10 Best Acting Performances in Horror Movies

Horror as a genre itself is so exciting and enticing that a competent bunch of actors playing either the hunter or the hunted is like a surprise holiday bonus. With changing times and the audiences getting smarter by the day the concept of selling fear has undergone 360 degree changes. This has proved to be a boon for actors who are now given the task of bringing something new to the much used and abused genre of horror. With more offbeat directors trying their hands at horror and changing the landscape of cinema with their unique blend of aesthetics and psychological insights – a new era of horror films has come upon us. Here is a list of the 10 best acting performances in horror films by actors of different decades.


10. Linda Blair, ‘The Exorcist’ (1973)

Linda had the most taxing task of lending a tone of authenticity to a film which was heavy on prosthetic and visuals. Although the film had a strong script full of the right amount of scares needed to give the audiences a mild heart attack, it would never have worked if she wasn’t convincing enough. To play a young girl possessed by an evil force is never easy and it was particularly tough for her because she had no precedent to look for inspiration. Her nightmare inducing performance was a combination of the right guidance given by her director William Freidkin and the reliance on her inborn histrionic abilities. All her hard work paid off when she won a Golden Globe for Best supporting Actress. She reprises her role in the sequel which came out four years later.


9. Haley Joel Osment, ‘The Sixth Sense’ (1999)

M. Night Shyamalan who is known for employing twists in his tales – some bizarre and some praiseworthy, pulled off his biggest surprise till date in extracting a nuanced performance from a barely 11-year-old Haley Joel Osment, in his most successful film till date – ‘The Sixth Sense’. It won’t be an exaggeration if we say that Osment outshines even Bruce Willis during some crucial moments in the film. He got the psycho-emotional part of his role bang on and delivered a performance of a lifetime at such a tender young age. He was both brave and vulnerable at the same time as a child who can interact with dead people. Apart from the no-one-saw-it-coming twist towards the end ‘The Sixth Sense’ still enjoys repeated viewings by people due to Joel Osment’s Oscar worthy performance of a child gifted with super natural abilities.


8. Essie Davis, ‘The Babadook’ (2014)

Single mothers, curious children and dark forces have always been the favourite tropes of horror filmmakers since the beginning. Despite being in the predictable scenario ‘The Babadook’ manages to stand out on its own. Reason – the film explores the psychological depth of an individual and shows that no one is black or white. Essie Davis as Amelia, who lives with her six year old son Sam suffering from an unhealthy obsession with a story book monster called Mister Babadook, showcases a rare display of grit, self introspection and adaptation to survive the ordeal her family is going through. There is always a redeeming element in a horror film which makes you leave the theatre with a glimmer of hope and in this case it was Essie Davis’s cathartic act.


7. Belén Rueda, ‘The Orphanage’ (2007)

What makes Belén Reuda’s performance work in this strangely melancholic and subtle tale of fear, longing and motherhood is her ability to underplay and go over the board with her histrionics exactly at the right moments. The film maintains an aura of lingering sense of danger throughout its running time and its leading lady ups the ante of emotions and fear to keep the audiences at the edge of their seats. Spanish actress Belén Reuda was the perfect choice for the role of a mother on the verge of breakdown while she searches for her missing son and tries to uncover hidden secrets in addition to staying strong and sane as much as possible. Her performance spoke out to the audiences and that’s why it was easy to relate to and understand her predicament.


6. Marcia Gay Harden, ‘The Mist’ (2007)

You know an actor has done his/her job brilliantly if he or she makes you either fall in love with them or hate your guts out. Marcia Gay Harden, who plays a religious fanatic – Mrs. Carmody – in the screen adaption of Stephen King’s ‘The Mist’, belongs to the latter category and that’s a victory for her. Every bone in her body emitted propaganda, manipulation and distortion of religious beliefs. She adds a new layer of tension to the already gripping tale of alien creatures attacking humanity. The film set new standards in the visual effects department but Marcia Gay Harden was a class act in herself, who made the narrative more multi-dimensional than it already was.

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