I’m here with the latest addition to the Horror Icon Hall Of Fame...and he knows what you did last summer.
Very few horror movie actors have given me nightmares. Very few have scared me to the point that I begin to tremble at the mere mention of their names. None have affected me as much as what this month's Horror Icon has. Ladies and gentlemen, the undeniably talented, Muse Watson.
Muse Watson was born July 20, 1948 in Alexandria, Louisiana. He attended Louisiana Tech on a music stipend (a form of salary, such as for an internship or apprenticeship) for only two years before transferring to Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, where he performed for the first time on stage as Petruchio in a production of Shakespeare's The Taming Of The Shew.
Theatre obviously appealed to Muse as during, and after, his years at Berea, he worked in outdoor dramas, dinner theatres and small repertory groups. Some of his theatre credits include acting as Hamlet in Hamlet, Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire, Pale in Burn This and Cervantes in Man Of La Mancha.
His time wasn't just spent on the stage either. Muse also directed a production of Ain't Misbehavin'.
In 1989, Muse's love the stage handed him a new opportunity and he took his first film roll as a police officer in horror movie, Black Rainbow. Starring along side Rosanna Arquette, Jason Robards and Tom Hulce, Muse got his first taste of film, and since then has appeared in more than 40 film and television productions.
In 1990, Muse teamed up with Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway, Aidan Quinn and Robert Duvall for The Handmaid's Tale. This drama/romance/sci-fi film is set in a Fascistic future America, The Handmaid's Tale tells the story of Kate, a handmaid. In this America, the religious right has taken over and gone hog-wild. Kate is a criminal, guilty of the crime of trying to escape from the US, and is sentenced to become a Handmaid. The job of a Handmaid is to bear the children of the man to whom she is assigned. After ruthless group training by Aunt Lydia in the proper way to behave, Kate is assigned as Handmaid to the Commander. Kate is attracted to Nick, the Commander's chauffeur. At the same time, a resistance movement begins to challenge the regime. It certainly is an interesting film and if you can find it, give it a watch. Keep your eye open for the Guardian because that is Muse.
Jumping to 1993 saw Muse work with Richard Gere and Jodie Foster in Sommersby, another drama/romance film with a hint of mystery. Set in the south of the US just after the Civil War, Laurel Sommersby is just managing to work the farm without her husband, Jack, who was presumed dead, killed in the war. While the story focuses around the two leading actors, Muse comes along, playing a drifter. Keep your eye opened for him. Sommersby is something I highly recommend.
Also in 1993, Muse made a brief appearance in an episode of Matlock. In 1994, he returned to Matlock, but his character had changed from a patrol officer to a security man. Sticking with television that year, Muse made two TV movies. Leave Of Absence saw him team up with the gorgeous Jacqueline Bisset. Justice In A Small Town saw him play a D.A and work along side Beth Broderick (Aunt Zelda in the TV show Sabrina The Teenage Witch) and John Shea.
As 1995 rolled around so did larger rolls in movies like Something To Talk About, starring Julia Roberts, The Journey Of August King and Assassins. (Fun Fact: Muse actually rode the horse through the jumps in the Grand Prix course in Something To Talk About) But during the year he also managed to squeeze in an appearance on American Gothic in the episode Damned If You Don't.
In 1997, the movie Lolita surfaced with Jeremy Irons playing the title role of Humbert Humbert. Muse was uncredited as a store keep. The reason I bring this film up is because while it was released in 1997, it was actually made a couple of years before hand in 1995 and if you look really closely at the film, for a brief moment you can see Muse. (Fun Fact: Lolita was banned in Australia for it's content)
1997 is the year I really got to know Muse. Not on a personal level, but more on the level of nightmares. I Know What You Did Last Summer hit cinemas with a star studded 90's cast including Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Ryan Phillippe.
The basic storyline for I Know What You Did Last Summer is four teens have their lives altered when one night they hit a man with their car and rather than going to the police, decided to dump his body as if the crime never happened. One year later, a letter arrives with the simple words 'I Know What You Did Last Summer.' From that point on, their lives are torn apart by a hook wielding madman, hell bent on revenge.
It was based on the novel by Lois Duncan, who wrote it after her daughter was murdered in 1989. (Fun Fact: Lois has stated openly that she hates the movie, because film makers turned her book into slasher film as opposed to the thriller that it was meant to be) In fact, aside from the names of the characters and the fact that they hit someone with their car, the plot is completely different to the novel. (Fun Fact: No one actually dies in the novel. Barry is shot but lives)
In the film, Muse Watson played Ben Willis. That name won't mean anything until the final twenty minutes of the film. Up until that point, he was simply known as the Fisherman.
If I may, I'd like to take you back to two parts of the film that really is spine-chilling and stick out in my mind as reasons why you have to watch this movie. Helen Shivers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has just come home from visiting David Egan's sister, Missy, whom at this point, the teens thought they had hit with their car and accidentally killed. (They though they had killed David, not Missy) She says hi to her father then moves into the kitchen where she pours herself half a glass of Diet Coke. The front door opens and a shadow moves on the floor. It's the Fisherman. He closes the door. Helen grabs her bag and makes her way out of the kitchen, in the hall and up stairs. Before she reaches the bottom of the stairs we see the Fisherman enter the first room on the landing, which just happens to be Helen's bedroom. Helen enters the room, strips off, changing into a white satin nightshirt and sees her crown that she had won the previous year. A hand lands on her shoulder. It's her sister. After a conversation, her sister leaves saying “You and your hair. Just so pathetic.” Helen closes her bedroom door and climbs into bed. Upon awaking, she discovers that the Fisherman has cut her long blonde hair and left a message of “Soon” on her mirror. How chilling is it to discover that someone has been in your house while you were there? More importantly, how chilling is it to know that he decided to play hairdresser while you were sleeping?
The other part that really sticks out in my mind is where Helen has just escaped the confides of a cop car after witnessing the Fisherman killing the police officer and is now running her ass off in hopes of escaping the man with the hook. (Before this point she had witnessed Barry (Ryan Phillippe) being murdered by the Fisherman, so it's safe to say she's a little riled up) She runs across a park, heading towards the store that her father owns and that she and her sister have been working at. But hot on her heals in an epic chase sequence that mimics Halloween (1978), the Fisherman, with his long strides and gleaming hook, are hot on her trail. Sadly, not long after that scene, Helen dies, only inches away from freedom.
By today's horror movie standards, I Know What You Did Last Summer is pretty tame, however for this 26 year old Australian, it still delivers uncontrollable fear. I was only 12 years old when I saw it (I hired the movie out in '98 from my local video store) and the Fisherman, with his large, sharp hook, has effectively scarred me for life. Unless I'm with someone, I cannot watch that movie at night without inducing nightmares.
In 1998, the Fisherman would return in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. I was 13 when I saw this film, and surprisingly, it had no effect on me, however the Fisherman did kill a few noticeable names like Jeffrey Combs, Bill Cobbs and Jack Black.
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer follows Julie and Ray (Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze Jr.) one year after the attack from Ben Willis. Ben manages to trick Julie and her new best friend, Carla (Brandy), into thinking they had won a trip to the Bahamas for the 4 of July weekend. Taking Carla's boyfriend, Tyrell, and her friend Will, they set off for what should be a weekend in paradise.
Now, after recently sitting down to watch this film, I have to say it was the writing that let it down. The only cleaver dialogue was reserved for Tyrell, while the other characters were left floundering. As for Muse returning as Ben Willis, it was good to see him wielding the hook again, but his lines at the end just didn't have the chill factor that the original film did. “Hush now. No more screaming. No more running. It's time to die,” didn't scare me as much as when he said “I know all about 'accidents', and let me give you some advice: When you leave a man for dead, make sure that he's REALLY dead!” Muse, being the professional that he is, still gave 110% to the role and there were little moments that caused the hairs on the back of my neck to stand on end. Unfortunately for the movie, it was right at the start, and right at the end. Everything in between is forgettable with the exception of one scene.
Carla tells Julie that she's not leaving the island without a tan, so she starts the tanning bed, leaving Julie to try and relax. Low and behold, in walks Ben. He uses a zip lock tie to hold the handles on the bed together then turns up the heat before walking out. By this stage, Julie opens her eyes and sees his feet as he's leaving. Panicking she realises she can't get out and begins screaming for her life. See, I always knew tanning was bad for you.
That same year Muse starred in the crime thriller If I Die Before I Wake. Muse played Daryl, one of the home invaders. His entrance to the home is brilliant. Crashing through the home’s locked front door, he rides it to the floor, and through his stocking mask announces to the floor-level camera lens “We’re in.”
Have to say, while I highly recommend If I Die Before I Wake, Muse's character is purely evil and brutal with all the characters he interacts with. Even if he's not aiming to terrify, he still manages to come across as scary. Everything he does is implied with some form of danger. Highly recommended film.
In 1999, Muse starred in the sequel to From Dusk Till Dawn, From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money. Five criminals get together to rob a bank in Mexico. On his way to their rendezvous point, one of them gets into an accident, and stumbles upon the Titty Twister Bar. This little detour sets up the terror that awaits the outlaws and the officers on their trail.
As far as sequels go, this is pretty decent. Enjoyable film and if nothing else, we get to return to vampires being vampires and a creepy storyline.
In 2002, Muse found himself playing Professor Fulton in Hollywood Vampyr. Muse's performance was nothing short of exceptional, and the film itself is highly underrated. It was a refreshing change of pace to see Muse not playing the villain.
Hollywood Vampryr is a dark themed story about the Gothic subculture in Hollywood. In saying that, the film does have a positive message. Struggling with acceptance, lifestyle, religion, drugs and 'family', it eventually comes down to two people, surviving the cult suicides and murders. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favour and watch it. A powerful movie.
Season Of The Hunted (2003) saw Muse play a leading role of Frank. In this film hillbillies with internet access use a website to lure sportsmen to their isolated cabin with the promise of cheap room and board, then release them into the woods and hunt them. Think Hard Target except more grotesque and violent. Luckily for fans of Muse, he calls on his black-ops Vietnam training to get the victims out alive.
In 2004, Muse found himself dealing with a bunch of Dead Birds. Not literally, but that was the title for the film about A group of Confederate soldiers hole up in an abandoned plantation after robbing a bank and find themselves at the mercy of supernatural forces.
Like Hollywood Vampyr, this film is vastly underrated and despite the description given above, it's actually really enjoyable. It feels very much like the Twilight Zone if it directed by Roman Polanski, David Cronenberg and John Carpenter. Very dark, beautiful and brooding. A must see film.
In 2005 and 2006, Muse became a regular on a little hit TV show called Prison Break. Now, anyone who tries to tell me that Prison Break wasn't horror filled, clearly didn't pay any attention to the inmates aside from Michael Scofield. Scofield (Wentworth Miller) was the lead, but Muse's character of Charles Westmoreland was just as important to the show moving forward. (Fun Fact: It was because I wanted to know more about the man who scared me when I was 12, that I began watching the show. That's right. I watched this just to see Muse Watson) Sadly though, his character is killed in what was an emotionally fuelled death that had me in tears because, out of all of the characters, I wanted him to escape the most.
Also in 2006, Muse made his first appearance on NCSI as Mike Franks. His role would continue throughout the show until 2012 where he was killed. Another reason to burst into tears. TV shows always seem to kill off the best characters.
In 2007, Muse returned to television, teaming up with I Know What You Did Last Summer co-star Jennifer Love Hewitt in Ghost Whisperer before appearing in Criminal Minds and CSI.
In 2009, Muse returned to more dramatic roles with movies like White Lightin' and Stellina Blue. He also managed to chalk up a couple of appearances on TV with shows like The Mentalist, Cold Case and iCarly.
In 2010, Muse traded in his horror stance for something a little more jolly. A Christmas Snow is really a must see movie that deals with problems that we all deal with in our daily life. But you better watch it with tissues because despite its family/drama subject, it is a tear jerker.
2012 saw Muse return the type of films I know and love him for. Horror, crime, thrillers. Meeting Evil saw him team up with Samual L. Jackson and Luke Wilson while Of Silence saw him work with Matthew Lawrence (younger brother of Joey Lawrence) and Suzanne Ford. Out of the two, Of Silence is the one to send audiences into a spin as an ailing former scuba diver, who faces extremely tough times, begins experiencing otherworldly incidents.
With movies like The Last Exorcism 2, Compound Fracture and The Dead Ones in post production, the horror world hasn't seen the last of Muse Watson. And for that I'm grateful.
Muse Watson. His name alone can give me chills. His stance and voice is menacing. He can be the victim or the villain with complete ease and always delivers more than expected to any role asked of him. He is an actors actor and over the course of the last month, I've had the pleasure of talking with him a couple of times.
A heart of gold with the ability to be an insane madman is what gives Muse Watson the title of Horror Icon. He can play my leading man any day of the week...just as long as he leaves the hook at home.