There are casting decisions in horror movie history that were just so obviously right. Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Kathy Bates in Misery. Kurt Russell in anything.
Then there are those choices that are clearly doomed to failure. From bad remakes to heartless adaptations, it’s depressingly common to read the announcement of a film’s cast and know from the off that it’s going to fail.
Less common, though, are the hirings that fall somewhere in between. Horror movies over the years have taken on board great actors - sometimes actors who felt absolutely perfect for the role in question - and still it hasn’t worked.
Whether these are outright disasters or movie parts that just felt a little off, it’s so disappointing when something that feels so right just ends up being wrong.
In some cases this has come down to the movie itself being put together badly, or being cursed from the off. In others, it’s an actor who has struggled just a little to step out of their comfort zone. Whatever the cause, there can be nothing more frustrating than a casting looking great on paper, but wrong on screen.
10. Harrison Ford - What Lies Beneath
Casting one of modern movies’ good guy icons as a villain is a neat trick, and in 2000’s What Lies Beneath, it very nearly works. Robert Zemeckis’ slightly confused supernatural thriller stars Harrison Ford as sinister professor Norman Spencer opposite an excellent Michelle Phieffer as his wife Claire.
For the first half of the movie, Ford’s persona is subtly inverted to great effect. On and off screen, the man has always come across as a benign, curmudgeonly sort, no time for fools but a decent guy all the same. In What Lies Beneath, Ford brings that unknowability to the fore; there’s no real reason to believe he’s guilty of anything, but when a neighbour goes missing, and later another woman disappears, Claire can’t help but fear her husband knows something about it.
The film goes to pot when Ford’s character swings from dark figure to full on villain. The idea is a good one, but it doesn’t work; he’s never believable as a murderous monster, and the more the film dips into spooky ghost action, the further adrift he feels.