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90s Horror Movie Stars You May Not Know Are Dead

By the 1990s, only a handful of actors who had been deemed "horror movie stars" were still working in the genre. Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi had been gone for decades, and both Vincent Price and Peter Cushing passed away within the decade's first few years. A handful of actors with horror credits wound down their long careers in fright fare; others bid the genre farewell in the 1990s, and in one extraordinary case – Sir Christopher Lee – the handful of horror credits he logged in the '90s were followed by a career resurgence in some of the biggest film franchises of the 21st century.

Actors who work exclusively in horror are a rarity today — Tobin Bell of the "Saw" franchise and Robert Englund are probably the next best thing, though both have extensive credits in other genres too. Horror characters became the stars in the '80s and '90s, and remain so today — more people know Jason, Freddy, Jigsaw, and Chucky than the actors who played or voiced them. So the '90s was, for many horror actors, their final bow in the blood business. Many of these players passed away not long after completing these assignments; following is a list of '90s horror stars who you may not know have died.

Spoilers will follow.

Donald Pleasance starred in Halloween sequels to the end

Though an acclaimed stage actor and featured player in numerous studio films, including "The Great Escape" and the James Bond adventure "You Only Live Twice," British actor Donald Pleasence had a long and celebrated connection to horror films. He began his association in the early 1960s with films like "The Flesh and the Fiends" and "Eye of the Devil," before landing the iconic role of Dr. Sam Loomis in John Carpenter's "Halloween." Pleasance would reprise Loomis four additional times while also adding films like "The Monster Club" and Carpenter's "Prince of Darkness" to his horror resume.

Pleasence made his final appearance as Loomis in the 1990s with "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers" in 1995. He also starred in 1990's "Buried Alive," a low-budget feature loosely connected to several Edgar Allan Poe stories, along with the Italian slasher film "Fatal Frames" in 1996. The latter picture also marked his final film appearance: the 75-year-old Pleasence died of complications from heart surgery on February 2, 1995.

Anthony Perkins embraced his Psycho image

Though he had received an Academy Award nomination for his second film, 1956's "Friendly Persuasion," and worked with directors ranging from Orson Welles and Claude Chabrol to Sidney Lumet, actor Anthony Perkins was best remembered as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's classic horror film "Psycho." The role overshadowed many of his other accomplishments, which included a Tony nomination, and by the 1980s, Perkins would reprise Bates for Richard Franklin's "Psycho II." The film's success cemented Perkins's connection with horror, and he would work largely in those roles for the next decade.

After making a successful debut as director on "Psycho III," Perkins settled into a string of horror projects on television and in film. In 1990, he played a vampire in Stuart Gordon's TV film "Daughter of Darkness," and a college professor in Tobe Hooper's "I'm Dangerous Tonight," about a cloak that turns its wearer into a killer. He then reprised Bates for the TV movie "Psycho IV: The Beginning," and hosted the French suspense anthology series "Chillers." Perkins, who was diagnosed with HIV while filming "Psycho IV," died at the age of 60 from AIDS-related pneumonia on September 12, 1992. His final screen role in the TV film "In the Deep Woods" aired that same year.

John Saxon: the cult hero stayed true to horror

Busy character actor John Saxon spent the '90s in much the same way as he'd spent the previous four decades: working tirelessly in studio and independent films and countless television episodes. By the '90s, Saxon was a bona fide cult favorite, thanks to appearances in films like "Enter the Dragon," "Battle Beyond the Stars," "The Appaloosa," and numerous other films. The Golden Globe winner had also built a sizable career as a horror star through appearances in "A Nightmare on Elm Street," the original "Black Christmas," and films for Mario Bava ("The Evil Eye") and Dario Argento ("Tenebrae"). Though horror wasn't his only showcase in the '90s, it did encompass a number of his appearances in that decade.

Among his horror credits during that period were Robert Rodriguez's "From Dusk Till Dawn," and Wes Craven's "New Nightmare," for which he played a fictional version of himself. Saxon spent much of his time between studio and TV assignments in low-budget fare, and his '90s horror output is also filled with titles of that nature, including the underrated "Blood Salvage," "The Arrival," and "Hellmaster." True to form, Saxon continued to work in the 2000s before logging his final appearance in the 2017 indie "The Extra." Saxon died from complications of pneumonia on July 25, 2020, at the age of 83.

Angus Scrimm terrified four times as the Tall Man

A former journalist who won a Grammy for liner notes in 1974, Angus Scrimm also dabbled in acting during the 1970s before scoring his career-defining role as the Tall Man in "Phantasm." Scrimm's imposing height (he was 6'4") and booming voice made him the embodiment of every kid's nightmare about adults, and he would reprise the Tall Man in four sequels between 1988 and 2016. The success of the first "Phantasm" sequel in 1989 minted Scrimm as something of a horror icon, and he would go on to appear almost exclusively in horror films throughout the 1990s.

The majority of Scrimm's '90s efforts were indie and low-budget horrors like "Mindwarp" and "Wishmaster," although the assignments seemed to improve in the 2000s. Chief among these was a reunion with "Phantasm" director Don Coscarelli for "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road," an episode of the "Masters of Horror" series. The pair teamed up again for Coscarelli's well-regarded fantasy-horror film "John Dies at the End" in 2012 before tackling the fifth "Phantasm" film, "Phantasm: Ravager" in 2016. The project would become one of Scrimm's final film roles: the 89-year-old actor died of prostate cancer on January 9, 2016 before the picture's release.

Sir Christopher Lee bid horror farewell in the 1990s

For British actor and horror icon Sir Christopher Lee, the 1990s were a period of transition. Having eclipsed his star-making work as Dracula and other monsters with Hammer Films in the 1960s and 1970s, Lee toiled in international features and American television for much of the late '70s and 1980s. The '90s found him busy as ever, and as always, attempting to showcase his talents outside of the horror genre. Joe Dante gave his comic skills a fun showcase in "Gremlins 2: The New Batch," and he scored a personal triumph as Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, in the UK-Pakistani feature "Jinnah." But for the most part, Lee found work in horror films like "Curse III: Blood Sacrifice," "Funny Man," and "Tale of the Mummy."

Lee capped the decade with "Sleepy Hollow," his first of several collaborations with Tim Burton. The appearance seemed to initiate newfound appreciation for Lee: he was soon cast in "The Lord of the Rings" and "Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones," which led to steady work in British and American dramas. Lee's longtime wish to be considered as more than just a horror star had finally materialized; he remained active in features like Burton's "Dark Shadows" and "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" until his death at the age of 93 on June 7, 2015.

Legendary character actor Dick Miller fought gremlins and demons

A legendary figure among character actors, Dick Miller was a fixture of low-budget horror, science fiction, action, and exploitation from the late 1950s through the early 2000s. Miller got his start playing street-savvy figures in movies by Roger Corman, including the original "Little Shop of Horrors." His irascible but likable presence in these films led to steady work throughout the 1970s in films by Corman acolytes and admirers, which led to appearances in films by Martin Scorsese ("After Hours"), Steven Spielberg ("1941"), James Cameron ("The Terminator"), Jonathan Demme ("Swing Shift") and Joe Dante, who cast him in nearly all of his films and TV projects.

Dante's "Gremlins" gave Miller one of his most prominent roles, and he reprised his turn as grumpy neighbor Murray Futterman in the 1990 sequel "Gremlins 2: The New Batch." Between assignments for Tom Hanks, Bruce Timm ("Batman: The Animated Series"), and other filmmakers, Miller appeared in several horror films, including "Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight" for Ernest R. Dickerson and Fred Olen Ray's "Evil Toons." Miller's long career was celebrated in the 2014 documentary "That Guy Dick Miller," but he refused to rest on his laurels. Miller continued to act until his death of a heart attack on January 30, 2019. His final film appearance — in the horror spoof "Hanukkah" — was released that same year.

Tough guy Charles Napier met his match in Hannibal Lecter

Square-jawed, swaggering character actor Charles Napier moved effortlessly between major movies, weekly series, and indie features for more than three decades. He began his career as part of exploitation director Russ Meyer's stable of larger-than-life actors before segueing into Hollywood features. Napier was a favorite of director Jonathan Demme, who cast him in nearly all of his films, including "Swing Shift," "Something Wild," "Married to the Mob," and "The Silence of the Lambs," for which his tough-talking cop, Lt. Boyle, is gutted by Hannibal Lecter during his escape from a Pittsburgh holding cell.

Napier, whose numerous credits included "The Blues Brothers," "Rambo: First Blood Part II," and "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery," spent much of the '90s pinging between studio features like "The Cable Guy" and low-budget action and horror films: the latter included the horror anthology "Body Bags" and "Maniac Cop 2" (with Robert Z'dar). Napier continued to log time in indie chillers in the following decade, including "Dinocroc" and "Life Blood." The 75-year-old actor died of undisclosed causes on October 5, 2011.

Meet the Maniac Cop, Robert Z'dar

A former musician, jingle writer, and Chippendales dancer, actor Robert Z'dar parlayed his imposing size and unusual appearance into regular work as the villain in numerous horror and action films. Z'dar's most prominent feature — an enlarged jawline caused by a genetic condition known as cherubism – may have helped to pave his way into features, but Z'dar was convincing and at times, downright disturbing as an array of thugs, heavies, and serial killers.

His most memorable role was undoubtedly the title character in William Lustig's "Maniac Cop," about an unjustly imprisoned police officer who returns from the dead to murder the guilty and innocent alike. The gritty thriller, written by Larry Cohen, led to sequels in 1990 and 1993 and appearances in mainstream features like "Tango and Cash." Z'dar continued to log appearances in countless low-budget horror and sci-fi throughout the decade and into the 2000s, including "The Rockville Slayer" and "Little Creeps." So prolific was Z'dar that after his death from cardiac arrest on March 30, 2015, posthumous film projects continued to secure release until 2020.

Tom Towles, Chicago's scariest horror star

Chicago actor Tom Towles scared a lot of indie moviegoers senseless with his turn as Michael Rooker's depraved partner in crime in 1986's "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer." His Independent Spirit-nominated performance led to steady work in horror films throughout the 1990s, including Tom Savini's remake of "Night of the Living Dead," which cast him as the stubborn Harry Cooper. The former Marine also worked extensively with "Re-Animator" director Stuart Gordon, with whom he collaborated in Chicago's Organic Theater during the 1970s.

Towles, who was also a staple on '90s TV series like "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and "3rd Rock from the Sun," later enjoyed several collaborations with Rob Zombie, who cast him as the tough Deputy George Wydell in "House of 1000 Corpses" and "The Devil's Rejects." The pair reunited for Zombie's revamp of "Halloween" in 2007, which marked his final role in a major feature film. Towles later died on April 2, 2015 of complications from a stroke.

David Gale lost his head in Re-Animator

Few images from '80s horror films are as indelible — and gruesome — as the sight of David Gale in Stuart Gordon's 1985 Lovecraft adaptation, "Re-Animator." Gale's imperious Dr. Carl Hill — blessed with Founding Father looks and an impressive head of hair — looks much worse for wear after he's decapitated and then brought back to life by student Herbert West's rejuvenating serum. The re-agent not only revives Hill, but seems to loosen him up: with the help of his headless body, the doctor is an even bigger menace, especially to Barbara Crampton's Megan, whom he attempts to seduce in the film's biggest "ick" moment.

The British-born Gale worked in soaps and low-budget features throughout the '70s until "Re-Animator" made him something of a horror star. He parlayed his new fame into numerous '90s horror films, including a reprise of Dr. Hill — now outfitted with bat wings — in "Bride of Re-Animator," as well as "The First Power" and "Syngenor." Though he appeared much older, Gale was only 54 when he died of complications from open-heart surgery on August 18, 1991.

Larry Drake: From L.A. Law good guy to horror heel

Though best known for his Emmy-winning role as the gentle law clerk Benny Stulwicz on "L.A. Law," actor Larry Drake also won praise for menacing turns in several horror and fantasy films in the 1990s. He was the crime boss Robert Durant in Sam Raimi's 1990 cult favorite "Darkman" and reprised the role in its direct-to-video sequel "Darkman II: The Return of Durant" in 1995. Between these efforts, Drake earned a rare leading role as a psychopathic physician whose odd personality quirk earned him the name "Dr. Giggles" in 1992.

Drake remained a staple of episodic TV and independent features throughout the late '90s and early 2000s. He also stayed in the horror fold, landing supporting roles in the NBC adaptation of Peter Benchley's "Beast," 2001's "Dark Asylum," 2007's "Attack of the Gryphon," and the zombie thriller "Dead Air," which reunited him with "L.A. Law" co-star Corbin Bernsen in 2009. He made his final film appearance in a horror title –- "The Secrets of Emily Blair" –- which was released the same year as his death on March 17, 2016 from a rare form of blood cancer.

Horror vet Michael Gough kept up the scares into the '90s

An elegant if undeniably sinister figure in British feature films and on television for more than 60 years, actor Michael Gough was best known to international audiences as Alfred Pennyworth, the devoted butler to three movie versions of Bruce Wayne/Batman (Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney). The Tony-winning stage actor was also known for his overripe turns in numerous horror films, beginning in 1959 in "Horror of Dracula" with Christopher Lee. His connection to British horror brought him to the attention of fan Tim Burton, who cast him in the "Batman" films and also kept him in the horror fold in the 1990s.

Burton cast Gough as a small town notary with a secret in "Sleepy Hollow," and put Gough's mellow tones to excellent use as Elder Gutknetch, the skeleton who oversaw the underworld, in "Corpse Bride." Gough also appeared in "The Haunting of Helen Walker," a CBS TV-movie based on the classic supernatural novel "The Turn of the Screw," with Valerie Bertinelli and Diana Rigg. After recording his final film role as the Dodo Bird in Burton's "Alice in Wonderland," Gough died of pneumonia at the age of 94 at his home in Salisbury, England on March 17, 2011.

Richard Lynch battled gators, werewolves, and Michael Myers

A member of the Actors Studio who shared the stage with Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in the early 1970s, actor Richard Lynch was best remembered for playing intense characters in over 100 movies and television shows over the course of a four-decade career. His arresting presence — the result of drug-induced self-immolation in 1967 — made him a favorite for villainous roles in '80s films like "Invasion U.S.A." and "Bad Dreams."

Lynch continued to work throughout the 1990s and 2000s, with horror films taking up a significant portion of his time. He was a Cajun hunter in 1990's "Alligator II: The Mutation," a cursed New Englander in "Necronomicon" (1993), and an archaeologist in the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" favorite "Werewolf" (1995), among many other genre films during this decade.

Lynch remained active throughout the early 2000s, and enjoyed a showcase role as the principal of Michael Myers' school in Rob Zombie's "Halloween." He was set to reunite with Zombie for "Lords of Salem" but was forced to drop out due to health issues; Lynch was found dead of a heart attack at age 76 in his home in Yucca Valley, California on June 19, 2012.

Original Leatherface Gunnar Hansen returned to horror

Gunnar Hansen was the OG Leatherface, the man behind the skin mask and oversized power tool in Tobe Hooper's groundbreaking horror film, "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre." Hansen, who was born in Iceland and raised in Texas, retired from acting shortly after the release of "Chain Saw Massacre" in 1974 to focus on a writing career. He returned to the horror business in the late 1980s and remained a regular presence in low-budget features throughout the 1990s, including "Mosquito," "Freakshow" and "Hellblock 13."

Hansen added more horror roles in the 2000s, including appearances in the notorious "Murder-Set-Pieces" and "Texas Chainsaw 3D," which reunited him with original "Chain Saw" co-star Marilyn Burns in 2013. Hansen also wrote non-fiction, including "Chain Saw Confidential," which looked at the making of and reception for the Tobe Hooper film. The book was released in 2013, two years before the 68-year-old Hansen died of pancreatic cancer on November 7, 2015.