THEN: When I was very young the name Herbert West become synonymous with everything that was great in horror. In the 1985 classic RE-ANIMATOR, a crazed young medical student – who had fantastical ideas blurring the lines between life and death - quickly became an iconic genre figure. The actor, a young man by the name of Jeffrey Combs, had mastered the madness of the character and soon he became one of the hardest working fellas this side of B-movie magic. Yet this was not the young and talented actor’s first foray into fright films.
In 1983, Combs started off in a favorite of mine growing up. FRIGHTMARE is a classic low-budget horror flick that offered up a number of satisfyingly cheesy scares. Starring the late Ferdy Mayne as Conrad Radzoff, this ghoulish flick tells the haunted tale of a deceased horror legend who has come back to kill. In every way this feels like a 80s horror movie and I personally love it. It wasn’t until I revisited Combs career that I realized he was a part of this nostalgic nightmare. Looking younger than ever, the actor gets to play the victim this time but it is only a hint that the best was yet to come.
With RE-ANIMATOR being a cult hit, there had to be a sequel. In 1989 Herbert West returned in BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR and then again in BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR in 2003. While the sequels didn’t quite live up to the glorious original, there is no doubt that Combs was still having a blast with this iconic character. As the good doctor, he had the uncanny ability to give Doctor West just the right amount of lunacy. This gory and comedic franchise was made all the better by this incredible actor’s wildly wacky and fantastically memorable performance.
By the looks of Combs impressive career, he seemed to connect quite well to the world of H.P. Lovecraft. Aside from his work in RE-ANIMATOR, he appeared in a number of films loosely inspired on the authors work. This includes FROM BEYOND in 1986 and NECRONOMICON: BOOK OF THE DEAD (1993) in which he actually portrayed Lovecraft himself. He also starred in both LURKING FEAR in 1994 and CASTLE FREAK in 1995. And once again, both films were “loosely based” on Lovecraft’s writing. But you know something? Jeffrey Combs was terrific every single time.
Often enough, Jeffrey would take on a handful of bigger projects. This included ROBOT JOX in 1989, I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER in 1998 and Peter Jackson’s ferociously fun THE FRIGHTENERS in 1996. He even worked several times with one of my favorite genre directors, William Malone in HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL in 1999, FEARDOTCOM in 2002 and the wonderfully creative PARASOMNIA in 2008. It’s refreshing to see somebody who is so beloved in our genre continue to work, and being unafraid to have a little creativity with his varied and eclectic roles. This man has never been afraid of the bizarre and we love him for it.
Aside from his work in horror, he worked steadily on a couple of familiar and popular sci-fi television series. This included “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” from 1994 up until 1999. Next up from 2001 to 2005 he joined “Star Trek: Enterprise” as Commander Shran. In 2004 through 2007 he starred on the series “The 4400” as Kevin Burkoff. In case that wasn’t enough he has also done voice work for a number of shows including “Justice League” from 2004 – 2006 as well as “The Avenger’s: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” as Samuel Sterns as recently as 2010 – 2012. And yes, there is a ton more that I’m not listing!
NOW: To sum up this fantastic career in only a few paragraphs is downright impossible. With around 120 credits to his IMBD page, clearly Mr. Combs loves to work. And he does it all. B-movie horror, sci-fi, television and a ton of voice work for animated series. Looking at what he’s been up to lately is no surprise. Because guess what? His schedule is booked. Whether he is doing voice work for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” or guest starring on a television series such as “Criminal Minds” he has been in a ton of projects recently. For all you horror fans, in 2014 and 2016 he will be starring in SUBURBAN GOTHIC, ART SCHOOL OF HORRORS and he is even doing a little sci-fi comedy with UNBELIEVABLE!!!!! – I did not add the extra explanation points as that is how it’s listed.
That may seem like a ton, yet television and movies are not enough for this thespian. Many folks I know have had the amazing opportunity to see him on stage – specifically his acclaimed performance as Edgar Allan Poe in “Nevermore.” Much like his film resume, the theatre he has done is varied and impressive. This versatile actor continues to amaze and he still enjoys making time for fans at conventions when he has the opportunity. Certainly I’ve missed a number of films on Combs massive resume, but you can always share below with some of your favorites. And if you’d like to know more about this multifaceted actor and his work, you can find him on Facebook, Twitter or visit his official website here.