HORROR ICON OF THE MONTH: DEREK MEARS

Rhiannon Irons, a.k.a Ahlephia, here with the latest inductee into the Horror Icon hall of fame.  He’s big.  He’s bad.  He’s absolutely terrifying on screen.  He is the legendary Derek Mears.

DM1Derek Mears was born on April 29, 1972 in Bakersfield, California.  He attended Highland High School in Bakersfield, graduating in 1990.  During this time Derek would perform improv comedy at ComedySportz.

His acting career began in 1995 with the action/sci-fi/thriller The Demolitionist in which Derek would work with horror alumni Heather Langenkamp and Tom Savini.  I’ll be brutally honest when I say this film just reminds me of Robocop but there were some interesting moments.  The storyline for the film is in the not-too-distant future, the mayor of Metro City introduces a law banning all guns in the city.  Her mortal enemy, Mad Dog Burns, escapes from Death Row and stages an unsuccessful attempt to kill her.  He then exposes an undercover police officer, Alyssa Lloyd, and kills her.  A police scientist resurrects her as an invincible zombie warrior, gives her weapons, a motorcycle and sets her loose on Mad Dog and his gang.

It would be three years before Derek graced the screens again.  This time it was in Hurricane Festival.  Also that year, Derek turned to stunts, performing them on Charmed.  (Fun Fact: A lot of Horror Icon alumni’s have appeared on Charmed)

The following year Derek continued his work with stunts with an appearance on Angel as well the Will Smith film Wild Wild West.  As for the acting side, Derek made a TV movie entitled The Wonder Cabinet in which he played The Creature as well as having a brief appearance in an episode of Saved By The Bell: The New Class and V.I.P. 

In 2001 Derek found himself making more cameos on television.  He appeared in Nash Bridges, The Tick and Alias.  His stunt work also took off on Star Trek: Enterprise and Firetrap.

In 2002, Derek found himself back on the big screen in the sci-fi/action/comedy Men In Black II.  That same year he appeared in Love And A Bullet.

Now you’re probably wondering how this man qualifies for a Horror Icon Of The Month status.  It all began in 2005.  The horror genre came knocking on Derek’s door with a little filmDerek-Mears-500 called Cursed.  I’ll be honest, I loved Cursed.  Directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson it was a tongue-in-cheek werewolf movie that starred Christina Ricci, Joshua Jackson, Jesse Eisenberg and Australia’s own Portia de Rossi.  The storyline is as follows Ellie (Ricci) has been taking care of her younger brother Jimmy (Eisenberg) since their parent’s death.  One night after picking him up from a party they are involved in a car accident on Mulholland Drive. While trying to rescue a woman from the other car a creature attacks and kills her, also injuring both Ellie and Jimmy. After some research Jimmy realizes the creature could only have been a werewolf.  Now Derek has a nice role in this.  He’s the werewolf.  And with his height, he played a frightfully delightful werewolf.  Now, some people call the werewolf in this film a minor role.  But personally, I have to say, minor or not, any werewolf that flips the bird at the main character certain qualifies in the top ten coolest werewolves.

If you haven’t seen Cursed, I do highly recommend it for clichéd fun.  (Fun Fact: Plagued by production problems and script issues, this film’s release was delayed for over a year.  Over half of the movie had to be re-shot with many cast members being replaced due to scheduling conflicts)

In 2006, Derek worked with my favourite horror director, John Carpenter, in Masters Of Horror.  The episode labeled Pro-Life tells the story of a young girl trapped inside a clinic, who discovers the only thing more dangerous than her pursuers is the demonic secret that she carries within her.  A creepy episode from a must watch TV series.

The following year Derek landed a role in The Hills Have Eyes 2, the sequel to the 2006 remake.  Not as strong as the predecessor, The Hills Have Eyes 2 did have its moments of glory.  The storyline is about a team of trainees of the National Guard brings supply to the New Mexico Desert for a group of soldiers and scientists that are installing a monitoring system in Sector 16.  They do not find anybody in the camp, and they receive a blurred distress signal from the hills.  Their sergeant gathers a rescue team, and they are attacked and trapped by deformed cannibals, having to fight to survive.

I’ll be honest when I say that Derek’s role as Chameleon is creepy, but I did feel sorry for him when he was brutally killed with a large rock.  It may have only been a minor role, but it was enough to leave a lasting impact on the audience.

Now we’re getting to the good stuff.  In 2009 a remake of Friday The 13th hit cinemas.  That’s right, Jason Voorhees was back and this time the man behind the hockey mask was none other than Derek Mears.

derek and jasonAs a fan of slasher movies, I must say I did enjoy it.  However there were some major inconsistencies between this reboot of the franchise verses everything that came before it starting with when in the hell did Jason start taking prisoners?!  But putting all that aside, the film was actually decent for a remake.  There was humor, the typical good girl, the royal pain in the butt, and of course the large body count that we’ve come to expect from Jason.  (Fun Fact:  There are 13 deaths that Jason is responsible for.  All up there are 14 deaths including that of Mrs. Voorhees)

What it did do was deliver on all the things we’ve come to expect from slasher movies.  Derek’s portrayal of Jason was flawless.  Channeling the Jason of Friday The 13th Part 2 and 3, Derek ran, stalked his victims and played to Jason’s brute strength while giving him expect hunting skills and vulnerability.  Flawless performance and I would love to see him return to the role sometime in the future.

That same year horror threw Derek another curve ball in that of Hellbinders.  Not the greatest of films, but for a low budget movie it’s certainly worth watching especially if you’re into low budget horror movies.

As 2010 rolled around so did Predators.  Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Laurence Fishburne and Danny Trejo all starred in the film that saw Derek play Classic Predator.  The plot sees eight former members of Earth-mercenaries, soldiers, criminals and a doctor-literally dropped into a jungle on an alien planet.  Why or how they got there is not known, but pretty soon it is apparent they must work together for they are being hunted by an unseen enemy.  Hunted, it seems, for sport.

The set up is a little different but the formula is exactly the same as the original movie.  In short that means macho guys and a girl in the jungle are being hunted by something very bad.  Here in lies the main problem with Antal’ s movie. While it’s ticking the same boxes and homaging for all it’s worth, there’s little to no braveness in the writing.  Sure there are some bonuses in the form of alien pets, a predator feud arc and a bonkers midsection with the introduction of another character.  But as the carnage unfolds, the plot doesn’t go anywhere other than where we expect it to go.  While there’s a huge character misstep in the final third that is more laughable than being the twister it’s meant to be.

However, if taken purely as a popcorn movie, the film delivers enough thrills and excitement to warrant the viewing.  The action comes thick and fast. From the breathtaking opening as we are literally dropped into the jungle with Adrien Brody, to the inevitable face off for the finale, we have been treated to stabs, chops, thrusts, dismemberment’s, beheadings and spine ripping.  All this and there’s barely any blood spilt; lest the green kind counts of course.  While the new look predators are awesome, meaner in tone, with new armor and devoid of the pointless characterization that others in the franchise have tried to give them.  It’s just one of those movies that you can watch repeatedly from the comfort of your own home.

In 2011, Derek found himself working alongside another Horror Icon honoree, Johnny Depp, in Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

As 2013 continues to make its mark, Derek has starred in some outstanding works starting with Gangster Squad and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.  That latter title involves the siblings Hansel and Gretel who are left alone in the woods by their father and captured by a dark witch in a candy house.  However they kill the witch and escape from the spot.  Years later, the orphans have become famous witch hunters.  When eleven children go missing in a small village, the Major summons Hansel and Gretel to rescue them, and they save the red haired Mina from the local sheriff that wants to burn her accusing Mina of witchcraft.  Soon they discover that the Blood Moon will approach in three days and the powerful dark witch Muriel is the responsible for the abduction of children.  She intends to use the children together with a secret ingredient in a Sabbath to make the coven of witches protected against the fire.  Meanwhile Hansel and Gretel disclose secrets about their parents.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters came with mixed reviews but I rather enjoyed it.  A dark fairytale with an abundance of horror was a perfect escape one wet and dreary day.  I thought it was a wonderful mix of genres, and while it didn’t always gel, but with some graphic gore that comes out of nowhere, it was almost forgivable.

2013 also saw Derek team up with two other Horror Icons; Tyler Mane and, my personal favourite, Muse Watson, for Compound FractureCompound Fracture is a thrilling rideA062_C007_0126I9 from the moment the film begins to right when the credits begin to roll.  It’s not a typical horror film, however parts of it does have an old horror feel to it.  Props to Renae Geerlings on a well written screenplay.  As for the acting, it was outstanding.  Tyler and Muse went above and beyond for their roles while Derek was intimidating and terrifying.

If you haven’t seen Compound Fracture yet, hop to it.  It is rare, in my opinion, to find a film of this caliber out today.  The originality of the story teamed with the remarkable cast and the history of the supernatural makes Compound Fracture a must see film.

As we stand now, horror has beckoned Derek once more.  This time Mr. Mears will find himself up against the unstoppable force in Victor Crowley in Hatchet III.  We are all waiting with baited breath to see what this film produces.  The storyline is as follows:  A search and recovery team heads into the haunted swamp to pick up the pieces and Marybeth learns the secret to ending the voodoo curse that has left Victor Crowley haunting and terrorizing Honey Island Swamp for decades.

Derek Mears.  His name alone causes chills down the spines of all horror fans.  He’s ability to be a chameleon has aided him in creating some lasting characters.  Derek Mears can play my leading man any day of the week.

Ahlephia’s Top 5 Derek Mears Movies

1) Compound Fracture (2013) – Three horror icons; one movie. Derek Mears, Tyler Mane and Muse Watson. Need I say more.

2) Cursed (2005) – Campy, yes, but a fun werewolf movie to be sure.

3) Predators (2010) – They can see you.  They can hear you. They can smell your fear.

4) Friday The 13th (2009) – Derek is the new Jason and he swings that machete with pride.

5) Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013) – Underrated, but lovers of spooky fairytales will get a kick out of this.

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