Thanks to its recent release on DVD and Blu-ray, I've had Universal's remake of The Wolfman on my brain lately. I think the extra sixteen minutes added to the unrated cut of the film are a marked improvement on the overall film; not necessarily because they add much needed depth to the core characters, but because the padded run time finally just lets the movie breathe. The theatrical cut had a number of problems, sure, but its most systemic fault was a break neck rush to the end credits. That particular problem is now, more or less, solved.
Improvements to the film aside, some of the making-of featurettes really helped reinforce two elements of Joe Johnston's film I already loved. The first being Rick Baker's makeup effects, which are far more prolific than I initially realized (I think knowing that the transformations would be all CGI tainted just how much of the Wolfman I thought was digital). The second gem of the film is none other than Sir. Anthony Hopkins. So in honor of the great, grizzled knight/actor, I'd like to kick off a (hopefully recurring) new feature at Horror Squad highlighting actors who keep the genre classy. How exactly do you define classy? I'm not sure, to be honest. It's like porn, you just know it when you see it.
Sir. John Talbot, The Wolfman
Maybe it was just me, but when Hopkins was cast as Lawrence Talbot's father, Sir. John Talbot, it was actually the turning point where I became optimistic about The Wolfman. If they can hook someone as talented as Hopkins, surely there must be some actual meat to the role, no? Well, as mentioned above, the movie certainly has plenty of rough spots, but Hopkins is not one of them. Here he takes a character who is written as just a scumbag father and turns him into a caged maniac. The eccentric lord of the manor certainly isn't a rare type of character, particularly to the horror genre, but few of them come across with the brooding lethality Hopkins bestows upon the role. The scene where asks Lawrence to look into his dead eyes may just be my favorite scene of the movie.
Ethan Powell, Instinct
Now I know that Instinct is in no way a horror movie - it's a dramatic legal thriller about an investigation into whether or not an anthropologist who has been living with gorillas for two years is guilty of the multiple murders he's accused of - but it is an intense and probing look into the dark heart of humanity. But even though it's not a horror movie, its thoughts about what motivates killers is far more intriguing than the simple revenge and "It's just another slasher" motivations that are so common in actual genre films. Plus I just think Instinct is an under-seen flick that could use a random corner of the spotlight.
Charles Morse, The Edge
Again, we have another Anthony Hopkins film that is not strictly a horror film, but a character and a performance that could easily be transplanted into a more genre-focused picture. As far as woods-bound, man versus nature thrillers go, The Edge holds a special place in my heart (and not just because it has Bart the Bear in it). I'm particularly fond of Hopkins' slow descent into madness from an eccentric billionaire into a vengeful survivor. He's one of the few actors who can play a loose cannon who goes off without any theatrical bombast. Pardon the pun, but you can hardly tell when Hopkins has gone over the edge in roles like these.
Corky Withers, Magic
Horror movies about ventriloquists are almost always freaky, but usually that has more to do with those damned, emotionless wooden faces than it does the actual men (or women) propping up the dummy. In Magic, however, it's all Anthony Hopkins. There's no actual magic involved, he's not combating some dummy with a mind of his own, Corky Withers is just driven insane by multiple personality disorder. And how insane he gets. This is the best 'killer ventriloquist' movie ever made and it's due entirely to its lead actor.
Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Red Dragon
For me, The Silence of the Lambs is the ultimate "is it or isn't a horror movie" debate and that's all a tribute to how serious Anthony Hopkins takes the character of Hannibal Lecter. In other actor's hands, including the great Brian Cox, he's just a very intense, very serious serial killer. But in Hopkins' hands? He's an icon. He's sophisticated, cultured, and positively diabolical. Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter is the most regal serial killer the medium has ever known and there are very few actors who could have pulled that off.