After reading Nathan Rabin’s recent review of Curse of Chucky, I was delighted when a friend recently brought the movie over to watch. Not only was the viewing a perfect mood-setter for the changing season, but it fanned the flames of my ridiculous crush on Brad Dourif. Since Mr. Dourif shows up in so many horror films, ’tis the spooky season to make up my list of favorite performances by the man himself.
5. Saavedro from Myst III: Exile
Since 2013 is the 20th anniversary of the original Myst, you could say that nostalgia is influencing my choice. But Saavedro is one of Mr. Dourif’s classic character types̶ the compelling obsessive. Saavedro is wounded, hell-bent on revenge & properly demanding his due. He rages, he cries, he demands reparation. Paired with Saavdro’s messages & murals scattered throughout the game, the character is unforgettable & his performance is amazing to watch.
4. The Alien from Werner Herzog’s The Wild Blue Yonder
Herzog’s The Wild Blue Yonder is an odd film, a work of fiction created out of found footage. The fascinating images of space travel and underwater icecap exploration are accompanied by the Alien’s narration about his world beyond “the outer reaches of Andromeda,” and the fallibility of his species. Dourif tweaks his accent & uses his distinctive eyes to portray a lonely Alien who fantastical failings mirror our own humanity. The resulting movie is a stunning, ambitious, and vulnerable work.
3. Billy Bibbit from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Poor, poor Billy, the naive sensitive soul who cannot handle his brushes with the world. How could you not watch this movie, want to give Billy a huge hug & make sure all the sharps are taken away? Billy is a particularly difficult character to watch because you know fully ahead of time that his friendship with R. P. McMurphy isn’t going to end well. The tragedy is telegraphed fully in advance when the inmates laugh at Billy for proposing to a girl he likes & the look on his face shows he doesn’t totally understand the joke.
2. The Gemini Killer from The Exorcist III
“Psycho Killer, qu’est-ce que c’est?” Mr. Dourif has played a lot of serial killers in his career, but I think James Venamun, the Gemini Killer is the pinnacle. He laughs, cries & hardly blinks while raging uncontrollably about death, damnation & torture. You have to see it to believe it. To quote one commenter (Vanstania) on YouTube, “The only reason we let Brad Dourif act is because we’re afraid of what he’ll do if we don’t.”
1. Hazel Motes from Wise Blood
Let me say up front that the film adaptation is very flawed. Part of this comes from the fact that John Huston and the Fitzgerald family, who held Flannery O’Connor’s estate in trust, were in conflict about how the adaptation should be done. John Huston wanted to make one of his trademark films about the folly of man; the Fitzgeralds were determined not to have O’Connor’s work altered. But Hazel Motes as a character is the perfect mix of naivete and violence that Mr. Dourif has portrayed so well in other characters. His physicality, his accent & his emotional intensity all come together, even if the rest of the movie doesn’t. (Jump to 5:52 in the clip.) In a time when the internet can give us anything, I would love a clip of Mr. Dourif reading from Wise Blood.