One of the most recognizable faces in the horror genre is the great Brad Dourif, with his crazy eyes and over-the-top personalities, he’s become the go-to guy for filmmakers needing an eccentric, if not a bit insane, actor to pull off one of their primary supporting roles. From ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST to CHAIN LETTER, it’s hard to find a more hardworking actor in Hollywood than Dourif, and one of the most underrated, as he’s never got to the household name status that he so rightfully deserves. So sit back, relax, and join us as we dive into the man’s career, one that has spanned more than 145 movie and TV roles over the last 36 years.
It can take actors a few roles to get the swing of things and really find their groove, but not Dourif. His first starring role (more or less) was 1975’s masterful ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST as one of the loonies locked up alongside Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, and Christopher Lloyd. You’d think sharing the screen with the likes of such talented actors, Dourif would have been lost in the shuffle, yet his role as Billy is one of the most memorable, and most powerful, characters in the flick, much in part to Dourif learning early on that his crazy-intense eyes can work in his favor.
Over the years, Dourif starred in other great flicks like DUNE, BLUE VELVET, THE EXORCIST III, BODY PARTS, and the two LORD OF THE RINGS films. But his shining moment that catapulted him to legendary status in the horror community was not even his on-screen presence but rather his voice-over work as the voice of Charles Lee Ray (or Chucky) in CHILD’S PLAY and later, CHILD’S PLAY 2, CHILD’S PLAY 3, BRIDE OF CHUCKY, and SEED OF CHUCKY. The little killer doll wouldn’t be the wise-cracking psychopath that we all know and love if Dourif wasn’t the voice to the role, as he really breathed life into the lifeless doll and made Chucky one of the most lovable and likable movie maniac.
It would be impossible for someone to appear in 145 movies and TV shows over 36 years and not star in some stinkers, even if you’re as talented as Dourif. And let’s face it, the guy has starred in some serious crapfests, including PRIEST, TURBULENT SKIES, CHAIN LETTER, PULSE, THE PROPHECY 3, CRITTERS 4, and maybe the worst of the worst… ALIEN: RESURRECTION. That’s right, even when he’s given the opportunity to feature his talents in one of the biggest, most popular franchises in the history of film, he has the misfortune to star in the worst of the worst as an eccentric doctor who clones Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley for the evil space corporation. Dourif himself did a solid job in the flick, providing some classic Dourif eccentricies to make an otherwise dull and boring flick slightly more entertaining… but not much. And that’s more or less true of all his crappy movies… it’s not that Dourif doesn’t deliver on his end, but rather the films don’t live up to his awesomeness. Usually, as in the likes of the previously mentioned shit-flicks, Dourif is the only redeeming value.
As mentioned before, Dourif has an intense and interesting / unique look about him, from his crazy-big eyes to his high forehead, every time the dude is on screen you don’t know whether he’s the bad guy, the good guy, or the guy who appears bad but is later good. Rob Zombie’s obviously a fan of the Dourif, casting him in both of his HALLOWEEN films as the town’s Sheriff. Masked behind a scruffy beard, some may have not of recognized him at first, but once you nail down where you’ve seen those intense eyes before, it became very apparent. As the Sheriff, you want to side with him and believe he’s one of the good guys, but as seen in HALLOWEEN 2, even good guys has some dark and dirty secrets. And when that guy is Dourif, you’re not entirely surprised when the evil truth comes out.
Another great example of “a good guy who appears bad” is his brief, yet memorable role as the crazy gas station attendant in one of my favorite slasher flicks, URBAN LEGENDS. Upon meeting Dourif, we (and those in the film) write him off as a crazy psychopath, only later to find out that he’s just a harmless, working class dude who was only trying to help. Classic Dourif!
Fans of Blood, Bullets, and Broads: The Arrow in the Head Podcast know that one of my favorite scare flicks of all time is the highly underrated GRAVEYARD SHIFT, based on the Stephen King short story about a giant killer rat in a cotton mill. And one of the reasons why GRAVEYARD SHIFT will always hold a near and dear place in my heart is Dourif, who rocks as THE EXTERMINATOR (yes, that’s his name!), the main motherf*cker who knows how to exterminate the cotton mill’s rat problem. From his greasy long hair to his over-the-top badass tendencies, it’s hard not to like the guy. And in classic badass mode from the ‘80s, he’s rockin’ a leather jacket and gloves with the fingers cut out. Who wouldn’t want to hire Dourif to take care of their rat problem?
Dourif continues to be one of the busiest actors working today, with no less than seven movies currently in production, post-production, or yet-to-be filming. These include GINGERCLOWN (as a Worm Creature!), END OF TH EWORLD, BLACK BUTTERFLIES, and... one of the most anticipated movies scheduled for a 2013 release, CURSE OF CHUCKY! That’s right Jack, Chucky’s back in yet another adventure of slicing and dicing, and Dourif is back behind the voice. Given, the film is set to be a straight-to-DVD release, it doesn’t matter… because Dourif is back! You’d figure at this point he’d rock the Doug Bradley way of thinking and eventually not sign-up for another round, yet… he’s coming back for more. Good for him! And good for us, too. Can you imagine a world where Chucky isn’t voiced by Dourif? I sure as shit can’t.
Brad Dourif has given us a string of memorable roles in every genre, but he’s excelled in the horror genre thanks to his crazy eyes and his over-the-top way of playing the criminally insane to perfection. And whether he’s starring in entertaining trash like DEATH MACHINE, which is almost unwatchable save for Dourif’s badass dreadlocked freakazoid character, you can always count on Dourif for delivering the goods and providing an entertaining slice of grade-A characters. And lucky for us, the guy has had one of those careers that seems to be going stronger than ever, meaning we won’t have any shortage of loony-tune tendencies to quench our Dourif-fueled thirst.