From the day Jeffrey Combs busted on the scene with RE-ANIMATOR in 1985, he has been a staple to the horror community and legend among legends in the genre. From his strangely-intense composure to the selections of films he chooses to be a part of, the man has been in over 100 movies and TV shows, has expanded from the land of horror into classic sci-fi with his role on STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE, and he continues to rock the horror Kasbah… and it doesn’t appear as if he’ll be slowing down anytime soon. So without any further adieu, let’s dive into the extraordinary career of the legendary Jeffrey Combs!
One does not simply become a horror legend without having a plethora of epic horror hits under one’s belt, and luckily for us, Combs has more than his fare share. I don’t even know if I can mention all of them here, so I’ll just bring up the big ones. Of course, we wouldn’t know Combs if it weren’t for Dr. Herbert West, so all props of Combs’ greatness can be attributed to his role in RE-ANIMATOR (and it’s sequels BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR and BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR). Seriously, the guy made the bumbling doctor with good intentions (even if he was a little mad) an iconic character and proved that it can be possible to bring the tales of H.P. Lovecraft to the big screen.
Combs’ also rocked the house when he re-teamed with RE-ANIMATOR director Stuart Gordon in FROM BEYOND, a film that is as trippy as it is scary (and totally out of its goddamn mind), and once again, a prime example of Combs doing what he does best. I mentioned DEEP SPACE NINE earlier (if you’re a Trekkie, you’re probably a big Combs fife already), but he also rocked the sci-fi with shit like GUYVER and FORTRESS, both of which deserve a viewing if you haven’t already. Then, of course, comes probably my favorite Combs’ performance EVER… and that’s as Milton Dammers in Peter Jackson’s underrated THE FRIGHTENERS. Seriously, where was Combs’ Academy Award for his performance here? A crazy FBI nut-job with serious women issues (and just issues in general) whose obsession with the paranormal has left him absolutely bat-shit crazy. Love that shit, yo!
The thing about talented character actors like Combs, they have to keep working. They work to perfect their craft, put food on the table, and to get in front of the camera as much as possible (it’s a form of addiction, and who can blame them?). So the likelihood of starring in some stinkers along the way is inevitable, even when Combs’ never gives anything less than 100%. So while these movies sucked cock, at least Combs is always fun to watch. The movies? I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER and FEAR DOT COM are among my most hated movies of the genre of all time, so no doubt those two steaming turds make the list. Combs’ part wasn’t huge in either movie… and maybe that’s why they sucked so hard? The more Combs the better, that’s what I always say!
What makes those two sting so much is that they’re both big budget Hollywood movies that should have been better. Then there’s his smaller stuff, like ALL SOUL’S DAY and VOODOO MOON to name a couple, that really blow. These two movies sucked too, but some is forgiven because of their smaller budgets and the fact that they were never meant for greatness, but rather to fill the time (or in their case, to waste it). And then, of course, one of his most recent entries in the genre: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD 3D: RE-ANIMATION. A perfect example of a talented cast, budget in the special effects department, and an all-around piece of shit of a movie that should have been made in the first place. What a waste!
Combs tends to play characters that a tad out of their minds, a little crazy, a little loony, and always a few beers short of a six pack. And that’s just the way we like him. Those crazy f*ckers are always incredibly smart—he’s not stupid, but rather a genius most the time… and it’s that genius that helps Combs play the madness oh so well. Is it those glasses he likes to wear? Or his pencil-thin mustache? Or the fact that if you slapped on a bigger chin and about 50 pounds, Combs is the spitting image of Bruce Campbell. Either way, the guy knows how to pick characters and the roles he plays extremely well and always brings his best foot forward, regardless of the size of the movie and that’s the sign of a true professional.
I wouldn’t call HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL a hidden gem as much as I’d call it super underrated. I love me some HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, as it delivers in the scare department, in the death sequence department, and in the all-around fun department, and really… what else can you really ask for in a modern-day haunted house movie? The cast is superior and one of the reasons why, of course, is the presence of Combs as Dr. Vannacutt, the crazy doctor turned malevolent spirit at work in the insane asylum where the majority of the movie takes place. He doesn’t have much to say in the role, mostly he just stands around looking freaky while holding some crazy-looking surgical instrument, but holy hell does Combs do a damn good job at doing that. If you’ve written off HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, don’t. Check it out. Like, right now.
There is no rest for the wicked. Same could be true for hard-working actors who have their shit together. The man is doing a ton of voice work in animated TV shows like TRANSFORMERS PRIME and TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES, and as if that isn’t enough, he also has a few new movies in the works: ELF-MAN and THE PENNY DREADFUL PICTURE SHOW, to name a few. The biggie, of course, is WOULD YOU RATHER, which is hitting theaters this week (2/8) as well as Video On Demand, so people have no excuse not to check this puppy out. Combs is superb as the rich socialite who has a sick power fetish and thus holds the most ruthless version of the game WOULD YOU RATHER in the history of the game. It’s Combs’ haunting portrayal that gives the movie its edge… as does all the savagely hard-core torture sequences, but that’s beside the point. It’s a pretty solid little horror flick filled with tension and enough impossible decisions to keep the audience busy thinking about what they would do.
At the end of the day, Jeffrey Combs is a staple to the horror community due to his commitment to the genre over the years and the many (many) memorable performances he’s graced us with. From RE-ANIMATOR and THE FRIGHTENERS to HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL and WOULD YOU RATHER, Combs has delivered one fine performance after another, and whether he’s good at being the good guy or he’s giving us someone to hate when playing a bad guy, he always delivers a good time. Here’s to hoping there will be plenty of Combs to come in the future, and that (if we’re lucky) we’ll see at least one or two RE-ANIMATOR movies hit theaters soon.