Steve Carrell — The Way Way Back: Moderate, inconsequential spoilers for The Way Way Back, I suppose. I find Carrell to be such an adorable endearing fellow both on-screen and off that I tried to bend the plot of this endearing summer indie until it snapped to make him not the villain of the piece. But villain he is and his smarmy, disingenuous take on his usual goofy “good guy” schtick lends an extra layer of danger and repulsion to the stock Bad Father Figure character.
Cary Grant — Suspicion: Cary Grant built such an impressive career on being a debonair smoothie (or, in the case of Bringing Up Baby, a slightly less debonair bumbler). But the reason Hitchcock’s story of a woman who suspects her too-good-to-be-true husband is out to murder her works so well is because it subverts that Grantian expectation. It’s certainly not Joan Fontaine’s melodramatic performance that sells it. It’s that we, the audience, are right there with her. Seduced and duped and doubting. Grant sells the danger so well and will keep you guessing right up and through the ambiguous ending.
Nathan Fillion —“Buffy The Vampire Slayer”: Of course the more famous instance of Fillion subverting his typical Man Of Steel persona is as the grinning and terrible bad guy in “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.” But the most upsetting, for we Captain Mal fans, was what Whedon had him do right here in Season 7 of “Buffy.” Gut churning.
Christopher Lloyd — Who Framed Roger Rabbit?: Lloyd was so identifiably and endearingly addled both on “Taxi” and in Back To The Future that casting him as the horrific Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was a stroke of genius. That movie has a lot of issues in tone, sure, but there are few death scenes more horrific for young viewers than when Judge Doom DIPS THAT SHOE. ACK.
Wilfred Brimley — The Thing: Sure Brimley wasn’t always a beloved Diabetes and oatmeal spokesman, but it is completely impossible for viewers of a certain age to disassociate him from that Aw Shucks, Push Broom Mustache persona. So (ancient spoiler) possessed by the Thing, it’s extra uncomfortable. That’s why Body Snatcher horror is, for me, the most petrifying.
Kyle Chandler — The Spectacular Now: It’s a crappy father figure bookend! This other coming of age indie is out in theaters this weekend and we’ll have a full review for you later in the week but suffice it to say that of all the bad guys we’ve seen Kyle Chandler play (and he’s played a few), this performance as a deadbeat dad is the most heartbreaking. THIS IS COACH TAYLOR. He is everyone’s dad. His complete inability to give a sh*t about anyone other than himself will wither your soul.