1. Ian Holm as the Android Ash (Alien, 1979)
When he says [of the alien], ”I admire its purity,” I saw a piece of humanity that I’d never seen before. Everything he did made perfect, logical sense. Ripley became [the hero], but Ian was the one who stayed with me.
2. Shawnee Smith as Meg Penny (The Blob, 1988)
She’s a cheerleader, she’s intelligent, she has a machine gun, and I love her. I had a picture of her framed on my desk the entire time I was running Buffy. She’s just tough as nails and sympathetic and lovely, and definitely a seminal character for me.
3. Donald Pleasence as the Priest (Prince of Darkness, 1987)
There was a lot more to him as an actor than being portentous in John Carpenter films. But I never loved him being portentous in John Carpenter films more than in Prince of Darkness. The way he describes evil is so exciting.
4. Jennifer Rubin as Taryn White (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, 1987)
She was so badass. [Dream Warriors] changed the dynamic of the horror movie in a way that I appreciate — the idea that the people facing horror could be empowered by it and confront what they were fighting. It’s very Ur-Buffy as well.
5. Chip with a razor blade (Phenomena, 1986)
That movie is so ridiculously chock-full of horror: There are terrible murders, Jennifer Connelly just happens to have control over insects, there’s a crazy person living nearby. By the time you get to the monkey with a razor blade [who saves Connelly’s life], you’re just like, Oh my God! If you look at Cabin in the Woods, you can see the influence of ”Oh, you mean we can just never stop coming up with stuff?”
(As told to Adam B. Vary)