Top 5 scene-stealing supporting performances in horror films

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1. Tom Atkins — Night of the Creeps

By the mid-1980’s, Tom Atkins was well on his way to becoming a genre stalwart. After Fred Dekker’s 1986 cult classic Night of the Creeps, Tom Atkins became a genre god.

Virtually ignored at the time of its release, Night of the Creeps eventually garnered a sizable cult following via home video and numerous airings on shows, such as USA’s Up All Night and TNT’s Monstervision with Job Bob Briggs. Tom Atkins’ performance as Detective Ray Cameron is the unequivocal reason that so many horror fans took a shine to this film.

As the grizzled, world-weary Detective Cameron, Atkins performs one of the greatest bits of acting thievery I have ever seen. Atkins doesn’t just steal the film from his young co-stars; he makes it his own. This is a performance that could have leaned on the cheesy side of the spectrum, but Atkins grounds it with his innate coolness, masculinity, and a deadpan, yet earnest delivery that rivals that of Leslie Nielsen.

It’s a shame that Dekker chose to focus the film (an undeniable inspiration on the aforementioned Slither) on the college kids played by Jason Lively and Jill Whitlow. At the time, the genre dictated that your film must follow a group teens/college students in peril. Had Dekker focused the action on Atkins’ older character (like Dan O’Bannon chose to do in his incredible The Return of the Living Dead, which I recently discussed at length here on 1428 Elm), Night of the Creeps would be right up there with the very best horror-comedies of all-time.

Next: How Poltergeist influenced Evil Dead II

What are some of your favorite supporting performances in horror films? Please let us know in the comment section below.