howard) totally dreamy for 8-year-old me, but for some reason I thought this was one of the funniest movies around.  It was definitely the male counterpart to THE BABYSITTER’S CLUB, and I loved it just the same.  The film played a lot on The Disney Channel (are we sensing a pattern here?) and despite my major reason for loving the film being the war of the paper boys shown in the film, Gunther befriended a guy in his neighborhood known as Crazy Man Cooper.  Family movie or not, Crazy Man Cooper is one of Robert Englund’s best characters.  A paranoid war vet with a penchant for firing paint balls at anyone that dared cross him, “Grandpa Rambo” (as Gunther calls him) ends up helping The Paper Brigade conquer their enemies and even earns himself a Marty McFly type pal in Gunther.  I watched A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET a few years later and I’m convinced the only reason it didn’t scare me shitless was because I immediately associated Freddy with Crazy Man Cooper.


    I loved this one, seriously.