When one thinks of horror acting, three archetypes often come to mind. Top billing goes to the last screaming girl, the heroic protagonist, or in some cases the killer / monster. That’s great because horror movies need those characters to even be horror movies. But sometimes even those actors don’t get enough attention.

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The beast’s guts, blood, and tip sometimes take precedence over performances, but it’s those performances that really sell fear. So whether it’s the heroes, the villains, the comedy relief, or the stunt actor behind the monster, some performances deserve a standing ovation.

10 Dwight Frye (Dracula)

Renfield from Dracula

Viewers may not know her name, but they definitely know her face and laugh. Dwight Frye is known for playing two crucial roles in the Universal Monsters franchise; Fritz, Dr. Frankenstien’s hunchbacked assistant, and Renfield, Dracula’s henchman who laughs and feeds on flies.

Where to start with how creepy this guy’s performance is? One look into those bulging eyes and there’s no question that something evil lurks behind them. For a melodramatic monster movie, it’s a pretty compelling performance.

9 Dylan Sprouse (fired)

Dylan Sprouse as Lucas Ward

Consider the following, a psychological horror movie in which the nerdy, posh, studious, and achiever is the movie’s biggest threat who commits heinous acts above an unsatisfactory grade. On paper, this sounds absolutely ridiculous. But Dylan Sprouse did this job in 2017 Fired.

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Lucas Ward may look like the preppy kid who would be absolutely knocked out in any other horror movie, but Sprouse gives him a hauntingly vindictive side hidden underneath that charming exterior. It is very far from its role in the Life Suite, definitely.

8 Christopher Lee (The Mummy)

Kharis looking at Isabelle - The Mummy 1959

Christopher Lee will always be a horror legend, mainly because of his repeated performances as Dracula. His portrayal of the Mummy is often embarrassingly overlooked. Honestly, Kharis could have benefited from a sequel or two.

Kharis is absolutely ruthless. Although he is nothing more than a puppet of an evil Egyptian, the guy is built like Jason Voorhees. Nothing gets in his way at all, and he doesn’t fall easily. While you may like Imhotep’s magical powers, this mummy is no fool.

7 Boris Karloff (The Raven)

Karloff and Lugosi side by side in The Raven

Like Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff will always be associated with monsters. However, his portrayal of the deformed Edmond in The Raven have to get a little more credit. Although it is not as famous as Frankenstein’s monster, it offers a chilling performance.

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With his face wounded by Bela Lugosi’s sinister surgeon, Edmond becomes a pawn in his captor’s plans for revenge. Although it comes down to a reluctant henchman rather than the main monster, Karloff’s presence and sympathetic gaze certainly stands out even next to Lugosi.

6 Robert Englund (The Phantom of the Opera)

Robert Englund The Phantom of the Opera 1989

Robert Englund will always be synonymous with Freddy Krueger, Elm Street and striped sweaters. But there are those who believe that he made a better Ghost than Freddy. Englund’s ghost is a deformed musician who carries as much threat and mania as his musical genius.

Instead of the standard white mask, this version uses a skin skinned mask of his victims, showing a more unsettling side of the character. Other than that and some of his witty catchphrases, this rendition is arguably closer to the source material.

5 Judith Roberts (Total Silence)

Dead Silence 2007 Billy and Mary Shaw

Dead silence is tremendously terrifying thanks to his army of marionettes possessed under the control of the strange Mary Shaw. But despite the fact that a human ventriloquist dummy induces nightmares, its presence and performance as a living character are greatly underrated.

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Judith Roberts dominates the role when on screen. Along with that terrifying grin, his stage prowess in his theater scenes truly demonstrates his power over a captive audience. Don’t yell, but definitely give him a clap.

4 Brad Dourif and Malcolm McDowell (Halloween)

Split image of the characters of Brad Douriff and Malcolm McDowell in Halloween 2007

There are few couples more intense and perfect than Brad Dourif and Malcolm McDowell in the Rob Zombies remake of Hallowe’en. Their energies are so complementary that one cannot help but want them to share the screen more often.

If there’s one thing Rob Zombie got right with his portrayal of the John Carpenter original, it’s casting these two as Sherriff Bracket and Dr. Loomis, respectively. With Dourif’s intense gaze and MacDowell’s commanding voice and presence, it’s no wonder it works so well.

3 Keith David (Coraline)

Keith David is no stranger to horror movies, making appearances in projects like The thing, they live Y Appear. But his appearance as the mystery cat in Henry Selick Coraline captures a different side of the actor’s range.

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The cat is essentially Coraline’s guide through the shadowy side of the Otherworld, and hearing David’s deep voice echoing from the mangy little creature is more than a little surreal. It’s definitely one of the good guys, but David’s performance gives it a really nice and ambiguous flavor.

two Benicio Del Toro (The Wolfman)

Benicio Del Toro Wolfman

It may not have had the best reception, but the Universal remake werewolf is an exciting foray into updating vintage horror with modern techniques. But what this movie really sells to its fans is Benicio Del Toro’s portrayal of Lawrence Talbot and his werewolf alter ego.

Del Toro’s devoured performance, along with his interactions with Anthony Hopkins, is definitely the reason to watch this movie. It’s one of the scariest werewolf performances in modern horror, and probably one of the best in the actor’s career.

1 Vincent Price (Red Death Mask)

Vincent Price is the undisputed champion of horror actors and he never fails to be entertaining. His range ranges from cheesy to hideous, but while most will know him for House on the haunted hill, is Roger Corman Red Death Mask he really uses all his talents.

Price Plays to the sinister and satanic Prince Prosperous and the eponymous Red Death. Like Prospero, he’s so deliciously wicked and malicious with just enough over the top flavor to remain likable. But his appearance as the Red Death is as chilling as it sounds.

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