Horror cinema has been around since the late 19th century. That gives us 130+ years of thousands of individuals who have laid some cement on the foundation of the genre that we have today. From the performers who were drenched in blood and screamed their way through countless films, to the writers and directors who created the causes for those screams, to the makeup artists and costume designers who brought the horrors to life.
You want someone by your side for an apocalyptic showdown, but who? I’ll tell you who. You want Ken Foree by your side. The 6 foot 5 inch tower of power has participated in his fair share of cinematic apocalypses. He’s also faced his fair share of evil nasties – and been a few – over his career which currently spans almost six decades. From high profile classics to indie low budgets, Ken Foree has done it all, and has done it with such a killer grace and a sensibility that we love to see in a horror legend.
Foree’s string of horror began in 1978 in one of the most prolific zombie flicks, Dawn of the Dead, from the creator of the apocalyptic flesh eating ghouls, George Romero. Foree’s Peter begins the film as a SWAT member simply doing his job by taking out zombies and racist assholes before teaming up with the film’s core group. Thrust into the mall scene with his fellow apocalypse buddies, Peter exhibits true friendship and survival skills taking him all the way to the film’s end credits. Let us not forget his delivery of the film’s most iconic line, “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.”
While Peter was a member of a protective service, 1989’s Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge truly began Foree’s portrayals of individuals who swore to protect and investigate. Granted, he’s just a security officer for the mall in which Eric (Derek Rydall) seeks his revenge. Let’s take a moment to go through the other films in which Foree’s characters who have sworn to protect appear and investigate. In Sleepstalker (1995), he’s a detective on the trail of a murderous Sandman. 1996’s The Dentist sees him on the trail of the titular dentist, and successfully avoids any of the grotesque procedures provided.
Zone of the Dead (2009) saw his return to apocalyptic scenarios brought upon by the undead as Agent Mortimer Reyes. Cut/Print’s (2012) Detective Jack Stanley aides a group of filmmakers who get in to deep with then make an agreement with a known serial killer to showcase his past crimes. And finally, in Blood Brothers (2015), Foree’s Detective Homer Gaul pursues a pair of brothers who are bringing their devious fantasies to life.
I left one film out of that timeline of sworn to protect and investigate Foree characters. It’s because it’s my favorite all around performance of his, and that is 1986’s From Beyond. Foree’s Bubba is the biggest teddy bear, yet kicks so much ass. Where else can you see Foree fighting cosmic creatures in nothing but red briefs? Not anywhere else! It’s in From Beyond! The physical world and the cosmic world couldn’t handle such a heart as Bubba, and his *SPOILER* demise was a heartbreaker.
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Foree’s Marvin in Death Spa (1989) deserves employee of the month at Spa Body Health Spa for constantly being on the job as well as assisting in distracting an evil computer system possessed by an evil spirit bent on killing every hardbodied patron. He also deserves a fashion award for the gym jacket that he sports throughout the film. I want that jacket.
Foree’s good deeds in horror continue as Benny in Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990). Thrown into a Leatherfacesque situation purely by happenstance, he sticks with the film’s leads until the end. Watch for the obvious Leatherface shenanigans, but stay for the fight between Benny and Tex (Viggo Mortensen). It’s one for the books.
When not on the pursuit of the murderous Sandman or dentist, the rest of the Foree’s 90s was spent guest starring in multiple nonhorror TV series including Renegade (1994), M.A.N.T.I.S. (1994), and Babylon 5 (1995). He did guest on the fifth episode of the third season of The X-Files titled The List. But, really, catch him in his recurring stint as Roger Rockmore, father of Kenan and Kel, on Nickelodeon’s Kenan and Kel for his golden comedic timing.
Foree made a cameo in the Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake to deliver his infamous line from the original, but this time as a preacher spouting reasons why the dead were returning. The sins of the world! Which is a perfect segway to his next starring role because sins equate the devil. In The Devil’s Rejects (2005), Charlie Altamont proves to be a great ally to the Firefly family by sheltering them, attempting to save them, and posthumously giving them their getaway car in which they infamously were shot down.
As Rob Zombie does, he likes to keep a group of actors that he uses for all of his films, and Foree’s work in The Devil’s Rejects solidified his place in Zombie’s clan. His next appearance was in Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007), as Big Joe Grizzly, a potty mouthed trucker whose demise takes place in the potty. This was followed by providing the voice for Luke St. Luke in Zombie’s animated exploitation opus, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009). Another lovable yet badass performance of Foree’s can be found in Zombie’s The Lords of Salem (2012) as Herman aka Munster, a DJ for the radio show and friend of Sheri Moon Zombie’s Heidi.
Among his contributions to Rob Zombie, Foree’s foray throughout the aughts is sprinkled with horror offerings. The fun Devil’s Den (2006) has Foree team up with an icky character portrayed by Devon Sawa(Final Destination, Idle Hands) and Kelly Hu (Friday the 13th VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, X2: X-Men United) against a strip club full of demons. 2007’s Brutal Massacre: A Comedy has Foree amongst a slew of horror royalty in the mockumentary starring David Naughton (An American Werewolf in London). In the need for a little known Christmas romp? Check out Splatter Disco (2007), which according to the trailer is full of wackiness and somehow connects to Christmas. I wasn’t able to find this to watch so if you come across it, let us know how it was!
Other Foree frights from the aughts include Brotherhood of Blood (2007), in which Foree portrays a vamp whose screentime is mostly spent tied on top of a table, an inclusion in a segment of the anthology film, The Boneyard Collection: The Devil’s Due at Midnight (2007), and in another vampire tale titled Live Evil (2009),
Out of the aughts and into the 2010s, Foree dabbled in the cosmic horror a little more with The Rift: Dark Side of the Moon in 2016, and was placed in the middle of a stressed couple’s silly little game in The Midnight Man (2017) – not to be confused with the other The Midnight Man (2016) which stars Robert Englund.
“[…in] From Beyond […] Foree’s Bubba is the biggest teddy bear, yet kicks so much ass. Where else can you see Foree fighting cosmic creatures in nothing but red briefs?”
Foree has made appearance in many documentaries over the course of his career, but none is as important and in depth about his portrayal of the characters mentioned prior than his interview in Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (2019). There are many moments when Foree talks about black people throughout history, throughout horror, and how they intertwine. I could sit and listen to him talk for hours. If you have Shudder, there’s an additional 30 minute interview with him and Keith David (The Thing) that can be found under Horror Noire: Uncut Podcast.
So where does Ken Foree scare now? Nothing scary coming out soon. I’ve mentioned in past Where Sc[Are} They Nows what I’d like to see from the performers that I talk about, and – per usual – it’s a bit of a stretch. I’d like to see Peter return in a legit sequel to Dawn of the Dead. He’s still alive and kicking, and he’s teaching the new generation how to survive. If only George Romero were alive to write it because the world is chock full of commentary to take a bit out of, but since we don’t have that, you can catch him in sis most recent film appearance released earlier this year in the drama, John Henry (2020), as the father of a ex-gang member (Terry Crews).
Always charismatic, always down to kick ass, and always a character that outshines his costars, Ken Foree is horror legend. Slap a star on the Hollwood Walk of Fame so hard, for him, Hollywood Chamber of Commerce! What’s your favorite Foree performance? Let us know on our Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.