Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Have you missed me?  I've missed a handful of days here due to real life getting in the way of my e-life, so expect days to have double entries coming up. Horror films are often very, very dark, and we must rely on our sense of hearing to figure out just what is going on.  We've been very lucky to have actors dabble in the horror genre with very distinct and iconic voices.  As always, this is an opinion piece, but here are what I determine to be the 20 most iconic and recognizable voices in horror history.  (NOTE: I'm focusing on people who have voices that were used in many horror films and not necessarily just one iconic film. Yes, we all hear "HEEEERE'S JOHNNY!" and know it's Jack Nicholson, but he's more noted for other work as well.)  Same goes for Bette Davis.

20) Angus Scrimm
Raspy, old man voices are the stuff of nightmares.  Angus Scrimm may have one of the most metal sounding names in existence, but he's got a distinctly creepy voice that sounds like the voices you are told to look out for in dark alleys.  The Tall Man is creepy enough on his own, but adding Scrimm's voice to the character gives a haunting impression that resonates in all of our minds.

19) Ken Foree 
Smooth, suave, sexy, and scary all at the same time, Ken Foree's voice is one we cannot forget.  Delivering the most famous line in the entire canon of zombie films, Foree's voice is completely unique to himself.  There are moments when he sounds as smooth as warm butter and yet sounds completely strained when he's in panic mode like the infamous "Chicken Fucker" scene from THE DEVIL'S REJECTS.

18) Jamie Lee Curtis
The ultimate final girl, Jamie Lee Curtis is also blessed with a very distinct voice.  Capable of a wide range and with the ability to scream without sounding like a pre-teen at a One Direction concert, Jamie Lee Curtis has an extremely recognizable timbre to her voice. 

 17) Heather O'Rourke
Gone from this earth far too soon, Heather O'Rourke is the only child featured on this list.  Perfectly cast as Carol Anne Freeling in the POLTERGEIST franchise, her voice is forever immortalized as the ideal "little girl" voice.  Small and high pitched enough to be adorable but with enough strength to take command of a room, O'Rourke's voice will never be forgotten.

16) Michael Berryman
One of the nicest guys on the planet, Michael Berryman has made a career playing monsters and villains.  While he may tower above his fellow co-stars, giving off an incredibly intimidating demeanor, his voice somehow doesn't "match" his appearance.  Berryman looks like the type of guy who could knock you out with one punch, but he has such a warm and friendly sounding voice.  It is this combination that makes him such an interesting actor to watch.  We want to be scared of him but at the same time, we want to just talk to him and understand why his character is doing such terrible things.  At the same time, when he's "angry" this rough and bellowing sound comes out and he becomes absolutely horrifying. 

15) William H. Marshall
With a voice so deep you can feel it vibrate in your bones, William H. Marshall's voice as BLACULA cannot be replicated.  "Dracula's Soul Brotha" proved that he had soul oozing out of his vocal chords, with a smooth and guttural sound to his voice. 

14) Piper Laurie
Although Piper Laurie has been acting for a majority of her 81 years of life, it was after she made the transition from starlet to adult genre actress that made her an iconic figure.  An intimidating yet maternal sounding voice, Piper Laurie's speech in CARRIE paved the way for an extensive career in horror cinema and television.  Her voice is very distinct and the most comforting sound that makes us run for the covers at night.

13) Bill Moseley
It's difficult to describe ol' Chop Top's voice without simply describing it as, " sounds like Bill Moseley.  He sounds somewhat like everyone's Mom's cool brother, but at the same time sounds a bit like the guy who stands a little too close to you at the grocery store check out line.  All-American vocal chords with a handful of unsettling sarcasm, and you've got yourself Bill Moseley.

12) Tobin Bell
The voice of Tobin Bell jump-started its way into horror infamy with his portrayal of John Kramer, aka The Jigsaw Killer from the highly successful SAW franchise.  Even without using a voice modifier, Bell has a deep and brooding voice that sounds as if it's always about to deliver a message of impending doom.  
 11) Stephen Geoffreys
You can hear the laugh just looking at this picture, can't you?  Stephen Geoffreys' voice makes you simultaneously want to be his best friend and punch him in the face.  It doesn't matter if he's in a horror film or a gay porno, this voice cannot be escaped.  I personally LOVE Geoffreys' voice, but I can understand the annoyance factor many people attribute to his voice.  Whether you find it annoying or not, the second you hear it, you can immediately match the voice to the face.

10) Mercedes McCambridge
I know I said that I wouldn't focus on people who have only had one iconic role that made their voice famous, but considering there are too many people in this world who do not know who this woman is, she deserves the placement on this list.  Mercedes McCambridge was a movie star in the 40s, and an Academy award winning actress. Orson Welles even once called her "the world's greatest living radio actress."  She's also the voice of Pazuzu in THE EXORCIST.  Yep.

09) Sid Haig
If a mall Santa was smooth enough to pick up your mom but joyous enough to ensure that you were getting that Red Ryder BB gun, he'd probably sound (and look) a lot like Sid Haig.  Haig has this bellowing voice that can be heard for miles that always sounds like he's in a good mood, but the second his joyful glee turns into anger, the happiness sounds to be sucked out of the air and his voice sounds much more sinister.  Like Michael Berryman, Sid Haig is the nicest guy in the world, which makes the transition to "scary voice" all the more horrifying.

08) Bela Lugosi
Less noted for the sound of his voice, Bela Lugosi's speaking voice only became iconic for how often and successfully it was used.  Now, there may not be anything particularly special or unique about his voice, as Lugosi had a very similar 'acting voice' to the other popular men of his age, but Lugosi's speaking style included a thick accent which established the timbre of a villain for the rest of his career.  His foreign sounding accent combined with the familiar "acting style" made him accessible enough for audiences at the time, but foreign enough to feel terrifying.

07) Brad Dourif
One of the greatest character actors that has ever walked this earth, Brad Dourif will hopefully be remembered for more than just his voice.  Don't get me wrong, it's impressive that the voice of Charles Lee Ray aka Chucky has grown to be such a huge success, but Brad Dourif is a genuinely amazing actor and deserves accolade for far more than a possessed doll.  However, his ability to speak comfortably in strange pitches leads him to have one of the most memorable voices.

06) Tony Todd
There's William H. Marshall, and then there's Tony Todd.  A voice that both seduces and horrifies you, Tony Todd's deep voice is almost hypnotic in its delivery.  A sound so low it's impossible to imitate, but so smooth you wish that you could.

05) Christopher Lee
Actor, singer, veteran, and all around incredible man, Christopher Lee is one of the most prolific performers the world will ever know.  The golden-actor of Hammer Horror films, Christopher Lee has a strong and commanding voice with just a hint of high-class.  Even when he was hosting Saturday Night Live,  Christopher Lee was able to use the beautiful sound of his voice to play both fear as well as comedy.  If you had to image what a king would sound like, it would be Christopher Lee.

04) Jennifer Tilly
An actress and poker dynamo, Jennifer Tilly has a voice that can horrify, arouse, annoy, and trigger giggles.  Her famous voice has lent itself to a wide career of roles both horror and non, but her 1-900 operator voice sounds something like a porn-star child with a crash of gravel.  The Bride of Chucky herself, Jennifer Tilly's voice is unique to her and only her.

03) John Kassir
Another individual known for a character voice, John Kassir's voice is one of the creepiest characters in horror history.  When he speaks in his normal voice, the sound of The Crypt Keeper is very faint, but his Crypt Keeper voice and laugh are so notorious, it's impossible not to recognize. He's since done other voice work (my favorite being Deadpool) but none will ever be as noticeable or as prominent as The Crypt Keeper. 

02) Zelda Rubenstein
A voice so little you'd swear it was faked, Zelda Rubenstein is undoubtedly the most recognizable voice of any female actress.  Sweet like an old lady but shrill like a banshee, Zelda Rubenstein's voice can only be described as "eerily cute."  Well into her old age, Rubenstein's voice remained as tiny and endearing as possible, but her ability to make her cute voice sound intimidating gave her a wide range of characters to play throughout her career.

01) Vincent Price
Truly, the voice of horror is Vincent Price.  His distinct voice is next to impossible to faithfully impersonate but remains memorable for generations.  Regardless if someone grew up on his film career, his voice was forever immortalized in Michael Jackson's "Thriller" which was named the most influential music video of all time.  Price's career is dedicated in large part to his unique voice, which has become a staple in horror history.  It's polished, unsettling, unique, intriguing, beautiful, and haunting all at the same time. Vincent Price's voice IS horror.
Honorable Mentions: Bruce Campbell and Robert Englund.  These two men have voices that we all know and love, but they are far more noted for their delivery of one-liners and quick puns rather than the actual sound of their voice.  I will also give a shout out to John Larroquette who was the narrator for the original THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and was specifically asked to come back and narrate for the reboot of the film.  If it ain't broke...

5 comment(s):

Neil Sarver said...

I certainly don't want to be that guy, especially on a pretty solid list, but where is Donald Pleasance?

K. A. Cozy said...

Where's Boris Karloff?

Unknown said...

I second Cozy. Boris K all the way! :-)

Wendell said...

Nice list with some inspired choices. If there's one missing, it's Robert Englund.

RahneFan said...

Nice list but I'd add Karloff & Peter Lorre

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