Horror cinema has been around since the late 19th century. That gives us 130+ years of thousands of individuals who have laid some cement on the foundation of the genre that we have today. From the performers who were drenched in blood and screamed their way through countless films, to the writers and directors who created the causes for those screams, to the makeup artists and costume designers who brought the horrors to life.
It’s been an internet hobby of mine since the internet was a thing to research those involved with the genre. The most interesting part of the research is the arrival of the present and seeing where these individuals from past films are at now. With this monthly column, I will be sharing with you bits of information that I find out on these pioneers of horror past, answering the question, Where [Sc]are They Now?
There’s an actress who has entered the realm of ocean horror not once, but twice. She’s also appeared in the horror genre a good number of times, and faced off against a good number of different kinds of foes. It would only be apropos if she appeared in a film that involved a prom during Nightmare’s Enchantment Under the Sea Dance Party, a combination celebration of all films sea set and prom parties. But alas, she hasn’t. And that’s okay, because this month’s Where Sc[Are] They Now genre performer, Famke Janssen, has legit horror cred.
“Activist, director, blockbuster frequent, and star of some of horror’s modern good times, Famke Janssen has made her mark in cinematic history.”
Janssen’s career began in the 80s as a professional model, appearing in many high fashion campaigns. The early 90s saw Famke transition from modeling to TV appearances including Star Trek: The Next Generation (1992) and Melrose Place (1994). In 1995, she joined the ranking of Bond girls when she landed the role of Xenia Onatopp in Goldeneye. Not wanting to be stereotyped as just a beautiful face, she began to seek out roles with more depth and more power. This is something that she continued to address throughout her career.
Also in 1995, Janssen appeared in her first horror flick under a director, Clive Barker whose created worlds are always a pleasure, in Lord of Illusions. She portrayed Dorothea, a survivor of a cult of magic, who must traverse the world of magicians and demons to fight back against the return of the cult leader who once kidnapped her. In accordance with Janssen’s stance on accepting roles that was much more than a pretty face, she found a good footing within the horror genre. Starting with Lord of Illusions, the role was headstrong, and showcased a strong individual whose history of having been gaslighted provided her the strength to overcome the atrocities that were thrown her way.
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1998 would throw Janssen into the ocean aboard a cruise ship that was attacked by mercenaries as well as a very huge and very hungry sea creature in Deep Rising. Janssen’s Trillian St. James was an international thief who gets caught up in the aquatic horror. Deep Rising is one of the funnest aquatic horrors. Among the testosterone filled cast, Janssen rose above, and along with the gargantuan sea monster, she was one of the greatest highlights of the film.
Deep Rising wasn’t the only horror film that Janssen starred in throughout 1998. The second was the sci-fi / horror teen romp, The Faculty. Differing from her characters in the two previous horror outings, Janssen portrayed a meek teacher whose personality did a 180 when the aliens taking over the faculty Invasion of the Body Snatchersed her. Seeing her as a villainous character proved successful as her next role would see her become fully mean spirited in 1999’s The House on Haunted Hill. While not a full fledged villain, Evelyn wasn’t the nicest rich woman who drove her husband to the point of planning her murder at her birthday party. The role was a nice reprieve from her previous horror outings.
The aughts brought mysterious girls that caused a heck load of trouble for Janssen’s characters in the thriller, Don’t Say A Word (2001), and the “is it paranormal or is it not” flick, Hide and Seek (2005). Janssen took a film all on her own in 2008’s 100 Feet. In the film, she portrayed a woman who returns to her home on house arrest after spending over a year in prison for murdering her husband albeit in self-defense. The abusive husband returns as a spirit to continue making her life a living hell.
And the 2010s were the years of the villainous Famke Janssen. The next Janssen horror experience is my favorite of her’s, and in it, she is the villain. 2013’s Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is an all-out horror-action movie where the titular characters must defeat an army of witches led by Janssen’s Muriel. There’s just something about Janssen’s demeanor that leads to her being the villain that you love to hate. This continued in the Netflix original series, Hemlock Grove, which ran for three seasons from 2015 to 2017. The series took place in the titular town of Hemlock Grove where a facility, ran by Janssen’s Olivia Godfrey, partakes in some sketchy experiments that may or may not involve the town’s rumors of a lycanthropic presence.
Janssen returned to the open sea to star alongside Nicolas Cage in Primeval (2019). Janssen’s Dr. Ellen Taylor was on the run from mercenary assassins, but instead of a behemoth creature from the deep like in Deep Rising, she now also had to fiend off an assortment of wild animals including venomous snakes and a rare white jaguar.
In between all of the horror films, Janssen starred in many blockbuster films including the original X-Men (2000-2006) films as Jean Grey and in the Taken (2008-2014) trilogy as Lenore. She made her directorial debut in 2011 with the comedy, Bringing Up Bobby, starring Mila Jovovich (Resident Evil) and Bill Pullman (Independence Day). There’s also many longstanding TV stints on such shows as Nip/Tuck (2004-2010), The Blacklist (2016-2018), and How to Get Away with Murder (2015-2020).
“Famke Janssen reached beyond her talents as an actress, and in 2008, she became a goodwill ambassador for integrity for the United Nations of Drugs and Crime…”
Famke Janssen reached beyond her talents as an actress, and in 2008, she became a goodwill ambassador for integrity for the United Nations of Drugs and Crime focusing on the misuse of funds directed towards people in need. In 2012, she was appointed as the very first Water Ambassador by Green Cross International in which she helped spread awareness of the global water crisis.
Activist, director, blockbuster frequent, and star of some of horror’s modern good times, Famke Janssen has made her mark in cinematic history. And you know, there’s always time for her to start in a prom-themed genre flick. Here’s hoping!