Bill Paxton Had a Long and Incredible Relationship with Horror
Two days ago, we had to post the terrible news that Bill Paxton had passed away at the age of 61. According to several sources, the actor suffered complications after heart surgery, which makes his death all the more unexpected and painful. He left us all too soon, leaving behind stunned fans and a grieving family.
While we ourselves are still mourning, in an attempt to heal, we recognize that his breadth of work should also be celebrated, that we need to remember his commitment to horror and genre films throughout his career. While many famous actors who got their start in horror rarely, if ever, return, Paxton seemed to take a charming delight in starring in the genre, which saw him in roles and films that have a special place in the hearts of many film lovers.
One of his earliest roles was that of Eddie in the 1982 exploitation horror flick Night Warning, which saw him star alongside Susan Tyrrell and Julia Duffy. According to both Wiki and IMDb, it was the first movie role where he was both credited and had an actual name. From there, he appeared in the 1983 made-for-TV horror/thriller Deadly Lessons and Mortuary, which came out the same year. In 1984, Paxton appeared briefly in The Terminator as the leader of the punks who get killed off by the titular character early in the film.
Two years later, Paxton appeared in what may be one of his most famous roles as Pvt. Hudson in James Cameron’s Aliens. Then, a year later, he appeared in Kathryn Bigelow’s vampire western Near Dark, which saw him reunite with Aliens co-stars Lance Henriksen and Jenette Goldstein. In 1990, he appeared in Brain Dead and Predator 2, making him and Lance Henriksen* the only people to be killed by a Terminator, a Xenomorph, and a Predator.
In the mid-90’s, Paxton appeared in several non-horror films that brought him much acclaim, including Apollo 13, True Lies, Titanic, and Twister. But that didn’t stop him from keeping one foot firmly planted in horror and thrillers. In 1998, he appeared in Sam Raimi’s brilliant and incredibly difficult film A Simple Plan. A few years later, he directed and appeared in the often overlooked psychological horror/thriller Frailty. Then, in 2004, he appeared in the horror spoof film Club Dread, which was a riff on slasher films like I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. Even in recent years, Paxton kept returning to genre titles. He was Master Sergeant Farell in Edge of Tomorrow, Mason in The Colony, and even voiced Kahn in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare – EXO Zombies.
Now, I haven’t mentioned all of the genre films that Paxton was in over his long career, but suffice it to say that I think this shows his commitment to horror. Paxton was clearly not only an actor who performed every role professionally and with charisma and gravitas, he was also a thespian who wanted to have fun. That attitude is why, in my opinion, he was so beloved and cherished. People go to movies to escape reality, and Paxton was able to give them just that while doing everything he needed to do for his role and more.
For me, it’s rare for an actor to play a wide variety of roles and actually feel like each one is separate. Once they’ve done something iconic, I associate them with that role from then on. But not with Paxton. He had that magical ability to be stunning with every part he played; yet, each role felt unique and fresh. His loss is still keenly felt, and we at Dread Central will mourn him forever. But in the spirit of many of Paxton’s characters, we’ll move on as quickly as our hearts will allow so that we can begin celebrating him.
Thanks, Bill, for everything you’ve given us.
*Henriksen was a police officer killed by Schwarzenegger in The Terminator, he was killed by a predator in Alien vs. Predator, and Bishop the droid was damaged beyond repair by the Xenormorph Queen in Aliens.
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