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Why You Don't See These Horror Stars Anymore

It takes serious acting chops to give a truly outstanding performance in a horror film. From keeping your cool while pretending to be terrorized to expressing complex emotions while wearing thick makeup or masks, horror actors definitely have their work cut out for them.

But even the most talented horror actors choose to hang up their hats and leave the industry eventually. No matter how passionate about this genre they may be, working in Hollywood for years on end is enough to burn anybody out. Some horror stars have walked away from acting because they wanted to explore other career paths, while others have run into trouble and had problems getting cast. Others have decided that they're more comfortable working behind the camera as directors or crafting narratives as screenwriters, and a few have simply realized that they don't like living in the public eye. Here's why you haven't seen any of these famous horror stars in any movies lately.

John Franklin didn't feel fulfilled

John Franklin rose to prominence in the world of horror cinema when he starred as Isaac, the creepy young cult preacher in Children of the Corn. He went to land a small role in Child's Play and later played Cousin Itt in The Addams Family and Addams Family Values. Franklin easily could have continued acting, but the unexpected loss of two loved ones caused him to question whether or not he really wanted to keep working in the entertainment industry — and after the events of September 11, 2001, he realized that he needed to take his life in a new direction.

"I seriously looked in the mirror and went, 'What is my legacy?,'" Franklin told OWN, adding, "I've entertained millions through the years, but is that all that I want written on my tombstone or my obituary? I just decided then, I need a break, I need to get away." Shortly after this realization, Franklin responded to an ad for a teaching job and spent over a decade in the classroom, combining his passions by teaching English and screenwriting, among other subjects. Today, Franklin is slowly returning to acting by taking on roles as they fit, but he isn't pursuing acting full time.

Fairuza Balk is picky about her roles

Fairuza Balk gave an eerily convincing performance as the powerful and vengeful young witch Nancy in the 1996 horror flick The Craft. The movie attained status as a cult favorite, and it seemed like Balk could have a bright future in horror films, but she never quite fulfilled this promise.

Today, Balk says she simply wasn't interested in chasing fame. "I never just want to work for the sake of working. There has to be 'something' there for me so that I can grow from the experience. I've never just taken a job because I wanted the check," Balk told Dread Central. "I struggled a lot with being pushed too hard in my 20s, with people telling me that I had to keep taking more and more movies because that's really only when I'd be relevant." With no desire to be "the flavor of the moment," Balk has focused on finding roles she can truly feel passionate about.

Adrienne King dealt with a stalker

Adrienne King, who played Alice Hardy in Friday the 13th, had a horrifying offscreen experience that pushed her out of the public eye — and subsequent acting roles — for years. King had no idea that shortly after rising to fame, she would be forced to deal with a real situation that was far scarier than anything in her film. For a year and a half, she was followed by a persistent stalker who pursued her for a bizarre reason: he claimed that King reminded him of someone who had wronged him in the past. Unfortunately, the authorities initially dismissed King's claims, and King has stated that the police even attempted to place the blame on her for acting in such a frightening movie.

King eventually spoke with the director of Friday the 13th Part 2 and arranged for her character to be killed off. "I couldn't handle doing another film and dealing with what no one else seemed to want to deal with," King told Uproxx, adding, "It really kind of spun me into a very weird place." King eventually pivoted to voiceover work so she could keep acting without appearing onscreen; today, she primarily works as a winemaker and artist.

Nick Castle wanted to be a director

Michael Myers, the infamous masked murderer from the Halloween franchise, is one of the most famous villains in horror movie history. Although you wouldn't recognize him behind the mask, Nick Castle played Myers in the first Halloween film. You won't notice him credited as an actor in many other movies (although he did return for the 2018 reboot, also titled Halloween, as well as its two sequels). While Castle walked into a fantastic opportunity when he was offered the opportunity to play Michael Myers, he never intended to become an actor. In fact, he had always dreamed of writing and directing his own films.

So how did Castle end up with this iconic role, despite his lack of interest in acting? Castle and Halloween director John Carpenter were close friends in film school, and after Carpenter achieved early success in the entertainment industry, he knew he could help give Castle a career boost, so the two teamed up for Halloween and Castle got to learn the ropes from a pro. "The reason I was doing it was just to hang out on the set to learn how to become a director," Castle told Dread Central. "It was a great experience for me and you never know how things are going to turn out." 

Linda Blair became an animal rights activist

Linda Blair was a relatively unknown actor with little experience under her belt when she landed the role of Regan in the classic horror hit The Exorcist. Watching Blair depict the possessed, disturbed Regan onscreen is enough to genuinely make your skin crawl, and Blair appeared poised to use that experience as a stepping stone to break into other horror films.

But these days, Blair has a new set of priorities, dedicating most of her time to animal rights activism. She became a vegetarian in 1988, and eventually adopted a vegan diet in 2001. She's rescued many stray dogs, and says she feels a kinship with these misunderstood animals because of the way the media portrayed her after the release of The Exorcist. "I realized these dogs are being portrayed the same as I was — as a monster," Blair told The Sydney Morning Herald. "There was prejudice, misunderstanding and it was being lied about. So I became quite a forceful speaker on their behalf.” Blair does lament the fact that most journalists only want to talk to her about The Exorcist rather than her work with animal welfare, stating that the lack of interest makes her feel "sad."

David Dorfman has a successful legal career

As a child, David Dorfman starred as Aidan in The Ring, captivating audiences with his portrayal of a young boy with psychic abilities whose family is tormented by an entity bent on revenge for the suffering she endured in life. He also made an appearance as Jedidiah Hewitt in the 2003 reboot of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. While Dorfman certainly had the potential to be a successful adult actor, he hasn't appeared in a film since 2010 — clearly, he decided to take a different path in life.

Turns out that Dorfman's talents extend beyond acting. A brilliant student, he was admitted to Harvard Law School at an age when most people are just starting their bachelor's degrees. He managed to graduate at the top of his class when he was only 21 and started building his legal career. "I've been working as an attorney since at Capitol Hill in D.C., and then at one of the top firms in Hong Kong. I was really fortunate to be at the Justice Department in Washington, too," Dorfman told Refinery 29. "Honestly, I just feel so lucky to have such interesting experiences."

Daveigh Chase had several run-ins with the law

Daveigh Chase may have popped up in your nightmares after portraying the murdered orphan Samara in The Ring. The creepy image of a young girl with her black hair hanging in front of her face could easily haunt you for days — and make you dread picking up the phone whenever it rings.

While Chase didn't strictly pursue parts in horror films during the years following The Ring, she definitely stayed busy, returning to her role as Lilo in Lilo & Stitch: The Series and playing Rhonda Volmer on the HBO series Big Love. But recent legal troubles have left Chase with an empty schedule for the past couple of years. In November of 2017, she was arrested when she was caught driving a stolen car. In 2018, she was arrested again — this time, for the possession of illegal drugs. Whether or not Chase chooses to return to acting, hopefully, she'll be able to get back on her feet again.

Heather Langenkamp dealt with a family tragedy

You may remember Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson from the classic slasher film A Nightmare on Elm Street. Langenkamp played Nancy in three films across the durable franchise, and has always spoken highly of the experience. To this day, she insists she has no idea why she was chosen for the role, but she still feels "honored and blessed" that she had the opportunity.

But after losing her son to brain cancer in 2018, Langenkamp took a step back. "That's why I haven't really been doing very much for the last year because I have been just recovering from seven years of just real, real horror," Langenkamp said in an interview with Pop Horror in 2019. "Now that I've kind of moved beyond that stage of my life, I just really appreciate being alive and appreciating every gift that I've been given." She still loves acting, but these days, she's more interested in working on short films instead of features. She also runs a makeup effects company with her husband.

Sandrea Peabody became a producer and screenwriter

Sandra Peabody starred as Mari Collingwood in The Last House on the Left, the movie that marks Wes Craven's directorial debut. This gruesome and gory exploitation horror film follows two teenaged girls who are tortured by a gang in the woods. It was eventually remade in 2009, but the original still holds up.

Peabody took on roles sporadically for some time after The Last House on the Left was released, and she was especially inclined to working on horror films, including movies like Voices of Desire and Massage Parlor Murders. But in 1974, Peabody officially appeared in her final film, Teenage Hitchhikers, and began working as a screenwriter and producer instead. Today, she has also branched out into coaching, a career that finds her working with beginning actors to help them polish up their skills. Her former students, like actor Alicia Lagano, have described her as "open and real."

Heather Donahue couldn't stand the critics

In The Blair Witch Project, Heather Donahue went by her own name, playing a person who was downright obsessed with capturing footage of the mysterious title character, refusing to turn off the camera until her own death. She never expected that this low-budget found-footage film would make the impact it did. Although The Blair Witch Project drew in large audiences and caused quite a stir with its incredibly effective marketing campaign, Donahue's performance wasn't positively received — in fact, she even won a "Worst Actress" award at the Razzies.

Donahue has said that once the hubbub over The Blair Witch Project died down, she "had a firm lack of interest in appearing in anything else." But despite all the criticism toward her character, she didn't give up on acting right away — she continued taking on the occasional role for years to come. However, she eventually took her career in a totally different direction when she left acting behind to begin growing medical marijuana. She even wrote a memoir about her experiences, titled Growgirl.

Ellen Sandweiss wanted a normal life

In The Evil Dead, a group of college students on vacation in an isolated cabin fall victim to demonic possession. Ellen Sandweiss played Cheryl Williams, who is violently assaulted by demonic trees in one of the most disturbing scenes of the film. Although no one who has seen The Evil Dead could forget her performance, Sandweiss herself wasn't so keen on the idea of living her life in the public eye.

Even while she was working on The Evil Dead, Sandweiss has said she'd already decided she didn't want to make a living acting. She even admitted that she hoped the film "would never be seen," because she didn't want to deal with the publicity. She ended up studying arts administration in graduate school and working in management positions for non-profits. But decades later, Sandweiss is impressed with the unexpected success of The Evil Dead, and even returned to her role as Cheryl for two episodes of the television series Ash vs. The Evil Dead.

Danny Lloyd became a teacher

It's hard to believe that Danny Lloyd had never acted before playing Danny Torrance in The Shining. For a couple of hours, it was easy to accept that he just might have psychic powers.

You may have wondered why Lloyd didn't appear in other films after starring in such an impactful movie. Despite his natural talent and strong performance, Lloyd struggled to land similar opportunities once shooting for The Shining wrapped. He continued going on auditions, but aside from securing a single role in a made-for-TV movie about the Watergate scandal, he wasn't offered any parts he was interested in. Although Lloyd enjoyed acting, he eventually realized it was time to leave the industry behind.

"I'm quite happy with how things went, really. I feel like I pretty much hit the lottery with The Shining," Lloyd told The Guardian. "I don't regret trying acting. When I decided to stop, I don't regret that either." Lloyd grew up to work as a teacher — one who smartly tried to keep his previous acting experience a secret from his students to avoid classroom disruptions. However, he did get back in the front of the camera one more time to make a cameo in Doctor Sleep, the 2019 sequel to The Shining.

Suzanne Snyder became a hypnotherapist

If you've ever seen the cult classic Killer Klowns From Outer Space, you may recognize Suzanne Snyder as Mike Tobacco's girlfriend Debbie Stone. But this movie wasn't Snyder's only foray into the horror genre: she had already appeared in Night of the Creeps, Retribution, and the slasher film Prettykill. She also played Brenda Herzog in Return of the Dead Part II. But Snyder gradually began taking on fewer film roles, and today, she's working in a completely different industry.

Originally, Snyder had always planned on working in medicine in some capacity, but she gave up on her initial plans to enroll in a pre-med program because she became too busy with modeling and acting jobs. She eventually realized her dream in a different way: Today, Snyder works in the health and wellness field, offering her clients services like hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, yoga, and meditation. Snyder structures her teachings around the concept of bio-individuality — basically, she feels that everyone needs a custom approach to healing and living a healthy lifestyle. She is also the mother of seven children, and she states that motherhood, grief, and loss have all informed her approach to the healing arts.