You know those Facebook posts that you see and/or receive on your birthday where someone posts “SCREAMING HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO…”? Why don’t people do that in real life? Perhaps I’m a contradiction because my goal here is to SCREAM HAPPY BIRTHDAY to someone, but through a dedicated article, and not in real life. So … HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BRAD DOURIF!
The man behind one of the most sadistic and prolific cinematic killer dolls turns 69 today. Although his performance as Charles Lee Ray / Chucky will be his ultimate legacy, Dourif has had an incredible career in film spanning more than forty years. He’s Oscar nominated (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), Emmy nominated (Deadwood), and has received statues for a Golden Globe (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and a Fangoria Chainsaw (Body Bags).
With a career that’s 40+ years and going, one would assume that there’s a few performances in his repertoire that could be considered hidden gems. A huge chunk of those gems are within our genre of horror. Of course, to a horror novice, these gems are proudly displayed within their collection or within their hearts.
In honor of Dourif’s day of birth, I want to call back to five of his performances in horror that have may be an uncovered gem to some and a proudly displayed gem to others.
5. Rob Zombie’s Halloween / Halloween II (2007 / 2009) – Sheriff Lee Brackett
Love them, hate them, or just don’t acknowledge them, Rob Zombie’s Halloween and Halloween II are a part of the Halloween history. Dourif took over the role of Sheriff Brackett, father of doomed Annie Brackett, in the remakes. What was just a bit role in the originals was expanded in Zombie’s takes, and Dourif took the role in great stride. Finely straddling the line of city protector and father, Dourif gave heart to the role that required exactly that.
The scene in Halloween II when he finds the body of his daughter is exceptionally heartbreaking. Zombie may have made the films incredibly bleak and full of his signature hard language and gore, but when Brackett discovers Annie’s body, it’s like the entire film/s wheel screeched to a halt, and we were transported into the eyes of a father who truly lost his daughter. I don’t rewatch Halloween II often, but during those times that I have, this scene instantly brings tears to my eyes. That’s the power of Dourif.
4. The Exorcist III : Legion (1990) – The Gemini Killer
Dourif may have brought the feels and tears in Zombie’s Halloweens, but in William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist III: Legion, he brought the downright creeps. Dourif’s portrayal of the Gemini Killer gave history and a face to the unseen character mentioned in The Exorcist. Holy heck, did he give a memorable performance.
As mentioned, Dourif never leaves the confines of his cuffs and bed within the room that he reveals himself to Kinderman (George C. Scott) through the body of Father Karras (Jason Miller). Honestly, he didn’t have to do much as his face along with nuanced body movements fulfilled any box that needed to be checked with the character. I honestly could go back and watch solely his scenes, and my heebie jeebies quota would be met.
3. Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) – Tommy Ludlow
In Eyes of Laura Mars, Dourif is Tommy, driver to famed fashion photographer, Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway). In this giallo-esque thriller based on a story by John Carpenter, there are a few red herrings as to who the murderer is that Laura keeps seeing kill her friends. Dourif eventually ends up being one of those red herrings who may or may not end up being the killer jabbing ice picks into Laura’s friends’ eyes.
Up until the reveal that he may or may not be that person, Dourif downplays Tommy. His behavior and relationship with Laura is very nuanced and professional. Aside from a bit where he reveals that he was imprisoned before he got the job of her driver, the only other trait that we are privy to is that he has the hots for Lulu, one of Laura’s signature models. Once the shit hits the fan with Tommy, that’s where Dourif begins to make us question whether or not he is the murderer.
2. The Hazing aka Dead Scared (2004) – Professor Kapps
Like a lot of horror vets, Dourif has been in his fair share of direct-to-video horrors. I will un-regrettably say that this DTV horror is one of the funnest that I’ve encountered. A riff on Night of the Demons, the Elm Street series, and Evil Dead, The Hazing places a group of college pledges in a haunted house that has an occultist in the form of Dourif possessing co-eds and shedding blood.
Like a lot of Dourif films, he’s only in the film for less than 30% of its running time, but when he’s onscreen, he makes a showing. And much like a lot of Dourif films, voice over is aplenty from him. But fret not. From the opening where he skeezily manipulates a coed (Brooke Burke) into being a sacrifice, to the middle where he looks like a legit Obi Wan Kenobi ripoff, to the end where he battles it out with the survivors, Dourif action is abundantly satisfying.
1. Urban Legend (1998) – Gas Station Attendant
You knew this one was coming. I believe that this is one of Dourif’s more famous cameos in any horror film. For good reason, too, as the opening to Urban Legend personifies one of the more obvious and feared legends known to man. Dourif portrays the ever-present warning to the unsuspecting victim, but she does not believe him for she believes he is the reason that she will be a victim.
The line that Dourif screams, “Someone’s in the back seat!”, has – to these ears, and hopefully to your’s – become iconic amongst 90’s horror cinema.
There’s no denying that Brad Dourif has made his mark on the horror genre, Chucky and beyond. He is a seasoned actor that can captivate any audience at any given moment.
So here’s to Brad Dourif’s 69th year on this planet that we call earth. He has graced us with so many memorable characters within the world of film, especially the world of horror. Not only has he been able to be the incomparable Chucky and face off against Michael Myers, but he’s done battle with Xenomorphs (Alien: Resurrection) and Crites (Critters 4). May he experience many more years in entertaining the world with his incredible talent.