The 18 Best Performances in Horror Movies — IndieWire Critics Survey

IndieWire | 7/9/2019 | Staff
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Reactions to Ari Aster’s “Midsommar” predictably run the gamut, but there seems to be a general consensus that Florence Pugh is fantastic in the lead role. In the aftermath of Toni Collette’s work in “Hereditary,” and Essie Davis’ memorable turn in “The Babadook,” there’s been something of a renewed appreciation for horror movies as a vehicle for strong performances.

This week’s question: What is the best and/or most indelible performance you’ve seen in a horror film, and how did it leverage the genre to accomplish something that might not have been possible in a more grounded type of movie?

Isabelle - Adjani - Possession

Isabelle Adjani in “Possession”


Prompt - Survey - Image - Mind - Isabelle

Upon reading the prompt for this survey, a single image came into mind, that of Isabelle Adjani violently and passionately convulsing in a dank subterranean hallway in Andrzej Zulawski’s “Possession.” Adjani deservedly won the Best Actress prize at Cannes for “Possession” and “Quartet.” She’s remarkable throughout the entire film portraying both Anna and Helen, but this scene is *the* scene for me when it comes to horror, a sort of grotesque and tragic miscarriage which feels completely out of control and other-worldly. And it’s arguably not even the most outrageous and disturbing scene in “Possession,” which is why the film is one of my all-time favorite horror films, as well as one I’m not sure I want to ever watch again.

Kathy Bates in “Misery”



While Toni Colette’s turn in “Hereditary” springs to mind immediately, I’d like to go at least a little further back and throw armfuls of roses (and maybe some soup) at Kathy Bates for her performance in “Misery,” a great Stephen King adaptation that could easily have been a miserable one, if not for her generous, deliberate, precisely balanced performance. If Bates played Annie Wilkes with a wink for even a moment, the whole thing would fall apart....
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