Written by: Lois Kennedy
BEWARE! *Mild spoilers*
It’s fair to say Modern Family is an innocuous sitcom. I don’t mind letting my four-year-old play in the room while I’m watching it. However, some of the actors have a darker side to their resume, in which they often play characters who are the opposite of their most popular roles.
5) Nolan Gould—Ghoul (2012)
How we know him: As lovable oaf Luke, the youngest of the Dunphy clan.
The horror: In the made-for-T.V. Ghoul, Gould plays Timmy, a smart young sassmouth who loves nothing more than hanging out with his buddies at the cemetery. It takes place in 1984, and in true 1980s fashion, the kids tackle a monstrous mystery—that of the legendary monster haunting the old mines.
My verdict: Even as a kid, Gould is already too good for this movie. It’s predictable, and it pretty much plays out like an episode of Scooby Doo, or would at least if the invariable old man trying to scare people away from a diamond mine were murdered by children. The ending is abrupt and unsatisfying. Normally a movie this cheesy should be funny as well, but it’s surprisingly boring, and with its depiction of parents who both physically and sexually abuse their children, it’s also yucky and hard to watch.
Bonus Modern Family actor: Cam’s dad (Barry Corbin) has a small role as Timmy’s grandfather.
4) Ariel Winter—One Missed Call (2007)
How we know her: As driven honor student Alex, the middle Dunphy child.
The horror: One Missed Call involves college students being plagued by a deadly cell phone curse. Winter plays Ellie, a young girl who likes to hurt her little sister for no reason other than being evil, apparently. The character is not very well drawn-out for narrative reasons: she’s the catalyst behind the haunted cell phone curse, which is supposed to be a surprise.
My verdict: Winter, like her pretend brother, is wasted in this movie. It’s nonsensical, full of plot holes, and derivative of movies like The Ring and Final Destination. It’s also not the least bit scary. You’ve probably already seen it, but if you haven’t, feel free to give it a miss.
3) Julie Bowen—An American Werewolf in Paris (1997)
How we know her: As Claire, the controlling yet loving matriarch of the Dunphys.
The horror: The movie concerns three college students doing the clichéd European backpacking tour. Andy, the least obnoxious one, saves a woman’s life while she is trying to commit suicide. She’s a werewolf, and before long he’s turning into a werewolf too. After running from his lycanthropic gal in horror, Andy picks up a needy American tourist, Amy (Bowen), whom his friend correctly characterizes as a “bimbo.” After Andy and Amy mess around on Jim Morrison’s grave, he turns into a werewolf and kills her. This causes her to turn into a dilapidated, angry ghost who can’t rest until Andy dies.
My verdict: The only highlight of the movie for me is when, trying to alert villainous werewolves to Andy’s presence, ghost-Amy whistles and squirts blood out of her face. It’s pretty funny. Otherwise, I found the movie hard to enjoy. The werewolf, Serafine, is a fairly strong female lead, but Amy is dumb and useless. We’re not supposed to like her, which is why Andy’s murder of her goes completely unpunished. However, the most trying part of the movie in my opinion is when Andy shoots Serafine several times, thinking she’s a bad werewolf. His mild reaction to almost fatally wounding her is wholly inappropriate.
2) Jesse Tyler Ferguson—Untraceable (2008)
How we know him: As Mitchell Pritchett, proud gay humanitarian.
The horror: An FBI agent comes across a website run by a serial killer that encourages people to watch live homicides. Ferguson is Arthur, the FBI’s first suspect, an engineer who was fired from his job for putting a webcam in the men’s bathroom and also a vocal fan of the murder site.
My verdict: While the film’s theme that people are desensitized by the technological marvels they’re surrounded with is fairly transparent, it’s still eloquent and relevant too. I did wish there were a little more of Ferguson (his role in the film is so small that he’s credited just above “Female Cop # 1”), even if his character is the creepy opposite of Mitchell. Though both characters are apparently gay; Arthur is exonerated after the authorities discover that he was in a “steamy” twelve-hour chat session with another guy while the killing they suspected him of took place.
1) Ty Burrell—Dawn of the Dead (2004)
How we know him: As sweet bumbler Phil, the patriarch of the Dunphy family.
The horror: In Dawn of the Dead, survivors in the wake of a zombie apocalypse band together at the local shopping mall. Things start to look brighter for a little while, but the zombies are still hungry and quite persistent. Burrell plays Steve, a loudmouth jerk (or as one character calls him, “a total dick”). He’s a moral pessimist who’s only out for himself.
My verdict: This film is a standout among most of the other films mentioned in that it is of decent quality, with good acting, visual effects, and cast, and even a great soundtrack. It’s a paean to camaraderie and the human spirit.
So next time you watch Modern Family, keep in mind that sitcom actors aren’t always what they seem.
About the Author: Lois Kennedy is an avid horror fan who loves to write. You can also find her under the pseudonym Ghoulie Joe on Facebook, YouTube, and WordPress.