20 Famous Actresses Who Got Their Start In Horror Movies

Jennifer Connelly Young

Eva Mendes

Movie: Children Of The Corn V: Fields Of Terror (1998)

If you were female, and named Eva Mendes, which would you prefer folks acknowledge as your first real big-screen introduction: going topless in Training Day, or pledging allegiance to that bratty little Satanist Ezekiel in the perfunctory horror sequel Children Of The Corn V: Fields Of Terror?

You’d choose the first, of course, because that one at least starred Denzel Washington and won him his long overdue Best Actor Academy Award. As for the straight-to-DVD Corn flick, it’s the kind of shitty, low-grade dud that bores people who come across it on cable, keep it on for 20 minutes, and switch it off after saying, “Hey, look who it is!” Never has flashing one’s ta-tas been so favorable.

Rachel Weisz

Movie: Death Machine (1994)

Forget the fact that Rachel Weisz, the supremely gifted English actress whose films include The Constant Gardener, Enemy At The Gates, and The Fountain, once played an anonymous character simply known as “Junior Executive.” The coolest thing about her involvement in 1994’s grisly sci-fi/action/horror hybrid Death Machine is that the Academy Award winner (Best Supporting Actress in 2006, for The Constant Gardener) can say she once worked on a movie that was banned in countries like Iraq, China, and Australia.

The reason: Death Machine, about a gadget maker (Brad Dourif) who makes one of his top creations decimate the employers who recently fired him, is over-the-top violent. In one insane scene, the vengeful “Warbeast” thrashes its way through an elevator full of unlucky, ripe-for-the-picking bastards.

Jessica Lange

Movie: King Kong (1976)

Jessica Lange’s recent Emmy for her brilliantly antagonistic work on FX’s American Horror Story is a pleasant reminder that she’s yet to leave the precious genre of fear and fine ladies behind. The two-time Oscar statue earner (1983 Best Supporting Actress for Tootsie; 1995 Best Actress for Blue Sky) has been connected to the horror world since her big-screen debut in 1976’s King Kong, the second cinematic telling of the lovable, misunderstood, and mondo-sized gorilla’s primate-meets-woman tragedy.

Lange starred as Kong’s love interest, a role that required her to rock two-piece outfits and flash some nice 27-year-old skin. No wonder the hairy King was so sprung.

Rooney Mara

Movies: Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005), A Nightmare On Elm Street (2000)

In last year’s marvelous David Fincher thriller The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, newcomer Rooney Mara, who earned an Academy Award nomination for her work, blew audiences away and showed that she’s nothing like her newbie ingénue peers. Well, at least not on the screen.

Away from the directors’ cameras, however, Mara unfortunately proved that she’s just another too-prestigious-for-horror flip-flopper by chastising her involvement in 2010's admittedly horrendous remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street; yes, the film sucks, but it also gave Mara a starring role that most hot, on-the-rise actresses her age would’ve killed for.

And what about her smaller role in the equally lame and unnecessary slasher sequel Urban Legends: Bloody Mary? As much as she’d love for it to be the case, Mara’s career didn’t begin with The Social Network. Sometimes, the truth does indeed hurt.

Maggie Q

Movie: Gui Ming Mo (2000)

It’d be safe bet to wager that Maggie Q, ass-kicking and insanely sexy star of The CW’s Nikita, would rather we don’t mention 2000’s Gui Ming Mo here, but, screw it, what do we have to lose? It’s not like she’s going to come to the Complex offices, karate-chop the front door into pieces, and roundhouse-kick staff members in the grills, right? Damn, maybe we should hire security after this.

In the meantime, it’s our duty to point out that the Hong Kong-released Gui Ming Mo, supposedly of the often disappointing horror-comedy genre (just look at that stupid poster, up above), is a cyber phantom—very little is known about it, much less written, and the only user review on IMDb calls it “one of the worst movies” the self-appointed critic has ever seen. Even superwomen have their kryptonite.

Amy Adams

Movie: Psycho Beach Party (2000)

Presently, Amy Adams is one of Hollywood’s most in-demand and consistently acclaimed actresses, bouncing around from awards-ready projects (director Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming The Master) to enjoyably lighter fare (The Muppets) and blockbusters (next year’s Superman reboot Man Of Steel). But that hasn’t always been the case.

Prior to landing a role in Steven Spielberg’s 2002 success Catch Me If You Can, Adams starred in such overlooked movies as Cruel Intentions 2 (a straight-to-DVD release that was ignored for good reason) and Drop Dead Gorgeous (far better). And, most importantly, she donned a two-piece pink bikini while evading a serial killer in the horror-comedy Psycho Beach Party. Hey, she’s certainly versatile.

Elizabeth Olsen

Movies: Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011), Silent House (2012)

It’s too early to label Elizabeth Olsen, one of 2011’s hottest breakout actresses, an official “scream queen”; her lungs get a constant workout in her latest flick, the real-time horror winner Silent House, and there’s a couple of quick but effective yells in last year’s psychologically unnerving Martha Marcy May Marlene.

Despite her flirtations with becoming scary movie royalty, the youngest Olsen sister is looking to shake things up in the near future, with a lead role in the indie rom-com Liberal Arts and talks pinning her to Spike Lee’s Oldboy remake (for which we fear she'd make this list). Regardless, though, there’s one thing that Hollywood can’t ever take away from us genre heads, no matter how big she gets: Thanks to Martha Marcy May Marlene and Silent House, Lizzie Olsen showed horror fans love first.

Michelle Williams

Michelle WilliamsMovie: Species (1995)

The common perception is that Michelle Williams, a recent Oscar nominee for her portrayal of the oft-imitated Marilyn Monroe in the indie film My Week With Marilyn, first stepped onto the scene in the hit teen drama series Dawson’s Creek, but that’s not completely true. Sure, her work alongside James Van Der Beek is what launched her current stardom, yet it’s a largely forgotten role in the 1995 science fiction/horror hit Species that really kick-started Williams’ hustle.

Hers was an important part, too, playing the kiddie version of Natasha Henstridge’s sexy man-eating alien beast. You could call it My Week With A Supermodel Who Poked Her Tongue Through Guys’ Skulls.

Evangeline Lilly

Movie: Freddy Vs. Jason (2003)

How insignificant was Lost star Evangeline Lilly in one of her first movies, the 2003 slasher smackdown Freddy Vs. Jason? Her role is technically uncredited, and when it is acknowledged, Lilly’s character is simply referred to as “School Student, Next to Locker.”

Eagle-eyed fans of her incredibly mysterious sci-fi hit will instantly notice the beautiful brunette in one of the movie’s school hallway sequences, in which two of the main characters bicker as nosy classmates crowd around them; Lilly, not given any dialogue, looks naturally attractive while sporting a green sweater and clutching a textbook.

Why should she give a damn about the past, though? Lilly will soon be seen in both of Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings prequels, the two-part Hobbit series that kicks off this December. Yeah, she’s doing just fine.