What’s the Deal? Horror Movies Don’t Scare Top-Tier Actors Anymore (Video)

Jessica Chastain, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson have taken over the territory once ruled by screamy, doe-eyed blondes

What do Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jennifer Carpenter and Jennifer Connelly have in common — besides first names? Each started out, more or less, screaming their way through horror movies.

But the genre's no longer a training ground for tomorrow's starlets: Many well-respected stars — of both genders — have recently gravitated toward the once-ghettoized genre. 

As horror movies cycle from "torture porn" into headier, more classic material, actresses over 35 are lining up to do them. In this week's edition of "What's the Deal?", TheWrap examines a trend that traces back to Nicole Kidman in "The Others" and Naomi Watts in "The Ring" — and is going strong with Jessica Chastain in "Mama" and Vera Farmiga in "The Conjuring." 

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But it's not just the ladies of horror who are gaining pedigree. Established actors getting their scream on of late: Ethan Hawke in "The Purge" and "Sinister" and Patrick Wilson in "Insidious" and "The Conjuring." And TheWrap reported earlier this week that Sam Rockwell was in early talks to join Rosemarie DeWitt in MGM's "Poltergeist" reboot. 

While "Poltergeist" will surely help raise the profiles of both actors — neither is your typical studio lead — it's the movie that's lucky to have landed actors of their caliber.

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Recently, Lili Taylor and Farmiga helped "The Conjuring" take in $41 million its opening weekend, impressive for a gore-free R-rated horror movie. Rather than another blonde actress who is barely of age to have one daughter — let alone five — director James Wan cast Taylor, an indie icon whose presence elevates the creepy but familiar material. Farmiga's taste for the macabre extends to the small screen, where she plays Norma Bates on A&E's "Bates Motel."

Lena Headey, who often plays strong female characters, helped propel "The Purge" to another $40 million opening weekend. It came on the heels of "Mama," which starred Oscar nominee Chastain — who must have enjoyed herself, as she'll star opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in Guillermo del Toro's gothic horror movie "Crimson Peak" next year.

Even small- and midbudget horror movies — once the place for pretty young faces such as Maggie Grace ("The Fog"), Jamie King ("My Bloody Valentine 3D"), Camilla Belle ("When a Stranger Calls") and Brittany Snow ("Prom Night") — are populated with well-respected actresses such as Sarah Polley ("Dawn of the Dead"), Toni Collette ("Fright Night"), Rose Byrne ("Insidious") and Liv Tyler ("The Strangers").