Hollywood star Idris Elba | is no stranger to the scarier side of genre filmmaking, but how do the actor’s five horror movies rank in comparison with each other? Like most actors whose careers span decades, Idris Elba has made his fair share of horror movies. The genre is almost a rite of passage for actors, with most big names having at least a few scary efforts in their back catalog.
For a lot of young actors, horror is a genre that is cheap to produce and willing to take a chance on newcomers, while others gravitate to the genre later in their careers thanks to a genuine love of the subject matter. Everyone from Bradley Cooper to Brad Pitt to fellow British actor Karen Gillan has a handful of horror movies to their name, although Idris Elba does boast the achievement of being an established star before even his earliest efforts in the genre. That said, Elba has still starred in some critically dismissed duds when it comes to horror.
Elba’s CV includes a string of high-profile blockbuster parts, including a recent lead role in The Suicide Squad, but the actor has also weathered his fair share of flops. His horror efforts reflect the same inconsistency when taken as a unit, with two of the five titles being relatively well-received critically, two being widely derided, and one landing squarely in the middle of the road. Like Karl Urban, his horror movies also run the gamut of sub-genres, with a slasher, a ghost story, a religious horror, a zombie movie, and a sci-fi scare-fest being included in the rundown. With this impressive diversity in mind, which of Idris Elba’s horror movies are worth watching, and which ones are only for the most die-hard fans of the actor?
Prom Night (2008)
Despite the always-welcome presence of former soap opera star Brittany Snow, 2008’s sanitized Prom Night remake has nothing to offer for even the most forgiving slasher fan. Elba is wasted in the thankless role of a detective incapable of solving the world’s easiest whodunit (the killer is the escaped stalker who killed the heroine’s family a year ago). This slasher movie lacks the gore and mean-spirited dark humor of the same year’s superior remake Sorority Row, and it wastes an appealing cast on an overly familiar, lifeless story. Prom Night fails to find an original angle or offer any post-Scream ironic commentary on the genre. Without a twist to its tale, the movie fails to inject any urgency into a plot that has been done better, scarier, and gorier before. A true dud, Prom Night failed to impress critics upon release but did solid business at the box office, much like the 1980s original (which, while similarly un-scary, at least boasted some more gore and scene-stealing from Leslie Nielsen).
The Reaping (2007)
Directed by A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child helmer Stephen Hopkins, The Reaping features a stellar performance from young Bridge To Terabithia star AnnaSophia Robb as a potentially possessed little girl bringing a plague of biblical proportions to her small hometown. Unfortunately, this chilling turn is all the movie has going for it. A PG-13 horror effort from the mid-‘00s, The Reaping suffers from the worst excesses of the era. A potentially scary premise is squandered in a story that relies on cheap jump scares and ugly, frenetic editing, and talented stars like Hilary Swank, Elba, and Robb are wasted on a tame religious horror that lacks the intensity of earlier efforts in the sub-genre. Add in some laughably bad CGI swarms and viewers are left with one of Elba’s weakest horror outings.
The Unborn (2009)
Released in 2009, The Unborn is one of the stronger horror movies from Platinum Dunes, the infamous company that popularized the above-aforementioned shuddery-cutting/jump-scare heavy ‘00s horror aesthetic (alongside Ghost House Pictures). The tale of a dybbuk who haunts Banshee star Odette Annable, The Unborn scores points for its creepy (if somewhat exploitative) backstory, which manages to incorporate real-life monster Josef Mengele in an otherwise pedestrian possession horror. Gary Oldman has some scene-stealing fun as a rabbi and Elba offered some solid support as the priest who helps with the heroine’s exorcism. Despite the slow story, there isn’t a weak link in the cast: Carla Gugino is great as ever in the brief role of the heroine’s late mother and Twilight villain Cam Gigandet puts an unusually believable spin on the typically thankless “doubting boyfriend” role, with the actors elevating this familiar story into “worth watching” territory thanks to their combined efforts.
Decades in the making, the Alien prequel Prometheus was always bound to be overhyped upon arrival. Divorced from pre-release expectations, director Ridley Scott’s uneven prequel still struggles to find the right tone between ambitious sci-fi epic and tense, claustrophobic siege horror upon a rewatch. However, as the biggest Alien outing so far, the prequel deserves credit for expanding the mythos of the series and attempting to flesh out the origins of humanity, the Xenomorph, and all life. As that summation implies, Prometheus is weighed down by its lofty goals, but Elba is typically great in his supporting role, the cast is all solid and, despite Alien: Covenant being a stronger prequel for the franchise, the horror scenes still pack a punch in this underrated, if imperfect, outing.
28 Weeks Later (2007)
The best Idris Elba horror movie so far, 28 Weeks Later lacks the urgent impact of its predecessor 28 Days Later, but it makes for chilling, essential viewing. After a brutal prologue that remains one of the genre’s most hard-to-watch sequences, 28 Weeks Later soon settles into pretty familiar post-apocalyptic “military versus civilians” territory. However, Elba’s layered turn as the anti-villain General Stone makes the sequel’s story a compelling one and more morally ambiguous than its predecessor. The bleak brutal ending is one worthy of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead series, and further cements 28 Weeks Later’s status as the strongest (and darkest) horror movie from Idris Elba so far.
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