© 2023 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Sam Neill is a wonderful, deliriously deranged actor

I was delighted last week when I saw people celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of the science fiction/horror movie Event Horizon. Not because I love that movie, which is neither as good as people regard it now, nor as bad as people thought it was when it came out. No, I was excited because it gave me an excuse to sing the praises of Sam Neill.

Now, it’s not like he’s an obscure actor, but I’m certain most people basically know him as Dr. Grant from Jurassic Park. And if that’s the case, then what you’re missing out on is crazy Sam Neill. We get a bit of this from Event Horizon, where Neill ends up possessed by some hellish force and does some terrifying murdering, and we get a taste of this incredible thing he can do with his eyes, where he looks like he’s staring at you, through you, and all around you, all at once. At least until he tears his own eyeballs out.

Event Horizon frankly doesn’t get quite as nuts as it could, so a better example is John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness, where Neill plays an insurance investigator who’s looking into the disappearance of a famous horror author. He starts to see his reality blurring with the various grotesque plots of the missing author’s work, before things just go totally haywire and Neill gets dragged into another dimension, or maybe was there all along, or something. Anyway, seeing Neill’s meltdown to manic insanity is a true joy, especially with this movie coming out a year after Jurassic Park. I can only hope some kids and grandmas ended up witnessing this in a theater because it starred that nice man who played Dr. Grant.

But if you really want crazy Sam Neill, you have to turn to the 1981 movie Possession. This one’s tough to describe, in that you’ll never imagine what you’re about to see, but the level of nuttiness In the Mouth of Madness ends up with is the level that Possession begins with. And then Neill just keeps going up from there, matched beat for insane beat by his costar, Isabelle Adjani. Truly, it’s something to behold.

Here’s to you, Sam Neill, you wonderful, deliriously deranged man.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.