This week marks the second coming… no, not of THAT savior, but rather Wade Wilson—aka The Merc with a Mouth—in Deadpool 2, (read our review here), the highly anticipated sequel starring Ryan Reynolds. For his entire career, Reynolds has become synonymous with his sardonic and sassy sense of humor, which this writer has enjoyed watching throughout the decades in films like Van Wilder, Waiting…, Just Friends, The Proposal, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, and more. But for me, what’s been even more interesting to watch is whenever Reynolds ventures over into the realms of horror and science fiction, as the results have been fascinating, to say the least.
With Deadpool 2 set to take over theaters everywhere this weekend, I thought this would be a perfect time to celebrate six different genre-related performances from Reynolds, who has made a career out of making some bold and unusual choices when it comes to films that dabble on the darker side (side note: he also appears in a fantastic season 3 episode of The X-Files alongside That ’70s Show’s Lisa Robin Kelly that is well worth your time, too).
Buried: For anyone who is claustrophobic, Rodrigo Cortés' Buried is like a waking nightmare brought to life on celluloid (well, if movies were still made on celluloid). In the film, Reynolds stars as US contractor Paul Conroy, who wakes up buried inside a coffin with only two hours to live and very little resources available (including a dwindling supply of oxygen that decreases with every breath he takes). The longer he spends deep underground, the more Paul realizes that he’s facing insurmountable odds, as there’s no rescue coming, and the government’s official position is that the attack never even happened in the first place. Paul also has to contend with a snake, as well a maniacal insurgent who acts akin to Jigsaw at times, leaving Buried’s protagonist desperate and broken-down, albeit never giving up hope that he can somehow make it through this harrowing ordeal.
With Buried, Reynolds proves that he can be a calculated, controlled, and serious actor, with most of the film’s running time spent with him inside his wooden tomb, thus putting the audience right there inside the box along with the movie's star. The film isn’t an easy feat to pull off for either its director or Reynolds, but Buried truly proves that when given the right material, Reynolds has a great dramatic range, and can provide more than just a bunch of catchy one-liners. I know it’s hokey to say that moments in Buried left me breathless, but during a recent rewatch, there were a few times where I had to remind myself to actually take a breath, and very few modern movies can evoke that kind of feeling (The Descent being another prime example).
The Voices: I absolutely fell head over heels for Marjane Satrapi’s pitch-black comedy The Voices in 2014, and so much of that is due to Reynolds’ off-beat performance as an accidental serial killer who stumbles into a life of murder and mayhem at the behest of his dog Bosco and cat Mr. Whiskers (Reynolds also provides the voices for his four-legged pals). As someone who has a mad amount of love and respect for horror comedies, particularly ones that take some risks with an unusual approach, The Voices was a wonderfully weird reminder that Reynolds does quietly comedic roles just as deftly as he can tackle one-liners in hopes of scoring some big-time laughs.
For those who may have missed it back in 2014, The Voices follows a well-meaning factory worker Jerry (Reynolds), who wants nothing more than to make some friends at work that he can take to karaoke and keep his beloved pets fed and happy. The thing about Jerry, though, is that he hears voices—particularly his dog and his cat—and after a chance encounter with one of his co-workers ends up with Jerry accidentally killing her in the woods, his furry pals encourage him to deal with his misdeeds by giving into the killer instinct they say is lurking just below his lovable and well-meaning façade. From there, Jerry’s murder spree evolves into a blood-soaked riot, causing him to question his fate, his reality, and whether or not he’s even in control of his own life anymore as those around him begin to suspect Jerry might not be such a nice guy.
It's rare that a film about a serial killer can leave you with a smile on your face, but The Voices does just that, and it's all due to Reynolds’ charming and sympathetic performance as Jerry. He’s a guy who clearly has some issues, but all he really wants in this world is to not be alone, and his accidental murder spree is the result of some of the worst luck ever (akin to what we see in Tucker & Dale vs. Evil), which makes his slightly psychotic journey that much more compelling. Also, there’s a delightful dance sequence over the end credits that I downright adored.
The Amityville Horror (2005): My love for The Amityville Horror remake has been well-established both here on Daily Dead, and during various episodes of Corpse Club, so I won’t prattle on too much about its virtues. Suffice to say, I think it’s a remake that was unfairly overlooked upon its release, and delivers just what you’d want from any modern horror reimagining: it honors the spirit of the original film, but also manages to take a few risks by doing its own thing (like the incorporation of the Jeremiah Ketcham mythology that adds a disturbing twist to the remake’s third act).
In this iteration of Amityville, Reynolds takes on the role of George Lutz, who moves his blended family into what seems like an idyllic new home, but is actually a demonic playground that begins torturing everyone, with the evil forces setting their sights specifically on George, who begins to exhibit some frighteningly abusive behaviors. The longer the Lutz family stays in the house, the more George’s sanity slips away, and the results are absolutely frightening.
The Amityville Horror (2005) was the world’s introduction to Reynolds as a serious actor, and whatever you may think about the film itself, there’s no denying that he more than proves here that he was up for the challenge. Also, the scene featuring a completely unhinged George punishing his stepson Billy (Jesse James) by having him hold wood while he chops away is pure, unfettered tension that subtly explores the idea of trust between step-parents and the kids who have to adapt to having a new parental figure in their lives. Plus, 2005's Amityville is also peak Reynolds Abs, so that’s another thing it has going for it.
Blade: Trinity: Whatever you think of Blade: Trinity (I know most folks hate it, but I consider myself a big fan, warts and all—read my Deadly Pleasures column on the movie here), I think we can all agree that that none of the sequel’s issues come from Ryan Reynolds’ performance as Hannibal King, a former vampire minion who has now dedicated his life to ridding the world of any and all bloodsuckers. In fact, it’s Reynolds’ quick-witted delivery and snarky attitude that injects some much-needed life into this third Blade film, especially since Wesley Snipes as our titular hero feels a bit checked out here, leaving a lot of the heavy lifting to Reynolds as well as other cast members like Jessica Biel and Parker Posey (oh, and let’s not forget Triple H with his nasty little vampire Pomeranian, too!).
Sure, the big baddie in Blade: Trinity is something of a letdown (sorry, Dominic Purcell, nothing personal, but your take on the vampire of all vampires was just too listless and dour for my tastes), and the story seems to lose focus of its main anti-hero, but Reynolds delivers up some memorably entertaining moments in the film, particularly whenever Hannibal is facing off against Posey’s character, Danica, with whom Hannibal shares a twisted history. Reynolds’ first dance with Marvel material is a solidly entertaining one, and his line delivery in Blade: Trinity undoubtedly feels like the actor’s first attempts at becoming Deadpool via another Marvel character. You can tell he also put in some time in terms of his ambitious fight scenes in Blade: Trinity, and this first glimpse of Reynolds as an ass-kicker is just a ton of fun to watch.
Life: Life came and went in 2017 rather unceremoniously, and admittedly, I didn’t catch up to it until earlier this year, so it was only recently that I realized I totally missed out on it. As far as horror/sci-fi flicks go, Life is a pretty legit effort, with bits of The Thing, Alien, and Gravity coursing through its cinematic veins. The story itself is pretty standard stuff (a crew aboard the International Space Station must contend with samples from Mars that end up taking on a life of their own, so to speak), but Life reveals its wicked nasty streak about halfway through the film, and it ended up really surprising me once everything was said and done.
In Life, Reynolds plays ISS crew member Rory Adams (and is joined on his out-of-this-world mission by Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ariyon Bakare, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Olga Dykhovichnaya), who must contend with a parasite alien form that has been named “Calvin,” and as it turns out, “Calvin” is a much smarter organism than anyone could have ever prepared for. Admittedly, Reynolds plays more of a supporting role in Life (the script was penned by Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, so I can connect the dots here), but it’s fun to see him floating around in the cosmos all the same for some truly gnarly trapped-in-space shenanigans.
While it treads a lot of familiar territory, as someone who loves all kinds of intergalactic horror (good and bad), I feel like Life gets a lot more right than it gets wrong, and ends on a gleefully f--ked up note that I really dug in some dark and twisted ways.
The Nines: A 2007 psychological thriller/drama that’s broken up into three parts, I only caught up with The Nines recently thanks to some kindly film lover who pointed me in its direction. Director John August (his first and only feature film directorial project, although he’s enjoyed quite a career as a screenwriter) has some rough edges to it, but it’s a uniquely spun mystery that offers up great rewards to viewers who dig mind-bending cinema with a side serving of quirkiness. The first part follows a down-and-out actor named Gary (Reynolds) who goes on something of a tear after breaking up with his girlfriend, and ends up on house arrest after unintentionally burning down a house and flipping his car after going on a crack bender (with Octavia Spencer!). While left to his own devices in a borrowed home that’s just a well-decorated prison, Gary begins to get weirded out in a number of ways (it’s hard to explain here, but the less you know, the better), and that’s when the concept of “The Nines” is introduced, and we watch as a series of coincidences (maybe?) start to chip away at his psyche.
The second part follows a TV writer (also played by Reynolds) who stars in a TV series about his exploits in Hollywood, as he shoots a pilot with his friend Melissa McCarthy (playing herself; she also appears in part one as Margaret), but hits a few snags along the way. The third chapter revolves around a family stuck out in the wilderness, with Reynolds and McCarthy tackling the parental roles here, and a mysterious woman comes along (Hope Davis, who also appears in the other segments), who may be up to no good.
For The Nines, Reynolds is tasked with bringing three different characters to life, and his performances in the film all offer up an intriguing deconstruction of identity and the creative process. There’s a lot to digest with August’s ambitious, yet slightly uneven story, but there’s a lot of strong performances in The Nines, and I think it’s one of Reynolds’ most enthralling projects during this phase of his career. Plus, watching McCarthy and Reynolds getting to jump around a bounce house at one point is a pure joy to watch, and Elle Fanning is just adorable, too.