You know you’re watching something that Matthew Gray Gubler has had a hand in when it’s equal parts whimsical and wicked. There’s just something spirited and askew about his work that sets it apart. Whether it’s one of this characters in a quirky horror film or any of the 12 Criminal Minds episodes he’s directed, you can always count on Gubler to liven up a story with his haunted humor. And how better to celebrate his birthday than with a list of his creepiest capers?
Criminal Minds (2005-Present)
You may recognize Matthew Gray Gubler from the 14 seasons he’s spent portraying Dr. Spencer Reid on the FBI procedural drama Criminal Minds. As the brains behind the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), Reid is not only a profiler, but holds multiple Ph.D.s and Bachelor’s degrees. His character also has an eidetic memory that serves him well as a supervisory special agent as he and his team search and apprehend serial killers.
Even if you’re not familiar with the staggering 300+ Criminal Minds episodes, it’s worth seeking out the stories directed by Gubler, a self-professed horror fan who studied filmmaking and directing before becoming an actor. As a horror fan, Gubler often gives us nods or winks to our beloved fandom, bringing in guest stars like Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Evan Peters (American Horror Story), and Brad Dourif (Child’s Play). Under Gubler’s thoughtful direction, your Wednesday night will take a turn toward the Twilight Zone and feel like a horror short instead.
How To Be a Serial Killer (2008)
This dark comedy opens like an infomercial for a self-help seminar on How To Be a Serial Killer. Mike Wilson (Dameon Clarke), is prepared to share all his pro-tips and secrets on how to become “the killer everyone is talking about!” And who does he decide to import this wisdom to? None other than Bart, a frustrated video store clerk played by Matthew Gray Gubler. You remember videos stores, right? This one even has an ad at the desk for their MySpace page!
Not only does Mike encourage Bart’s dark, violent fantasies, but he also attempts to teach Bart the fine art of murder, gives lessons on the various methods of killing, and the ever-important topic of disposal of corpses. Of course, the lessons can only continue as long as their sinister shenanigans go undiscovered and they can stay off the radar of the local P.D.
Scooby-Doo! Legend of the Phantosaur (2011)
We had to include this animated creature feature just in case you’re looking for a palate cleanser after all the serial killers, zombies, and ghosts you’ll be encountering in this list. The whole Scooby Gang is in New Mexico on vacation and visit an archaeological dig site. Gube supplies the voice of Windsor, an archaeology student and Velma’s (Mindy Cohn) “soul mate” / love interest.
Before you can even say, “ZOINKS!” Shaggy and Scooby (Matthew Lillard and Frank Welker) have unearthed the ghostly presence of a Phantosaur, who was originally summoned by Native Americans to battle Spanish conquistadors. Fred (Welker) and Daphne (Grey DeLisle) try to lead the gang to discover the real nature of the crime, but with Velma being love-struck and Shaggy and Scoob being their usual frightened selves, they could end up in a Jurassic mess! Hopefully, the gang, uh… finds a way.
Life After Beth (2014)
Starring Aubrey Plaza (An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn) as Beth Slocum, this dark comedy about reanimated corpses may just gag you with laughter. Dane DeHann (A Cure for Wellness) is Zach Orfman, whose girlfriend Beth dies unexpectedly one afternoon. Gubler plays Zach’s brother Kyle, an aggressively high-strung security guard who doesn’t cut his grieving brother much slack.
When Zach starts to believe Beth has risen from the dead, his family thinks he’s gone crazy. Gubler’s gun-happy Kyle is a fun departure from the characters we normally see him portray. Add that to the rest of the off-kilter comedy and the fun practical effects and you have a kind of gruesome glee that we’ve come to expect from Gubler, even in a co-starring role.
Suburban Gothic (2014)
Suburban Gothic is one of three films directed by Richard Bates, Jr. that Gubler has been involved in. While Gube has bit parts in Excision and Trash Fire, he’s the star of the show alongside Kat Dennings (2 Broke Girls) in Suburban Gothic. This quirky, comedic horror is as sweet and amusing as it is creepy and gross and earned Gubler an award for Best Actor at Screamfest 2014.
Unable to find a job, psychically-sensitive Raymond returns home from college after obtaining his MBA to live with his doting mother (Barbara Niven) and aggressive, sport-coach father (Ray Wise). When he discovers a vengeful spirit is set on attacking his family and lady friend, Becca (Dennings), he attempts to make things right. Suburban Gothic is among my favorite films to rewatch.
68 Kill (2017)
At the IFC Center in NYC, Gubler told an eager audience how he always wanted to make a Midnight Movie and how thrilled he was to be part of this one. Directed by Trent Haaga (Cheap Thrills), and based on the novel of the same name by Bryan Smith, 68 Kill is a fierce and funny fright fest. If you’re unfamiliar with the book, the movie is bound to take you in directions you had no idea it was going. Having been in the audience for opening night at the IFC Center, the theatre was full of shrieks, applause, and laughter throughout the film.
When Chip’s chaotic girlfriend Liza (AnnaLynn McCord) comes up with a scheme to rip-off her Sugar Daddy employer, Chip is coerced into helping put the plan into action. However, not everything goes as smoothly as they hoped, and all hell breaks loose leaving Chip reeling. The insanity that ensues leaves you breathless with both laughter and dread. Just when you’re thinking things cannot possibly get any worse for this guy, something else goes haywire (but it wouldn’t be horror if it didn’t leave you squirming!)
Okay, weirdos, which performances will you be watching to celebrate Gubler’s 39th birthday this weekend? Grab a pint or two of ice cream and tell us over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!