Like so many people, 25-year-old British actor Julian Morris got his first taste of horror as a kid while spending the night at a friend’s house. “Seven or eight of us sat up watching a Stephen King movie on television,” Morris remembers. “By the end of the night, everyone else had gone to sleep, and I was still awake, completely terrified. I still think about it sometimes.” U.S. audiences first saw Morris in 2005’s middling teen slasher film Cry_Wolf, where he played a troublemaking exchange student whose talent for spreading online rumors about a serial killer inspires a campus killing spree. This winter he revisits the genre in the twisted cat-and-mouse thriller (and film-festival favorite) Donkey Punch, in which seven teens board a yacht in the Mediterranean, looking to party, but eventually ring up a gory body count instead. “In Cry_Wolf I was the person getting chased around with a knife, but in this one I finally get to do the chasing,” he says. The sex and violence of Donkey Punch might be shockingly graphic, but Morris insists it isn’t nearly as hard-core as his new recurring gig-playing an intern fresh out of med school on the final season of ER. “In the film all the blood and gore are fake, but on ER we actually had to work with real pig guts,” he laughs. “And I have to speak in an American accent. It’s scary, man.” He also has a small role in the upcoming Tom Cruise vehicle Valkyrie, which involves trying to rid the world of a very real psychopath: Hitler.
If there’s any young actor who’s abundantly qualified to say a thing or two about horror movies, it’s slasher specialist Scout Taylor-Compton. Not only has she starred in two rather infamous horror remakes (2008’s April Fool’s Day and Rob Zombie’s 2007 reimagining of Halloween, in which she played the genre’s ultimate babysitter, Laurie Strode), but Taylor-Compton, 19, also grew up in a very horror-friendly household in Long Beach, California. “My dad is a mortician,” she says. “Both of my parents are horror buffs, so I watched lots of scary stuff throughout my childhood. Still, given my dad’s job, none of my friends really wanted to spend the night at my house.” This winter Taylor-Compton appears opposite Beyoncé Knowles in the stalker thriller Obsessed. Did she have any acting advice to pass along to Beyoncé on the set? “After doing several horror movies, I’ve found that there are basically only three things you need to be good at,” she says. “It’s all just cry, scream, cry, scream—pause to act scared—then scream again.”
“I’m pretty mad at horror films for ruining my childhood,” says 20-year-old Haley Bennett, who grew up in Naples, Florida. A single viewing of Stephen King’s IT  not only soured Bennett on scary movies, it also caused a flurry of redecoration in her childhood bedroom. “I was obsessed with clowns,” she says, laughing. “My dad had to get rid of them. I thought there were clowns under my bed for years.” So, given the actress’s aversion to blood and guts, why take on the titular role in a film about demonic possession? “Playing Molly in The Haunting of Molly Hartley was the ultimate challenge,” says Bennett of filling the shoes of a not-so-stable teen who may or may not be a demon seed. “Let’s just say I didn’t get much sleep when we were shooting it.” Bennett’s next project doesn’t fall into the horror genre, but it does involve working with Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson, and a neurotic dog in the comedy Marley & Me. Bennett’s craziest memory from Molly Hartley: “I never imagined what it would be like to spend a 12-hour day crying and covered in blood,” she says.
“It takes a lot to scare me,” swears actress AnnaLynne McCord. At just 21 she has already given a freaked-out turn in The Haunting of Molly Hartley and kicked lots of zombie ass in 2008’s Day of the Dead remake. Needless to say, McCord is pretty skilled at working herself up for intense scenes. “I sprint around the set as fast as possible or hold my breath and jump up and down,” she says of her technique. “Sometimes I think about playing hide-and-seek with my sister. She routinely scared the shit out of me when we were kids.” While other actresses pine for the glamour of romantic comedies, McCord particularly loves any excuse to get drenched in guts. “I loved killing zombies in Day of the Dead,” she says. “I basically welcome anything that involves being dirty or bloody or shooting guns.” Strangely for this Georgia native, her litmus test for real fame is to star in a vampire movie. In the meantime, she’ll just have to accept roaming the halls of West Beverly Hills High in the newly revamped Beverly Hills 90210 (called simply 90210). Maybe they’ll write some bloodsucking into the scripts.
“I’m not sure why, but I keep doing movies where I’m asked to lose parts of myself,” says the 25-year-old actor and every film psycho’s new favorite victim, Noah Segan. “I’ve done three movies this year that required some part of my body to be lopped off.” The horror movies in question run the gamut from psychological indie-fare like the upcoming Deadgirl, about friends who make a grisly discovery in an abandoned asylum, to the Hollywood gorefests Chain Letter and Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever. Born and raised in New York City, Segan, who recently played drummer Don Bolles in the Germs biopic What We Do Is Secret, says that horror films often require a different kind of mental preparation. “It can be freaky,” he says. “You find yourself shooting someplace really weird, the camera is off in the corner, it’s dark, and you know that someone is gonna jump out of the bushes and that some gnarly shit is gonna go down. It’s fun, but it’s easier than you might imagine to actually be scared by the whole thing.”
“I remember fantasizing about having my own little pet monkey as a kid—then I saw the movie Outbreak ,” says Texas native Shanna -Collins. “I realized I could never have one because, inevitably, it would bite me and give me a flesh-eating virus.” Luckily, 25-year-old Collins has so far avoided parts in biohazard epics, though she has wrestled with the supernatural (and her co-star, Haley Bennett) in The Haunting of Molly Hartley. Fans of the CBS drama Swingtown will recognize Collins from her role as the sweet, freethinking ’70s teen Laurie Miller, but in Molly Hartley the actress gets to show off her character’s dark side, which at one point involves a holy-water church brawl in a giant baptismal font. “The water was surprisingly warm,” she says. “It was hard not to think that we were standing in pee.”
According to Olivia Munn, acting in Insanitarium ruined the genre for her. “Doing the movie was great,” the 26-year-old says, “but unfortunately I don’t find horror movies frightening anymore. Every time I see something that’s supposed to be scary I can’t help but think about how it was made.” Munn plays a nurse at a hospital where a mad doctor turns his wards into flesh-eating psychopaths. On the set, the Oklahoma native learned some fun facts about fake blood-namely that it stains your skin and will ruin a perfectly good BlackBerry. “I was waiting around, checking my messages, and suddenly it was time to shoot my scene,” she recalls. “I forgot that I had just shoved my phone into my jacket pocket, which was then promptly coated in blood. Eventually, all the keys stuck together.” Munn can be seen next opposite Bill Paxton in the comedy (a genre she may find a little easier to believe in) The Slammin’ Salmon, from the Broken Lizard ensemble.
“Most people don’t know what it’s like to have someone try to kill you,” says actor Johnny Simmons. “Being in a horror movie requires that you think like that all day long.” Simmons, 21, should know: Just last year he played a germaphobic patient in a sanitarium who inadvertently eats a cockroach and dies after guzzling some cleaning fluid in the missable bloodfest Boogeyman 2. Turns out, that was just a warm-up. In the upcoming thriller Jennifer’s Body (the latest feature film offering from Juno superscribe Diablo Cody), the classic trope of horror in the high school halls gets turned on its head when satanic rock music is responsible for the demonic possession of a cheerleader, who starts devouring all her male classmates. Simmons plays Chip, one of the unfortunate schooltime snacks. So, did the film conjure any horrific memories from Simmons’s own high school days in Dallas? “I don’t remember wanting to murder any of my annoying classmates back in high school,” he laughs. “But beat the crap out of them? Yeah.” This Christmas, Simmons can be seen as a young Denny Colt in Frank Miller’s hotly anticipated The Spirit.
“I grew up in a house that would be perfect to set a horror movie in,” says actress Ashley Greene, originally from Jacksonville, Florida. “It was out in the country, right on the water. I’m glad I never got to see scary movies when I was young. Otherwise I would have imagined things coming out of the lake.” In the teenage-romance horror film Twilight, Greene, 21, plays a vampire who spends decades living among humans with her equally youthful-looking vampire husband, only to find herself plagued by troubling visions of the future. The film has already generated an almost Harry Potter-level of tween fan frenzy. After working mostly in television, Greene says the Twilight experience was eye-opening. “Getting to fly around on wires was truly amazing,” she laughs. “I just hope the fans are happy, otherwise I’m gonna have thousands of angry young girls coming after me.” Now that is terrifying.