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The weirdest horror movie cameos of all time

Horror movies are primed to deliver more visceral emotional responses in an audience than just about any other genre — comedies can make you laugh, dramas can make you cry, but only horror movies can make you do both while you also flinch, gasp, and scream. Of course, the monsters aren't the only things in horror movies that can prompt an involuntary reaction. Sometimes you end up screaming in recognition because you'll be sitting down to watch Friday the 13th when all of a sudden you'll recognize an actor making a truly bizarre cameo.

It seems like weird horror movie cameos are about as integral to the genre as filming at night and getting ignored during awards season — horror comedies and genuine horror classics alike have some of the oddest cameos in the business. From major stars playing unusual roles to non-Hollywood celebrities lending their star power to screamfests, here's a fond look back at the weirdest and most surprising horror movie cameos of all time.

Patrick Ewing and Fabio in The Exorcist 3

If you've ever thought to yourself that Fabio looks like an angel, you're not alone. The filmmakers behind The Exorcist III thought so too, casting the long-haired eventual I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! spokesman as an angel. Another bizarre cameo in the film comes courtesy of NBA star Patrick Ewing, who appears as the Angel of Death. Both characters show up onscreen during a dream sequence that features an angel leading a big band, a train station that's also heaven, and dwarves carrying around a grandfather clock. The Exorcist III has plenty of other odd celebrity cameos, including Samuel Jackson, Larry King, John Thompson, and, perhaps most strangely, former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. It seems like when you're making a second sequel to arguably the best horror movie ever made, you have to make it stranger if you can't make it any scarier.

Either way, seeing two very recognizable celebrities pop up as angels really says a lot about The Exorcist III's conception of heaven. Live a good life and maybe you too can shoot free throws and sweep back your luscious mane with Ewing and Fabio.

Bill Murray in Zombieland

These days, Bill Murray's public demeanor is closer to his classic characters in Ghostbusters and Caddyshack than the persona of most A-list actors, which is why it was such a delight to see the legendary comedian appear in Zombieland playing a slightly exaggerated version of himself. While Zombieland is a horror comedy, Murray's cameo completely changes the tone of the movie from slightly scary to nearly pure comedy as the main foursome wander into Murray's seemingly abandoned mansion. The set design is pure Murray myth, with props from his former movies and ludicrous paintings of the man hanging throughout the house.

That's what makes it even more surprising when Murray himself pops up, in surprisingly good spirits for someone who's survived the zombie apocalypse. He ends up having a blast with the protagonists right up until a prank goes wrong in an extremely gruesome way. It's by far the comedic centerpiece of a very funny movie, and Zombieland wouldn't be the same without the surprise of seeing the Lost In Translation star.

Chris Isaak in Silence of the Lambs

Silence of the Lambs is one of the greatest horror movies ever made, and also one of the few to ever earn an Academy Award. Many factors led to that critical acclaim: the steady direction of Jonathan Demme, the nuanced performance of Jodie Foster, and, of course, the scenery-chewing, flesh-eating character of Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins. It's an incredibly engrossing movie, but if you're a mega-fan of crooning songwriter Chris Isaak, you might get pulled out of the movie when he shows up onscreen.

Isaak, the musician behind "Wicked Game," appears in Silence of the Lambs as a SWAT commander during Lecter's breakout scene. It's an incredibly tense and climactic moment in the film that unfortunately might be lessened for you if you spend most of the scene going, "Wait, was that Chris Isaak?" Of course, Isaak's appeared in other films since, most notably in David Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, but his cameo in Silence of the Lambs is definitely one of his most surprising appearances.

The Backstreet Boys in This is the End

The Backstreet Boys warned us all along that they'd be back, but we still didn't believe them. Or at least we didn't think that they'd be back (alright) in the closing minutes of This Is the End. In Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's horror comedy, most of the action takes place in James Franco's house as the real-life celebrities are menaced by supernatural beings and insane survivors of the rapture. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that rapture doesn't include a decent chunk of the Hollywood elite, leaving Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, and Jay Baruchel to hole up and hide from demons.

Eventually, Baruchel and Rogen are able to ascend to heaven, where they can have everything they've ever dreamed of. Baruchel, in a truly relatable moment, wishes for the Backstreet Boys to reunite for a jam. They say that horror and comedy both rely on surprise, so it makes sense that a horror comedy would end with one of the most surprising cameos of all time.

Christopher Walken in Sleepy Hollow

Sometimes it's not the actual presence of a celebrity in a horror movie that's surprising, but rather how they use that celebrity. Instead of getting wrapped up in the ambiance of the film, you end up scratching your head wondering what the purpose of such a bizarre cameo even was. A perfect example is Tim Burton's 1999 adaptation of Sleepy Hollow, which cast Christopher Walken as the Headless Horseman. Let's be specific here, however: Walken plays the Headless Horseman before he loses his head. In other words, he plays a Horseman.

Wordplay aside, Walken's character doesn't utter a single line of dialogue in his only scene. Instead, he growls and hisses while wearing a truly bizarre-looking mouthpiece as Michael Gambon solemnly narrates the Horseman's death. Considering the unique joy of Walken's voice, it's completely insane to cast the beloved actor in a dialogue-free scene where he snarls like an overexcited Buffy the Vampire Slayer extra.

Tommy Wiseau in Cold Moon

You almost certainly know Tommy Wiseau for his cult hit film The Room, in which he delivers a truly inimitable, bizarre performance. Wiseau has the kind of strange charisma where you're genuinely distracted when he appears onscreen, which was bad news for 2016's Cold Moon. Despite Wiseau's cameo and a story by the writer of Beetlejuice, Cold Moon is definitely not a comedy. In fact, it's deathly serious, which makes Wiseau's cameo even stranger.

In the horror drama, Wiseau appears for just a few moments as a rodeo official absolutely flabbergasted by a snake. Wiseau performs his quick cameo as if he's a man who's literally never seen a snake in his life before the camera started shooting. There's truly nothing more surprising than seeing Wiseau in an otherwise straightforward dramatic horror movie, especially when his presence bends the movie like gravity. Having Wiseau appear in the first 10 minutes of the film just means that the audience is going to spend the next 80 minutes wondering if he's coming back.

Robb Wells in Hobo with a Shotgun

For actors who play characters in long-running television shows, it can be difficult to avoid being typecast. After all, if you've managed to please audiences as one type of character for over a decade, why should a casting director take a chance on you playing a different sort of character? It might make sense, but it also makes for some very strange moments when you see those actors pop up in horror movies just to be killed. A perfect example of that is Robb Wells' cameo in Hobo with a Shotgun.

Wells is best known for portraying the lovably dumb weed dealer Ricky in the long-running Canadian television show Trailer Park Boys. In Hobo with a Shotgun, Wells plays the younger brother to the Drake, the ruthlessly maniacal crime boss that the titular hobo comes into conflict with. Wells' character dies almost immediately, in an over-the-top grindhouse manner that has to be seen to be believed. It's one of the very first scenes of the film, and the death is nearly as surprising as seeing Ricky from Trailer Park Boys sprinting down the street wearing a manhole cover around his neck. Let's see Dwight from The Office do that.

Jack Black in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer

Technically, this is less of a cameo and more of a small role, but Jack Black's performance as an overly familiar weed dealer named Titus in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer is weird enough to merit inclusion. At the time of the film's release, Black hadn't yet reached the heights of fame he'd scale after his work in School of Rock and Kung Fu Panda, but he was still recognizable for his role in the Tenacious D television show and other small movie parts. 

The sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer takes the surviving characters to the Bahamas for a vacation while they once again have to fend off the murderous advances of the killer from the first movie. Black's Titus is one of the first victims of the killer as he's stabbed with a hook and then impaled with garden shears. To his credit, Black commits to the part, giving Titus a lot of presence onscreen before his death, even if all of his scenes feel a bit like comedy sketches cut from his television show. Still, seeing Black wearing a ridiculous dreadlock wig is definitely surprising.

Carrie Fisher in Scream 3

The original Scream more or less reinvented the horror genre, pushing mainstream horror out of the cookie cutter slasher rut that it had been stuck in and giving audiences characters that had at least seen a horror movie before… even if that knowledge didn't keep them from falling prey to a killer. As with anything successful, Scream created its own franchise, which led to the well-received Scream 2, but was starting to peter out by Scream 3. Still the second sequel does offer one delightful surprise cameo: Carrie Fisher playing an annoyed studio secretary named Bianca who bears an uncanny resemblance to Carrie Fisher and came "this close" to getting cast as Princess Leia in Star Wars.

Fisher's cameo is a welcome surprise in an otherwise pretty boring film, and there's plenty to enjoy in Fisher playing a character that's mistaken for Fisher in a movie franchise that's already jumped between movie fiction and movie reality.

Sigourney Weaver in Cabin in the Woods

Much like your college roommate and TV Tropes, Cabin in the Woods seems to be obsessed with cataloguing and referencing the formula of horror movies. Nearly every scene in the movie either directly references or obliquely nods to popular horror conventions or even specific horror movies. That extends all the way to the climax, in which Dana and Marty find out that they're all part of a grand ongoing sacrifice which requires certain archetypes to be ritualistically killed for the pleasure of elder gods. Marty needs to die since he's the "fool," while the "virgin" can survive without ruining the ceremony. It's a pretty clear nod to the Final Girl convention, a term coined by writer Carol Clover in her book Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film.

Naturally, the director of the institute in charge of murdering people for elder gods is a "Final Girl" in her own right, someone who survived a killer and escaped to tell the tale. Except, while you might have expected the part to be played by Jamie Lee Curtis, one of cinema's most notable scream queens, the character is instead played by Sigourney Weaver. It's a really surprising cameo, mostly because Weaver's role in Alien doesn't exactly line up with Cabin in the Woods' central statement about formulaic horror conventions. Curtis' place in the popular horror consciousness would have been a much more obvious choice, while Weaver's cameo almost undercuts the central point of the film.