From Kaluuya to Peters, These Are the Best Scream Kings in Horror
Spooky season means watching as many horror movies as humanly (or... non-humanly?) as possible. If you've been bingeing your cold, dead heart out this October, have you noticed any new faces in the genre? Lately, from Jordan Peele’s Get Out to Ari Aster’s Hereditary, the best stand-out horror movies increasingly seem to feature a final boy, rather than a final girl. Could it be time to bid farewell to the scream queen and welcome the era of the scream king?
This Halloween, we’re here to present our case for the rise of the Scream King. You know him well. He used to dominate the screen back in the golden era of Hollywood horror. From Bela Lugosi’s original portrayal of Count Dracula to Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein, there’s no shortage of leading men in the horror films of yesteryear. Vincent Price defined the genre with his iconic portrayal of a lunatic millionaire in House on Haunted Hill, not to mention his appearances in multiple Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. But in recent decades, the genre shifted ever so slowly to be all about final girls and the scream queens. Actresses began to take the limelight in the horror genre, led by icons like Halloween's Jamie Lee Curtis.
Of course, we love and welcome them all, but we should let the women in the genre catch their breath. It’s time for someone else to get chased around. Let us introduce you to our favorite modern Scream Kings.
Jaeden Martell might be the youngest member of our scream kings list, but he's already lightyears ahead in his horror-film repertoire. In his starring role as Bill Denbrough in the 2017's IT, Martell forged his reputation as a bonafide scream king. Nothing like facing off with Pennywise the clown to become a horror icon. right?
Martell's most recent film, Mr. Harrigan's Phone (based off another Stephen King work), sees him playing opposite Donald Sutherland (another veteran scream king!) as a haunted character who is terrorized by otherworldly forces. Martell's scream king career may be short, but we're sure he'll join the ranks of all the others on this list soon enough.
WATCH MR. HARRIGAN'S PHONE ON NETFLIX
The image of Daniel Kaluuya's wide-eyed, teary stare has been burned into our cultural memory since the premiere of Get Out. Kaluuya embodied the essence of a scream king in his breakout role. Suspicious. Terrified. Tenacious. He transformed from victim to survivor—and took us along for every moment of that emotional journey. Aside from Get Out, Kaluuya wowed audiences with his acting abilities in Black Mirror's "Fifteen Million Merits." Most recently, he appeared in another Jordan Peele blockbuster, Nope, returning to true scream king form for another wild ride.
You might need clown makeup to recognize Bill Skarsgård, considering how much the man disappeared into his role as IT's Pennywise. But Skarsgård earns his title as a scream king for more than just giving us nightmares as the evil clown. Skarsgård starred in Hemlock Grove and Castle Rock, two TV series that delivered scares over many seasons. In the actor's most recent role in Barbarian, Skarsgård played a young man staying in an Airbnb with dark and sinister secrets. Skarsgård seems to be embracing his status as horror-genre icon, as he was recently cast as Nosferatu in Robert Eggers's new adaptation of the classic film. We can't wait to see how he brings the creepy, centuries-old vampire to life.
Evan Peters started off his career playing lovable goofs on teen shows and movies, like Phil of the Future and Sleepover. But his breakout role came in the form of a deranged high schooler named Tate Langdon in American Horror Story. Peters has now become synonymous with the show, appearing in over nine seasons so far. He's played a range of roles on the anthology series, from revived zombie boyfriend, to circus performer with lobster claw hands, to cult leader Charles Manson. In his most recent role, Peters portrayed Jeffrey Dahmer in Netflix's Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. The show is now the second-most-watched English-language series on the streaming platform of all time. Watch his performance and you're guaranteed to feel a shiver go down your spine.
WATCH MONSTER: THE JEFFREY DAHMER STORY ON NETFLIX
Justin Long has made a name for himself in Hollywood as a funny, sweet, and relatable leading man. However, the horror films he's made show off his dark and tortured scream king abilities, landing him firmly on our list. Long's third major feature film was Jeepers Creepers, where the man screams, fights, and runs his butt off, while being chased by a demonic serial killer. He didn't stop there. In 2014's Tusk, Long endures a level of body horror that would make David Cronenberg queasy. Most recently, Long appeared in Barbarian, which will shock fans of the actor's normally goofy and warm reputation.
Patrick Wilson may be a distinguished dramatic actor, but his most memorable roles have been in the scariest movies of the last decade or so. After starring in James Wan's Insidious, Wilson went on to star in The Conjuring series, even appeared in a spinoff movie, Annabelle Comes Home. He'll reprise his role as Ed Warren, a real-life paranormal investigator, in The Conjuring 4, which will soon begin production. Not to mention, Wilson will make his directorial debut in 2023 with Insidious: Fear the Dark, which he'll also star in. We can't wait to see what scares Wilson has in store for us.
WATCH THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT ON HBO MAX
This scream king has already wrapped ten horror films in his career, and he's just getting started. Kyle Gallner's first major horror role came in 2009's The Haunting in Connecticut, playing a young boy who becomes possessed. Since then he's appeared as a number of memorable characters in horror classics like Jennifer's Body, the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, and 2022's Scream. Gallner also stars in the latest horror-movie hit, Smile, which made $167 million at the box office.
Lillard might be better known as Shaggy from the Scooby-Doo series, but the actor long paid his dues as a veteran scream king by the time he stepped in the Mystery Machine. In a breakout role as Stu Macher, Scream's unhinged high schooler, Lillard found his groove of playing slightly disturbed characters in horror films. He followed up Scream with 2001's Thirteen Ghosts. You can still find him voicing Shaggy in Scooby-Doo films and TV shows, most recently Trick or Treat, Scooby-Doo. And when Lillard isn't voicing one of the country's most beloved cartoon characters, he's showing off his acting chops in shows like Twin Peaks: The Return and Good Girls.
If there's a pinnacle of bad boy in a '90s horror movie, that guy would be Skeet Ulrich. He started off by playing Chris in The Craft and joined Neve Campbell again in Scream later that year. He cemented his status as a heartthrob playing Billy Loomis, the tortured and messed-up boyfriend in the '90s slasher. He continues giving off bad boy energy in Riverdale, where he plays Jughead's father, F.P. Jones. The actor hasn't given up his reign as Scream King on the big screen, either, starring in 2018's Escape Room, and reprising his role in Scream earlier this year.
You may recognize Wolff from his days in The Naked Brothers Band, but these days, the actor is shedding his tween musician image for something far more frightening. Wolff burst onto the horror scene in 2018, playing the lead in Ari Aster's Hereditary. He portrayed a high schooler who becomes plagued by supernatural horrors with so much realism that you feel haunted even after the credits roll. But it's far from Wolff's first foray into horror. He also starred in My Friend Dahmer in 2017, and M. Night Shyamalan's Old in 2021.
From: Esquire US