John Cusack: From 1980s teen comedy to 2000s horror

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 04: John Cusack speaks at the Apple Store Soho Presents: Meet The Filmmaker: "Love And Mercy" at Apple Store Soho on June 4, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 04: John Cusack speaks at the Apple Store Soho Presents: Meet The Filmmaker: "Love And Mercy" at Apple Store Soho on June 4, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images) /

Though best known for his comedic roles in 80s films such as Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer, John Cusack has dabbled in other genres, including horror.

Initially, John Cusack was just another teen actor, first appearing in Class and Sixteen Candles when he was 18 and 19 years old. As time went on, he expanded his acting efforts, moving on to the roles of Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything, con man Roy in The Grifters, a hit man in Grosse Pointe Blank and the conflicted love interest in the romantic comedy Serendipity.

But, over the years, Cusack has also appeared in a number of thrillers, and even a small handful of horror films. The thrillers have included Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (a favorite of mine), Con Air and he even played Edgar Allan Poe in The Raven.

For straight-up horror, let’s start out by discussing 2003’s Identity, my favorite on this short list. Ten strangers are more or less trapped in an isolated hotel during a bad rain storm, and one by one, most of them are killed by an unidentified person. Of course, they all start to suspect one another, and the mystery deepens as the film works its way to a jaw-dropping finale.

John Cusack
BERLIN, GERMANY – FEBRUARY 16: (Editors Note: This image has been digitally altered.) An alternative view of actor John Cusack attending the ‘Chi-Raq’ photo call during the 66th Berlinale International Film Festival on February 16, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sebastian Reuter/Getty Images) /

John Cusack appears as ex-cop/limo driver Ed Dakota, and he is joined by the likes of Ray Liotta, Rebecca DeMornay, Jake Busey and one of the best character actors ever, Pruitt Taylor Vince. Vince plays a convicted murderer in a different storyline that runs parallel to the main story.

Identity has it all:  John Cusack, a whodunit mystery, gory kills, interesting characters, great acting and an even greater reveal. It can be streamed on Amazon Prime (as a rental) and Vudu.

In 2002, iconic horror writer Stephen King released a collection of short stories called Everything’s Eventual. One of the stories included in the collection was a dark little gem titled 1408, and trivia alert: those numbers add up to the unlucky sum of 13.

1408 was adapted to film in 2007, with John Cusack portraying Mike Enslin, a writer who seeks out haunted locations in order to investigate them. Though Enslin is in reality a non-believer, when he checks into the notoriously haunted room 1408 at The Dolphin Hotel, he becomes a believer the hard way.

After being warned away by the hotel’s manager (played by Samuel L. Jackson), Enslin spends one very terrifying night in room 1408. This horror fantasy can be streamed on YouTube and Amazon Prime (as a rental).

The third film on the list of horror movies starring John Cusack is also based on a Stephen King story, the master of horror’s 2006 novel Cell. It was a reunion of sorts, because Samuel L. Jackson also appears in this one, and it’s a treat to watch these two actors together again.

After a strange “pulse” causes everyone currently using a cell phone to become crazed killers (a truly harrowing, bite your nails scene), an artist named Clay (Cusack) does everything he can to get home to his estranged wife and their young son. He is joined by a subway conductor (Jackson), and a teenage girl (played by Orphan’s Isabelle Fuhrman), and the three must evade hordes of the infected.

Of course, as we all know from watching zombie movies, it’s often the living who are the most dangerous, and Cell proves that rule once again.

I have mixed feelings about Cell. While I love the novel, despite its ambiguous ending , and the film starts out on good footing, it kind of loses its way towards the end. I am definitely NOT a fan of the movie’s decidedly un-ambiguous ending. Cell can be streamed on Pluto tv, Vudu and Amazon Prime (for rental).

I count myself as a big fan of John Cusack’s films, and here’s hoping he chooses more horror projects in the future!

Next. Interview with the creators of Shudder Original The Boy Behind the Door. dark

Are you a fan of John Cusack? What’s your favorite of his horror films? Let us know in the comments section.