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Why RJ From Ti West's X Looks So Familiar

As genre filmmakers continue to bring grindhouse style to the arthouse realm, horror movie lovers have arguably never endured such a deliriously fruitful era. And it's safe to say 2022 has been yet another banner year for flicks fronting bloody sights and ghastly frights. Of all the low-key creepers and hair-raising shockers that made their way to cinemas and streamers this year, Ti West's stylish slasher "X" was one of few that managed to leave both critics and audiences in blood-soaked rapture.

Set in the late 1970s, the film follows a small film crew as they venture to an isolated Texas farm to shoot an adult film. Once there, they discover their elderly hosts are not at all what they seem, and find themselves fighting to survive the night. The boldly stylized project proved arguably the boldest of West's already impressive career, with the filmmaker conjuring a delightfully sleazy homage to 70s cinema as witty and wickedly insightful as it is utterly terrifying. And to bring his story to life, West assembled a first-rate ensemble of indie-minded actors.

Though "X" doesn't exactly boast A-list talent, many of the faces in the film's cast will no doubt be familiar to movie-goers — and particularly genre fans. That includes the face of the crew's kindly cameraman RJ. This is why RJ from "X" looks familiar.  

Owen Campbell played a would-be teen spy in The Americans

That actor's name is Owen Campbell, and he's been plugging away at the acting game for nearly two decades already. Campbell actually earned his first screen credit back in 2006 with a small role in a Season 10 episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." In the years since, he's scored a slew of other impressive TV credits, including stints on "Boardwalk Empire," "The Following," and Alfonso Cuarón's canceled-too-soon sci-fi series "Believe." 

In 2014, Campbell landed one of his biggest small screen roles to date when he signed on for a multi-episode arc on FX's immaculate Russian spy drama "The Americans." Campbell turned up on the show during its second season as young Jared Connors. The teen entered the orbit of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell respectively) after his parents and sister were found brutally murdered. Jared's parents were, of course, Russian sleeper agents. And without spoiling much, we'll simply say that over Campbell's six-episode arc, Jared's story got complicated (and then some).

We'll also say his twisty story was one of the more intriguing subplots "The Americans" creative team conjured during the show's lauded run. And yes, Campbell's work in a legitimately tricky role ranks among the best of the series' many memorable guest spots.  

Super Dark Times found Campbell stuck in a twisted coming-of-age story

Fans of "X" surely noted that most of Owen Campbell's co-stars in the film — including Martin Henderson, Mia Goth, and Jenna Ortega — are hardly strangers to the horror genre realm. "X" is not Campbell's first gig in the horror game either. In fact, Campbell featured in a few of the better genre offerings of the past decade long before Ti West booked him as his film's ill-fated cameraman. One of those films is Larry Fessenden's horribly overlooked Frankenstein fable "Depraved." And yet another was 2017's marvelous coming-of-age creeper "Super Dark Times."

If you've yet to catch up to "Super Dark Times," seek it out, because it's a moody, menacing little thriller that really gets under the skin. It also fronts a killer young cast including Charlie Tahan, Elizabeth Cappuccino, and Amy Hargreaves. As for Campbell, he plays Zach in the film, a kind-hearted teen whose life is thrown into flux when a horrific accident leaves one of his friends dead and his best buddy Josh (Tahan) holding the weapon that killed him. From there, director Kevin Phillips spins a legit suburban nightmare that finds Zach struggling to reconcile his course of action after his friend's death and leaves Josh spiraling into a violent, psychopathic rage. It's heavy stuff for sure, but Campbell carries the dramatic load here with the grace of an actor boasting twice as many years under their belt. 

My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tel it To found Campbell playing a compellingly unconventional sort of vampire

Owen Campbell is indeed becoming a horror movie all-star. Apart from his role in "X," and other top-notch genre projects, 2021 found the actor fronting a Rotten Tomatoes Certified Fresh indie creeper in "My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It To." The no-budget drama is very much an "under-the-radar" sort of offering despite playing well on the 2020 festival circuit. It has, however, built a cult following during its run on genre streamer Shudder, and it made our own list of 2021's Best Horror Movies.

Starring Campbell, Patrick Fugit, and Ingrid Sophie Schram, the film marks the feature debut of writer/director Jonathan Cuartas and follows the tale of a brother (Fugit) and sister (Schram) tasked with caring for their terminally ill younger sibling (Campbell). This is no simple tale of terminal care, as the stricken sibling's illness prevents him from venturing out of doors. It also requires that he regularly ingest human blood to survive, prompting his elder siblings to take extreme measures to ensure he gets all he needs.

Cuartas takes a slow-burn, character-first approach to the grisly action, letting his actors drive the increasingly taut drama. To say they deliver the goods in this clever, pseudo-vampire drama would be a grievous understatement. And if you want to see Campbell and his castmates at the top of their game, track "My Heart" down as soon as you can.