Since 2010, The New York Times Magazine has devoted one of its year-end issues to “Great Performers.” This holiday season, we couldn’t have received a better gift, because the theme is horror movies. In a series of features and videos, the online version of the print supplement to the newspaper presents ten “macabre tableaus with the year’s best actors, taking on classic characters in the horror genre.”
These aren’t “classic characters” in the sense that they’re Frankenstein’s monster, or Dracula, or Freddy Krueger. They’re classic “types” such as the generic psycho killer, ghost bride, and macabre dancer. They’re presented in glossy, colorful vignettes that may just be glorified photo shoots; however, are full of terrifying imagery and sometimes gory detail.
Don’t expect much plot with them (the longest one runs only one minute and two seconds), although most of them are remarkably effective at depicting moments that could have been pulled from some terrific full-length movies. The best of them stimulate your imagination to create “the rest of the story.” The worst of them, although none are “bad,” evoke a sense of bizarre discomfort.My favorite features Andy Serkis, who brought motion-capture characters Caesar (War for the Planet of the Apes) and Supreme Leader Snoke (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) back to the big screen this year. He plays “The Demented Clown.” Although he’s in the process of applying his make-up in his tableau, his performance is enough to keep those suffering from Coulrophobia awake for weeks.It’s fun to see Timothee Chalamet, who earns my vote for Best Actor of the year for his performance in Call Me by Your Name, in full creepy mode as “The Cannibal,” a distinguished gentleman who pours a goblet of blood and serves a human heart as the main course for a fancy dinner. Floating in another goblet on the table is an eyeball.Nicole Kidman, who impressed The New York Times Magazine with performances in The Beguiled and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, lets loose in “The Possessed” as a housewife in the kitchen who is overcome with… something. She becomes violent, smashing dishes and throwing food, then writes on the floor in the mess she created. It’s scary, even more so when her actions become slightly sexual in nature.
The other tableaus feature:
Soirse Ronan (Lady Bird) as “The Mannequin”
Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) as “The Psycho Killer”
Brooklynn Prince (The Florida Project) as “The Demon Child”
Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger) as “The Damned”
Daniela Vega (A Fantastic Woman) as “The Vampire”
Cynthia Nixon (A Quiet Passion) as “The Ghost Bride”
Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip) as “The Macabre Dancer”
Click here to visit the interactive features online. Besides the short films, you’ll also find behind the scenes videos, beautiful still photographs of the actors in their horrific roles, and fascinating commentary about why horror experienced resurgence in popularity during 2017. Spoiler: “when things [in the world] are bad, the genre has a way of telling you they could be worse.”