It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll, and before you get there, you gotta pay the rent. Sometimes that means appearing in projects of dubious merit… like incredibly shitty horror films. It’s amazing how may A-list celebrities showed up in D-list drek before they got big. And we’re not talking about then-unknowns in great pictures, like Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween or Kirsten Dunst in Interview With the Vampire. We’re talking serious, face-palming “what were they thinking” awful movies.
Having said that, we don’t judge. Work equals victory in Hollywood and the occasional piece of straight-to-video crap is infinitely preferable to some of the less savory alternatives. But since it’s Halloween and since all these stars can afford to take a gentle ribbing every now and again, we thought we’d look back at some of the offal they made before they hit it big. We’re betting that all of them found other works to grace their resume.
Bacon had already made a splash as the ferret-like Chip Diller in Animal House (“thank you sir, may I have another!”), but his moment in the original Friday the 13th gave him a dubious ticket to slasher film immortality. As one of the hunky counselors at Camp Crystal Lake, he was pretty much doomed the moment he stepped onscreen. We just didn’t know how spectacular his death would be: an arrow through the throat in a money shot that still impresses us over thirty years later. Luckily, he didn’t have to spend his career getting upstaged by the sporting goods department: Diner, released a few years later, gave him actual talking things to do, and he never looked back.
Her IMDB biography lists Hannah and Her Sisters as Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s first movie. She wishes. Before that august production – and well before attaining superstardom as Seinfeld’s twitchy gal pal Elaine, or pocketing three Emmys for three different television series – Julia showed up in the original Troll. She plays an aerobics-oriented resident of a haunted apartment building, before getting jabbed by a magic ring and turning into a scantily clad wood nymph. It ain’t high art, but we gotta admit she looks good in vines… and at least she didn’t have to appear in the sequel.
The early 80s witnessed a brief flirtation with 3D movies, mostly shlocky drive-in fare where the format can truly thrive. Among the less notable entries was Parasite, featuring fanged worms that chew into you while oozing K-Y jelly everywhere. Their chief target? A then-unknown brunette who later proved how far she was willing to go for fame and fortune. If those monsters knew who they were dealing with, they’d have tucked slimy tail and run from the first moment.
The 1990 anthology film Tales from the Darkside scored not one, but two future celebrities paired together for its first ghoulish story. It’s actually not too bad – based on an Arthur Conan Doyle tale about a bookish freak who gets his hands on an ancient mummy, then sets it loose on his school tormentors. Buscemi pretty well rocks this thing, though Moore gets stuck in a thankless bitchy girlfriend role until the mummy carves her up with a pair of scissors. The two actors got a chance to work on the same movie again (though not in the same scene) with 1997’s The Big Lebowski. Their fortunes, it should be noted, had vastly improved.
And yes, that’s Christian Slater in the clips. He was already a star at this point, so there’s no excuse for him.
Before he rocked Geena Davis’s world in Thelma and Louise – then turned his himbo image on its ear with the likes of Twelve Monkeys and Seven – big Brad pouted his way through a derivative slasher film called Cutting Class. It concerns a teenage psychopath who frames Pitt’s basketball star for multiple murders. He’s pretty vacuous throughout, but at least he wasn’t willing to rest on those dubious laurels.
Clooney took the long, hard road to stardom, and worked nearly a decade in thankless roles before E.R. finally put him over the top. That may explain why he doesn’t take his celebrity for granted… and why he can laugh about roles like this one. It’s a big leap for him – he plays a ladies’ man, battling a new batch of killer tomatoes that have the ability to resemble ordinary people. Other dubious credits on his resume include Return to Horror High, The Harvest and Rewrite for Murder. Having said that, he clearly felt enough affection for the genre to return to it right after hitting it big… in 1995’s From Dusk Till Dawn.
Leo first gained serious attention with 1993’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, then shot to superstardom in 1997’s Titanic. But his film debut didn’t even merit a theatrical release: Critters 3, the soggy wet end of a vaguely decent franchise, delivered a very young Di Caprio – in fetching early 90s garb no less – as one of a gaggle of would-be victims. He survives to the final reel, though he wisely bowed out of Part 4. (Another star-to-be, Angela Bassett, wasn’t so lucky.)
Leo hits at about the six-minute mark of the video, BTW.
Aniston’s Leprechaun appearance has become the stuff of legend, which is odd because there’s nothing about either the role or the movie itself that’s particularly memorable. The other films on this list are bad, but at least the stick in the mind. Aniston plays one of an interchangeable army of potential victims for Warwick Davis’s evil Irish sprite. Davis steals the show, leaving nothing for the rest of the cast… including future Friend and unwilling tabloid fodder Aniston.
I’m tempted to use He Knows You’re Alone, the derivative slasher flick that marked Hanks’ film debut. But on behalf of my fellow old-school role-players, I’m going with the TV movie Mazes and Monsters, based loosely on the infamous Donald Egbert case that sent fundies into a lather about the evils of Dungeons & Dragons. Hanks plays the Egbert stand-in whose obsession with a sinister table-top game drives him to the depths of madness and beyond. As you watch the clip, remember: he won back-to-back Oscars.