When it comes to Horror Icons, this man has done it all. From unethical characters, to sleazy men, to a passing by character you just want to bitch-slap, this guy knows his stuff. An outstanding actor, often underrated, Jeffrey Combs joins the Horror Icon Hall Of Fame.
Born on September 9, 1954, in Oxnard, California, Jeffrey Alan Combs was raised in Lompoc, California. He attended Santa Maria’s Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, and later developed his finely tuned acting skills in the Professional Actor’s Training Program at the University of Washington. His first feature film role came in the 1981 movie Honky Tonk Freeway, in which Jeffrey played an unnamed Drive-In Teller.
Like most Horror Icons, Jeffrey got his start early on. In 1983 he starred in the movie Frightmare. Frightmare is a fun movie even if the story line is a little far-fetched. Drama students decide to pay tribute to their favourite horror star by stealing his body from his crypt for a farewell party. They fail to realize their violation of the tomb has triggered powerful black magic, and Conrad hasn't taken his final bows yet.
But it was in 1985 that Jeffrey was thrown into the horror spotlight in Re-Animator. A medical student and his girlfriend become involved in a bizarre experiment into reanimating the dead conducted by the student's incorrigible housemate in this campy sendup of an H.P. Lovecraft story. The emphasis is on humour but once the dead walk, there is gore aplenty (Fun Fact: The first man who is re-animated at the morgue - who goes on to kill the dean - is Arnold Schwarzengger’s body double).
It seems that Jeffrey was ideal for movie adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft’s works because the following year he starred in From Beyond, which was based on a seven page long story from H.P. Lovecraft. This is one of the most thrilling and weirdest films I’ve viewed, and loved every minute of it. Scientists create a resonator to stimulate the pineal gland ( also known as a sixth sense), and open up a door to a parallel, and hostile, universe.
Combs was beyond amazing in this film and I don’t think he gains enough credit for bringing the role of Dr. Crawford Tillinghast to life. This film really manages to hone in on Lovecraft’s sense of dread. If you can find yourselves a copy of From Beyond, I highly recommend you watch it.
In 1988, Cellar Dweller saw Jeffrey team up with Miranda Wilson. This fantasy/horror film has me saying something I never thought I’d say regarding horror movies; it needed more gore. Aside from that, this film combined winning elements of horror to become a vastly entertaining movie. The ending of the film did fall flat in my eyes, but over all it’s a fantastic B-grade movie.
In 1989 Jeffrey found himself back in familiar territory with Bride Of Re-Animator. Not as fun, campy or good as Re-Animator but still worth the watch, Bride Of Re-Animator sees Jeffrey’s character attempting to create the perfect woman from dead tissue.
That same year Jeffrey found himself on television. Not something unknown to him by this point in his career, but this time he found himself up against another Horror Icon in Robert Englund for an episode of Freddy’s Nightmares. The episode was entitled Love Stinks and can actually be viewed on YouTube.
As the 90’s rolled around so did The Pit And The Pendulum. Based on the tale by Edgar Allan Poe, this film is pretty grim. This is one of those films that has you hooked from the beginning and doesn’t let it. Long after it’s finished, aspects of the movie are still coursing through your mind. A must see and, if you’re like me and an Edgar Allan Poe fan, a must read.
In 1992 Jeffrey became Dr. Mordrid in the movie Doctor Mordrid. A fantasy/horror that sees an unspeakable evil which has come into our dimension and wants to rule over Earth. Only a mysterious sorcerer known as Dr. Mordrid can stop him. Despite its low budget, this film was entertaining. Combs was outstanding as the lead. Full Moon Entertainment hit a home run with this. If you’re not a fan of Full Moon movies or Jeffrey Combs then you might want to give this a miss, but seeing as you’re reading a Horror Icon article on Jeffrey Combs, I’m going to recommend it. It’s not often I wish for a sequel, but I think there could have been a successful one for Doctor Mordrid.
As 1994 rolled around so did a role in Lurking Fear, another story by H.P. Lovecraft. It was a surprising movie, a bit beyond what I believe Lovecraft would have envisioned, but still entertaining. Once again, Jeffrey plays a doctor. The storyline follows the town of Leffert's Corners which has been plagued by unearthly beings for decades, and now there is only a few people left, including the local priest and a woman traumatised by the death of her sister. But when John Martense turns up to claim his illicit family fortune, with bad guys in pursuit, the last stand had become a lot more complicated.
That same year he began his role on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine playing Weyoun. This role would continue until 1999.
In 1996, Jeffrey teamed up with Horror Icons Dee Wallace and R. Lee Ermey as well as Michael J. Fox for Peter Jackson’s movie The Frighteners. I love this movie. It’s fun, quirky and Comb’s role of the eccentric Milton Dammers was nothing short of perfection. The story line is as follows; After a car accident in which his wife, Debra, was killed and he was injured, Frank Bannister develops psychic abilities allowing him to see, hear, and communicate with ghosts. After losing his wife, he then gave up his job as an architect, letting his unfinished "dream house" sit incomplete for years, and put these skills to use by befriending a few ghosts and getting them to haunt houses in the area to drum up work for his ghostbusting business - then Frank proceeds to "exorcise" the houses for a fee. But when he discovers that an entity resembling the Grim Reaper is killing people, marking numbers on their forehead beforehand, Frank tries to help the people whom the Reaper is after.
That same year Jeffrey found himself in another horror movie entitled Cyberstalker. This movie was as dull as watching paint dry. The plot was terrible, the script was abysmal and the acting was sub-par. Not even Combs’ professionalism could save this ill-fated film. A lot of the movie wasn’t explained thus leaving the audience scratching their heads wondering just what the hell happened. Not recommended at all. (Fun Fact: This movie was called The Digital Prophet when distributed on video)
Jeffrey’s performances as a mad man didn’t stop there. In 1997 he loaned his voice to the character of Dr. Jonathan Crane, a.k.a The Scarecrow, in The New Batman Adventures.
In 1998 Jeffrey went toe to toe with another one of our past Horror Icons in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. Playing Mr. Brooks, the owner of the hotel, Jeffrey went a round with Muse Watson, and lost. While we didn’t see his demise, judging from the body it wasn’t pretty. A meat cleaver through the head while the words I Still Know appear behind him on the wall in blood. Gruesome and yet a fitting end to anyone who tangles with The Fisherman.
In 1999, Jeffrey Combs starred alongside Australia’s own Geoffrey Rush in the remake of House On Haunted Hill. I’ll be honest when I say that I enjoyed this movie. It was fun, dark, gruesome and made me want to host my own party inside that “Haunted House.” Combs played the role of the Dr. Vannacutt. Known for doing weird and disturbing experiments on his patients, Dr. Vannacutt threw the switch that saw the house go into lockdown mode when a riot erupted in the 1930’s. Of course, like a lot of the soles that died there, he reappears when new blood enters the house. For a remake, it’s a must see.
In 2000, Jeffrey appeared in Faust, a fantasy/horror movie. The following year he appeared with Seth Green in The Attic Expeditions as well as returning to TV in Star Trek: Enterprise as Commander Shran. In 2002, Combs found himself dealing in another cyber styled horror movie entitled FeardotCom. A lot of people slammed FeardotCom for the bad script but it was the editing of the film that threw me. The movie lacks coherence and, in some parts, comprehensiveness. One of my friends even said to avoid watching the movie, they logged into the website in question hoping to end the misery. If you’re a Jeffrey Combs fan, then yes, by all means view this film just to see him, but it’s not something I’d recommend.
Everyone’s favourite mad scientist came back in 2003 with Beyond Re-Animator. This time Dr. Herbert West is in prison after having state’s evidence turned against him by his former assistant, Dan Cain. I have to say, this rounds out the series nicely. I highly recommend sitting down to watch all three Re-Animator movies in a row. Best way to spend a rainy day.
In 2005 Jeffrey teamed up with Halloween alumni Ellie Cornell for All Souls Day: Dia de los Muertos. The story in a nutshell is about how during a Day Of The Dead celebration, the dead literally come back to life and prey upon the living. Truthfully, Jeffrey was underused in this film. They could have done so much more with his character but neglected to thus leaving the audience unfulfilled. Not worth the watch.
Also in that year Jeffrey found himself in a made for TV movie entitled SharkMan. (Fun Fact: This movie is also known as Hammerhead) Playing a mad scientist (I’m starting to see a pattern here) who is trying to locate a cure for cancer for his son, Jeffrey ends up turning himself into something that’s half man and half shark. William Forsythe also stars. Entertaining but forgettable.
2006 saw Jeffrey star in a TV movie entitled Voodoo Moon alongside Buffy The Vampire Slayer star Charisma Carpenter as well as Dee Wallace. He also appeared in Abominable, which was an abomination, and Satanic alongside Phantasm star Angus Scrimm.
The next year saw Jeffrey return to horror by appearing in one episode of The Masters Of Horror series. Playing Edgar Allan Poe in The Black Cat, Combs’ performance was outstanding and this quickly became one of my favourite episodes. Also that year, Combs starred in The Wizard Of Gore alongside Crispin Glover and Horror Icon alumni Brad Dourif. I’ll be honest when I say I watched this film solely for Crispin Glover, but Combs was a lovely addition to the cast. For a remake of a Hershel Gordon Lewis film, this movie isn’t bad and I highly recommend it.
2007 proved busy for Jeffrey as he reprised his role of Dr. Vannacutt for the straight to video movie Return To House On Haunted Hill. Despite the low budget, this film wasn’t too bad at all. Jeffrey was seen more often by the visitors to the house, but overall the film did lack some of the suspense which made the first one great. Not overly scary, but still enjoyable.
Clearly the horror genre loves Jeffrey Combs because in 2008 he starred in Parasomnia. In Parasomnia, Laura Baxter is a young woman, literally a "sleeping beauty," who suffers from a medical condition called "parasomnia." A childhood accident victim, she is actually sleeping her life away, awakening briefly on rare occasions. Art student Danny Sloan falls in love with her, unaware that her hospital neighbour, a terrifying mass murderer and mesmerist named Byron Volpe has other, more sinister plans. Sloan helps Laura escape from her hospital prison only to discover that Volpe is about to enter her dreams.
An interesting concept for an interesting movie. If you can find it, it is worth the watch.
2008 saw Combs star in another unusual but interesting concept entitled Dark House. Highly underrated, this movie sees a troupe of actors hired for a haunted house attraction soon find that they are working in a true house of horror. It’s a surprisingly good horror story and Jeffrey Combs is nothing shy of outstanding. Find it, watch it, love it.
Not even Scooby Doo can escape the charisma that is Jeffrey Combs. Loaning his voice and portraying H.P. Hatecraft in two episodes of Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated, Jeffrey has managed to creep out a younger audience too. And quite successfully I might add.
In 2012, Jeffrey found himself starring alongside Brittany Snow in a deadly game of Would You Rather. A film very similar to others, the acting is good, the story is alright, it moves at a good pace and it’s not overly packed with gore - just enough to turn you off your dinner for a few minutes. But while there’s really nothing new to offer, I will say this… I did not see that ending coming at all. Caught your attention? Good. Now go check it out.
As the year 2013 gets underway, the horror genre is still beating down Jeffrey Combs’ door. With The Penny Dreadful Picture Show currently in post production, it won’t be long until we see Jeffrey Combs back on our screen and scaring the pants off us. Especially if the rumours of a new Re-Animator movie are true.
Jeffrey Combs. Eccentric characters begin and end with him. Whether he’s a mad scientist, a crazed doctor, a cranky and sarcastic hotel owner or a genuine good guy, Jeffrey Combs’ range knows no bounds. Often underrated, his ability to play all kinds of characters is what keeps the horror genre, and fans alike, begging for more. He can certainly play my leading man any time.