13 Horror Movies with Sitcom Stars
Article By: Sean Abley
Okay, so pretty much everyone knows that Jennifer Aniston starred in Leprechaun very early in her career, but we bet you didn't know about some of these other sitcom stars who were featured in some of your favorite (and not-so-favorite) horror movies! Perhaps it's not a surprise that comedy actors also appear in horror films, since both can provoke laughter. Who hasn't jumped during a particularly scary scene and then laughed about it afterward? One need only go to opening weekend of the latest Paranormal Activity to experience that phenomenon! So without further ado, here are 13 horror films featuring sitcom stars!
1. Cindy Williams (Laverne & Shirley) in Beware! The Blob! (aka Son of Blob) (1972)
Before her six years as Shirley Feeney on Laverne & Shirley, Williams appeared in a handful of films, some prestigious (American Graffiti, The Conversation) and some… memorable (Gas-s-s-s, The First Nudie Musical). Beware! is Larry Hagman’s (Dallas) sole feature film directorial credit, and we can only imagine he was holding out for just the right project. Williams is part of a large ensemble cast of young stars and old hams, 99% of who are eventually devoured by the accidentally thawed blob.
2. Riki Lindhome (Garfunkel and Oates) in The Last House on the Left (2009)
Anointed (and produced) by Wes Craven, The Last House on the Left is one of the better remakes of the last decade. In maniacal contrast to her musical duo/art house sitcom character (herself, blonde), Lindhome is terrifying as Sadie (brunette), the bad girl of a band of ne’er-do-wells who kidnap and torture two young women before meeting their own gruesome fate. The mayhem is different than the original, but just as flinch-worthy.
3. John Ritter (Three’s Company, Three’s a Crowd, Dave’s World, Hearts Afire, 8 Simple Rules) in Bride of Chucky (1998)
Although he was definitely a creature of television, Ritter accrued a lengthy list of film credits before he died in 2003. Everything from low-budget weirdly interesting (Americathon) to filthy comedies (Bad Santa) to transformative dramas (Sling Blade). (We’d mention It, but technically that was a TV movie…) His appearance and bloody demise in Bride of Chucky are brief and painful, just like all those times he fell over the couch. (Enjoy this Italian dubbed clip from La sposa di Chucky!)
4. Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Veep) in Troll (1986)
Louis-Dreyfus appeared in three films released the year after she was fired from Saturday Night Live – Hannah and Her Sisters, Soul Man and Troll. But in only one of those films could she count Sonny Bono, Shelley Hack and Michael Moriarty as costars. A Band family extravaganza (Charles executive produced, Albert produced, and Richard composed the score), the plot concerns an apartment building being slowly gentrified into a faerie realm by an angry, butt-hurt troll. Each of the residents is also transformed, with Louis-Dreyfus becoming a nearly naked nymph and Bono morphing into a lush forest. (No lie.)
5. Jack Albertson (Chico and the Man) in Dead & Buried (1981)
One of Albertson’s final roles after 40-plus years in Hollywood was “William G. Dobbs,” mortician and boss of all the zombies in Potter’s Bluff. A gruesome little film with some nice death set pieces, D&B did mediocre business at the box office, but benefitted greatly from HBO expanding their programming from nine hours a day to 24/7 in 1981. The cable network needed content, and Dead & Buried was one of many films aired endlessly for months at a time.
6. Zachery Ty Bryan (Home Improvement) in The Rage: Carrie 2
After eight seasons as “Brad Taylor” on the Tim Allen gruntfest, Bryan appeared in this unnecessary, but entertaining, sequel to Carrie. Amy Irving returns (also unnecessarily) as Sue, now a counselor for teens who discovers Carrie White’s half-sister Rachel (a great Emily Bergl) at the local high school. Things happen, people get angry, and 90 minutes later we get to the scene we’re all waiting for – the raging! Bryan suffers a particularly painful fate (Spoiler: his junk is the target), while Irving is killed in such an offhanded way it feels as if they filmmakers just needed to get her off set.
7. Alfonso Ribeiro (Silver Spoons, Fresh Prince of Bel Air) and Peter Scolari (Bosom Buddies, Newhart) in Ticks (1993)
A bosom buddy and The Tap Dance Kid joined scads of TV stars making direct-to-video horror movies in the 90s, many of them about giant bugs or animals. Ribeiro, Scolari, 90s hottie Ami Dolenz (Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings) and a group of multicultural victim types head to the woods for a “get back to nature” weekend, only to find ginormous killer ticks. The local marijuana farmers’ steroid concoction used to keep the plants kind bud is responsible for the insect gigantism, making Ticks the ultimate modern day anti-drug propaganda film.
8. Danny Pintauro (Who’s the Boss?) in Cujo (1983)
The year before he’d begin his eight year run as “Jonathan Bower” on Who’s the Boss?, 7-year old Pintauro would hold his own opposite Dee Wallace and the titular character in this film version of Stephen King’s super downer of a novel. Both the film and book succeed in the Herculean task of making you feel sorry for both the mother trapped in the car, and the innocent dog driven by rabies to attack. If you’re an animal fan, or a claustrophobe, this is not the film for you.
9. Meshach Taylor (Designing Women, Dave’s World, Buffalo Bill) in Damien: Omen 2 (1978)
Taylor doesn’t have much to do in this decent sequel to The Omen except indirectly make life harder for Damien and then die. But damn, what a great death scene! Also, this is another foreign dub because its sort of funny and this is a sitcom stars list.
10. Jim Backus (I Married Joan, Gilligan’s Island, voice of Mr. Magoo) in Macabre (1958)
“Thurston Howell” appeared in William Castle’s first film to employ gimmicks – A Lloyd’s of London insurance policy for death by fright, nurses stationed in the theater, and a “race against the clock” countdown courtesy of a character being buried alive – only five hours until the air runs out! Backus and a handful of other possible suspects search for the trapped girl, but most of them die before the twist ending.
11. Crystal Bernard (Happy Days, It’s a Living, Wings) in Slumber Party Massacre 2 (1987)
Crystal Bernard starred in this above average slasher sequel during the run of her second sitcom gig, It’s a Living. Where The Slumber Party Massacre was a straightforward slice and dice affair, SPM2 employs dream logic, and features a rock-n-roll maniac wielding a monster guitar/drill hybrid. Much has been made of this franchise being written and directed by women, but any feminist leanings are quickly put to death by a serial killer using his guitar drill like a weaponized penis to kill helpless women.
12. Ron Palillo (Welcome Back, Kotter) in Jason Lives: Friday the 13th: Part VI (1986)
The late Palillo, aka “Arnold Horshack,” had a fairly quiet career after the series’ cancellation in 1979, but his appearance in F13: VI will please both those that missed him, and those that loathed the character. Appearing in the prologue with Thom Matthews (Return of the Living Dead), Palillo meets a quick demise after Matthews inadvertently helps Jason come back from the dead…again.
13. Rainn Wilson (The Office) in House of 1,000 Corpses (2003)
Rob Zombie’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre-esque debut horror flick featured cult casting slamdunks Karen Black (Trilogy of Terror), Sid Haig (Spider Baby), Bill Moseley (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) and Tom Towles (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer), plus surprises Wilson and The Talking Dead’s Chris Hardwick, both more known for comedy. Things don’t turn out well for either of the doomed funny men, as you can see in this delightfully horrifying clip of Wilson’s demise.
Sean Abley is a playwright, screenwriter and horror film journalist. His latest book of interviews is OUT IN THE DARK: INTERVIEWS WITH GAY HORROR FILMMAKERS, ACTORS AND AUTHORS.