Thanks to SYFY & USA Network's Chucky, horror fans are getting a strong dose of their nostalgia fix not just with the return of everyone’s favorite murder-powered, overalls-wearing toy doll, but that of Devon Sawa as well.
**This story contains spoilers for Chucky Season 1, Episode 1, "Death by Misadventure."**
One of the '90s' most popular young stars, Sawa joins returning stars Jennifer Tilly and Chucky’s original voice, Brad Dourif, in the new SYFY series from Child’s Play creator Don Mancini. Even though one of the twins that Sawa plays on Chucky (our hero Jake Webber’s abusive father, Luke) met a gruesome end during last night’s premiere episode, the show — and fans — aren’t done with Sawa yet, as he’ll continue his role as Jake’s uncle, Logan. In fact, Sawa’s resurgence (the Sawanissance?) has put us in a nostalgic mood as we revisit and rank the actor’s scariest horror movies just in time for Halloween — and for more Chucky, obviously.
The Exorcism of Molly Hartley (2011)
What this bleak and chilling sequel to 2008’s The Haunting of Molly Hartley lacks in big-budget scares it more than makes up for with a strong and sympathetic performance from Sawa. Here, he plays Father John Barrow, a fallen priest forced to rediscover his faith (and his exorcism skills) in order to save Molly’s soul from the evil spirit that poisons it. Sawa is both haunted and haunting in the role of Barrow, as the broken priest’s inner demons are at constant odds with the very real and terrifying ones he must defeat.
388 Arletta Avenue (2011)
Home invasion movies are instant make-the-hairs-on-your-neck-stand-up affairs. So it’s no surprise that 388 Arletta Avenue elicits a similar response as it exploits our universal fear of someone showing up in our homes who is not supposed to be there with some legit jump scares and slow-burn tension.
In 388, young newlyweds James and Amy (played by Nick Stahl and Mia Kirshner, respectively) are stalked by a mysterious figure who likes to film them in their home when they are asleep. When things in their home get rearranged without their knowing, James starts to suspect that an old acquaintance from childhood, Bill (Sawa), is the culprit. But Bill is only the beginning of James’ problems, as his search for the guilty party leads him dangerously and violently close to his worst nightmare. Director Randall Cole does an effective job capturing James’ spiral from victim to, well, I don’t wanna spoil it. But let’s just say that things don’t work out too well for Sawa’s Bill.
Idle Hands (1999)
If you were a ‘90s kid and you didn’t wear out your copy of Idle Hands on VHS, you were living life wrong.
This cult fave from 1999, trying to capitalize on the then-teen horror movie resurgence that started with 1996’s Scream, put Sawa on the teen heartthrob map in this over-the-top but highly-rewatchable horror comedy. Sawa plays Anton, a 17-year-old stoner whose ambitions start and stop with watching TV and daydreaming about his crush, Molly (Jessica Alba). It’s only when Anton’s right hand gets possessed by a demonic force, and his pals like Seth Green turn up zombie-fied, that he starts to use his life for more than just killing time. Horror comedies are hard to pull off, especially ones that rely on as many physical gags as Idle Hands does, but director Rodman Flender finds a deft tonal balance between the macabre and the hilarious — and his lead actor is more than game for the considerable antics (and gore) that the movie throws at him.
Hunter Hunter (2020)
Hunter Hunter was one of last year’s most overlooked and underrated (94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) scare fests, as well as one of Sawa’s best films.
Equal parts survivalist horror and family drama, Hunter Hunter centers on Sawa’s fur trapper and patriarch trying to make some threadbare ends meet in the Canadian wilderness when a rogue wolf arrives with one thing on its mind: food. Before the beast turns this family into his meal four, Joseph sets out to hunt it and discovers a grisly, ritualistic murder scene. Now, he must search for the very human killer stalking the woods Joseph calls home. Hunter Hunter is a delivery system of dread and tension, as the two parallel storylines eventually intersect in unsettling but well-earned fashion, all as Sawa delivers one of his most compelling and vulnerable performances as a father struggling to make sense of what’s left of his once-humble existence when he discovers the very frayed lines separating hunter from prey, man from beast.
Final Destination (2000)
What began as an X-Files spec script written by Jeffrey Reddick spawned one of horror’s most enduring (and bloody) franchises.
Directed by X-Files writer James Wong and co-written by his then-writing partner Glen Morgan, Final Destination stars Sawa as a teen burdened with a premonition that his schoolmates will die in a plane crash. His fear saves the day and changes his fate, but puts him and the rest of his frightened pals in danger when Death comes to collect. The penalty for cheating death takes a very inventive (and sometimes over-elaborate) toll on our heroes, as Wong injects the film with a playful menace that keeps the audience in a constant state of not knowing whether to laugh or gasp at the horrors on screen.
Unlike most teen horror flicks from the early aughts, Final Destination keeps you guessing as to how all this will end — right up to the final jump scare.