While The Office was canceled years ago, it still has a pretty big following, or at least its popularity on Netflix leads me to believe so. It was a comedy about the wacky folks working, predictably enough, in an office and their struggles to get through the day. Most of the cast members have stayed away from horror movies, but a handful of them have dipped a toe in the genre.
5.Melora Hardin—Drive Thru (2007)
How We Know Her: As aloof but secretly strange Jan.
The Horror: Drive Thru concerns a group of California teens menaced by a killer in a clown costume—he’s Horny the Clown, mascot for the fast food chain Hella Burger. Mac (Leighton Meester) is the final girl trying to solve the mystery. Marcia (Hardin) is her mother, who seems to know more about the killings than she wants to admit to.
My verdict: Well, it’s not without its charms. Californians may get a chuckle out of the overuse of our phrase “hella.” Hella Burger’s mottoes include “Hella Burger is hella good” and “Have a hella nice day.” It draws from 80s slasher movies in that a disgruntled killer is getting a belated revenge on the next generation of those who did him wrong. Mac is a standard final girl, relatively smart and having a name associated with boys. Amusing cameos include Sean Whalen and Morgan Spurlock as a Hella Burger manager. Also bringing up the supporting cast is Rachael Bella, whom you may remember from the first scene of The Ring. The characters aren’t particularly likable; I especially felt vitriol toward Mac’s boyfriend Fisher, who throws around derogatory words like “wigger” and “faggot” for absolutely no reason. Overall, it’s no movie of the year, but it’s entertaining and original enough to stand out a bit among slashers. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for something more amusing than scary but gory.
4. Kate Flannery—Cooties (2014)
How We Know Her: As boozy but lovable Meredith
The Horror: Cooties concerns a group of elementary school teachers faced with a campus full of slavering zombie children who have eaten a batch of tainted chicken nuggets. There’s Clint (Elijah Wood), his crush Lucy (Alison Pill), Lucy’s boyfriend Wade (bonus Office actor Rainn Wilson—more on him later), Tracy (Jack McBrayer), Doug (Leigh Whannell, who also co-wrote the screenplay), and right winger Rebekkah, along with kids Calvin and Tamra. Flannery is Clint’s (sober) mother, who pops in briefly to give him notes on a book he’s writing.
My Verdict: I went into the movie with high hopes after wanting to see it for two years. I have faith in Whannell’s writing skills and I enjoy the cast. I was not disappointed. It’s a dark comedy heaping with social commentary. It has some interesting theories about how teachers are crazy and kids are gross assholes. But the pessimistic view of our “cruel, shitty world” as Lucy puts it is countered by the notion that “Teachers deserve respect.” Also, there are two kid characters who help out. The movie also touches on social issues like food-borne viruses and over-medicating kids. Violence is a big part of the narrative; it opens with a chicken being slaughtered and ground into nugget meat, and the gore only gets gorier from there. The camera shies away from violence happening to kids; we’re given an idea of what’s happening, but the camera cuts away. Violence to adults is given free reign. But there is a lot of humor as well. Doug is a particularly funny character, as he has no idea how to interact with people; he’s seen reading a book called How to Have a Normal Conversation. He gets some of the best lines, mostly because they’re so random: “Oh look, carnage.” Clint is also amusing, as the glances we get of his writing don’t inspire confidence in his ability—he’s writing a book about an evil boat. This one is easily my favorite of the five movies on the list. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for something funny, with biting social commentary.
3. Creed Bratton—The Ghastly Love of Johnny X (2012)
How We Know Him: As creepy but funny Creed
The Horror: Aliens from a planet that demands conformity or else are banished to 1950s Earth as punishment. Their leader, Johnny, has a resurrection suit that allows him to control people with his mind. Or at least had one until his on-again off-again girlfriend Bliss takes off with it, leading him and his followers on a merry chase to get it (and Bliss) back. Meanwhile, producer King Clayton (Reggie Bannister) is in negotiations for a comeback show for rock n roll star Mickey O’Flynn (Bratton). Their stories converge when Mickey dies and Johnny’s resurrection suit is needed.
My Verdict: It boasts a fair amount of respectable names in the horror genre: Bannister from the Phantasm movies, Kevin McCarthy from Invasion of the Body Snatchers (in a delicious cameo as the aliens’s Grand Inquisitor), Paul Williams from The Phantom of the Paradise, and even Kate Maberly, whom you may remember as little Dinah in The Langoliers. The film itself is a mix of genres, from sci-fi (50s sci-fi movies are its biggest influence), to comedy to musical to a little horror. When Mickey is brought back to life he’s a Frankenstein style monster, with epidermal maladies: “My face is flopping off, what the hell’s going on?” The performances are great. It’s not predictable and it’s pretty funny at times. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for a fun parody.
2. Jenna Fischer—Slither (2006)
How We Know Her: As Pam, the sweet receptionist
The Horror: In Wheelsy, South Carolina, trouble’s a-brewin’ when a meteor crashes. Soon-to-be-villain Grant (Michael Rooker) discovers firsthand that it’s not a good idea to poke things that fall out of the sky when the alien slugs inside it overrun him and make him infectious. Soon the town is merging together as one big squishy extraterrestrial. It’s up to Grant’s wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks), Sheriff Bill (Nathan Fillion), Mayor Jack, and teenager Kylie to stop the infestation. Fischer is Shelby, a twangy dispatcher who falls prey to the slugs and then becomes not so nice.
My Verdict: I saw this first in the theatre, and I didn’t like it. Upon further viewings, I appreciate rather than hate the liberal use of humor throughout the movie. It’s meant to be a horror comedy, and while at some points it’s frustrating, often it’s funny. There are some creepy moments too, like when Starla looks out the window to see a gross-looking Grant peering in at her. It’s also extremely gory—it’s not for the squeamish or animal lovers, as the slugs like to kill and eat pets. My gripes are few. There are the Southern folk clichés that abound. It’s also pretty sexist. There’s an interesting Darwinian quality about the movie. One theme seems to be survival of the fittest, especially during a scene involving “Deer Cheer,” the opening of deer season. The party celebrating the way “man has dominion over every living creature” is crosscut with Grant impregnating a woman with slugs. “Let the hunt begin,” indeed. Overall the movie is entertaining and original. Check it out if you’re in the mood for a slimy alien attack.
1. Rainn Wilson–House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
How We Know Him: As the odd but strangely endearing Dwight
The Horror: It’s 1977, and Bill (Wilson), Jerry (Chris Hardwick), Denise, and Mary are four young tourists writing a book about small-town oddities. They stop at Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters and Madmen, and Spaulding (Sid Haig) points them to the lair of Dr. Satan. After picking up off-kilter hitchhiker Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon Zombie), a flat tire leaves them in the hands of Baby’s family: hulking Rufus, deformed Tiny, creepy Mother (Karen Black), sadistic Otis (Bill Mosely), and demented Grandpa Hugo. The clan wastes little time in torturing the kids, who have to scramble to escape with their skin still on their frames.
My Verdict: As with Slither, I had to see House of 1000 Corpses multiple times before I decided I liked it. I had previously been off put by Rob Zombie’s directorial/writing style: his use of negative exposure, scenes of Otis and Baby ranting on hand-held camera, multiple allusions to other works such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Serpent and the Rainbow and even The Munsters. Now I realize that avant-garde doesn’t necessarily mean bad or pretentious. I still think House is far too much like Chainsaw Massacre (it’s really on the verge of being a rip-off), but I see its unique touches. There are many aspects of the film that are disturbing, the creepy performances by Sid Haig and Bill Mosely in particular. It also made my ex-girlfriend Ang throw up, which she attributed not to the visual gore, but “the gurgling.” If you’re in the mood for torture, gore, and gurgling, give this one a look.
So next time you watch The Office (if you’ve never seen it, give it a look), I hope you’ll think of abnormal diet choices, aliens, and mutations.