The world received some crushing news yesterday when it was announced that veteran actor Bill Paxton had passed away due to complications from surgery. It’s an especially sad piece of news for horror fans, as Paxton holds a special place in many of our hearts for the multiple roles he has portrayed in genre films. While he was mostly well-known for films like Apollo 13, Twister, Titanic, True Lies and the exceptional HBO series Big Love, Paxton had a loyalty to the horror genre that many veteran actors lose once they become more established. We thought we would take a moment to look back on some of Paxton’s most memorable roles in genre films in order to celebrate his life and career.
Back in 1982, Paxton was still being billed as William Paxton, so if you stumble upon Night Warning one day be on the lookout for his name. Night Warning is a bizarre horror film that acts as a modern retelling of Oedipus. It’s got incest and murder galore. Paxton’s role as the local bully isn’t a large one, but since this is one of his earliest film roles, that’s not surprising.
Paxton re-entered slasher territory with his role as Paul Andrews the mentally disturbed son of a mortician. This isn’t high art here, but it’s worth seeing simply for the fact that the killer is a face-painted man whose weapon of choice is an embalming trocar. It’s super cheesy and hasn’t aged well, but it is a lot of fun.
Paxton re-teamed with James Cameron (their first collaboration being The Terminator in which Paxton played a thug) for what is arguably his most famous genre role: Private Hudson, a cocky, foulmouthed pretty boy who, as annoying as he was, managed to capture the hearts of genre fans everywhere. He should have been a character that got on your nerves, but Paxton made him endearing enough to the point where you actually feel bad for him when he gets dragged through the floor grates by an Alien.
Paxton teamed up with James Cameron’s future wife Kathryn Bigelow for Near Dark, a vampire film that was a flop upon its initial release but has since garnered a massive cult following. He portrays Severen, the craziest of all the vampires in the film, and boy is he great in the role. He certainly gives Kiefer Sutherland (The Lost Boys) a run for his money when it comes to psychotic ’80s vampires.
The two Bills (Pullman and Paxton) joined forces in Adam Simon’s (Carnosaur) Brain Dead, a film that sees Pullman’s character slowly going insane. In all truthfulness, Brain Dead is not a very good movie, but where else are you going to see Pullman and Paxton bantering? Nowhere, that’s where. So give this one a watch.