Barbara Crampton was my favorite Scream Queen, without question. Sure, Jamie Lee Curtis had a hard-to-beat three-year stretch from 1978-1981, and Linnea Quigley made quite the impression in an almost non-stop series of low-budget exploitation/horror films all through the ’80s and ’90s (most notably in Night of the Demons and Return of the Living Dead), but it was Crampton who starred in the films that hit me right in the brain, stimulated my pineal gland, and made me a horror/splatter junkie. And it wasn’t just her stunning looks and willingness to get completely naked. I swear! Even though she started out playing college girls who end up in the wrong place at the wrong time in the gloriously goofy Chopping Mall (which just saw an amazing Blu-ray remastered release) and the oft-mentioned on this website Re-Animator, there was an authenticity and a sincerity to every performance no matter how over-the-top the directors pushed the film. And many of her films went way over the top! There aren’t too many women who would be game to be set on fire by a killer security robot in a mall after-hours or take on a role that involved being sexually molested by a severed head. And that was in her first two horror films! Then, in her second pairing with both Jeffrey Combs and director Stuart Gordon, she played Dr. Katherine McMichaels in the perverse splatter-fest (and I say that only with love) From Beyond. It was a role that saw her playing a “mad” scientist, the heroine, a dominatrix, and then a mad woman, demonstrating a range of strengths and an embracing of the absurd that made her hard to dismiss. If Jeffrey Combs is the actor most identifiable with Lovecraft adaptations, Barbara Crampton nearly matches him film-for-film, co-starring in Re-Animator, From Beyond, “The Evil Clergyman,” and Castle Freak. During this same stretch (from 1985 to 1995) she also had featured roles in Full Moon Entertainment’s Puppetmaster, Trancers II, and Robot Wars. After this, Crampton ended up working in more mainstream low-budget films and made quite a few TV appearances, including extended runs on soap operas The Guiding Light, The Bold and the Beautiful and The Young and the Restless, before dropping out of acting to raise a family. Then, in a stroke of creative genius, Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard decided they wanted Crampton to play the mother in their extremely innovative and entertaining horror/satire You’re Next in 2011. The film was a complete surprise, taking the typical (and tired) home invasion cliché and turning it on its head. It was one of the best horror films to be released in 2013 — yes, 2013. This film sat on a shelf for two years because the people who run studios are asshats and don’t know a good thing when they see it. Crampton was fantastic and enjoyed the fun energy of being on-set with creators like Barrett and Wingard, Ti West, Amy Seimetz, and A.J. Bowen that she decided to get back into acting for real. For this, we thank you, mumblecore horror clique. Thank you. Since then, she has had parts in a wide range of horror films including Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem (where she was cut almost entirely out of the film, but really, that’s probably for the best, as that film was a trainwreck), but one of the best was We Are Still Here, a haunted house story set in 1979 New England that made my Best Indie Horror of 2015 list. It features Crampton in one of her meatier roles, as a grieving mother searching for some kind of closure only to find dangerous locals and creepy burnt-up ghosts. What the story lacks in originality it makes up for in atmosphere and Crampton’s fantastic performance. Through 2015 and 2016 Crampton appeared in seven other films, The Last Survivors, Sun Choke, Road Games, Blood Brothers, the “Grim Grinning Ghost” segment in Tales of Halloween, Little Sister, and a film the Soska Sisters loved, Beyond the Gates (it’s being described as an evil Jumanji), with two more films on the way: Applecart, which is apparently still filming according to IMDB, and Day of Reckoning, a monster-filled apocalypse story that premieres this Saturday night on Syfy! Crampton’s performances are extremely varied and bringing raves, particularly in Sun Choke, where she plays a sadistic nurse caring for a woman suffering from a violent psychotic break. Barbara Crampton’s career resurrection is simply amazing to behold. Not only is she staying true to the genre that helped to make her a cult icon, she’s breaking new dramatic ground and crafting performances that are some of the best of her career. It’s great to see a classic old-school Scream Queen make good while staying down-to-earth and sincere. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Shawn EH I loved her on Guiding Light (she was my favorite Mindy, and there were a bunch of them), and I have to see “You’re Next” now! She’s clearly still stunning!