'Poltergeist' Actor James Karen Dies at 94

James Karen, who starred in films such as Poltergeist, The Return of the Living Dead, and The China Syndrome, has passed away at 94.

james karen poltergiest
(Photo: MGM)

Karen's wife Alba confirmed that he had passed away in his home on Tuesday, though the cause of death wasn't confirmed.

In his Hollywood career, Karen earned more than 200 credits, ranging movies and TV shows across various genres. While you might not have known the actor by name, he was an instantly recognizable character actor that contributed his often authoritative presence to a number of different projects.

In Poltergeist, a family moves into a newly-constructed townhouse community, which was developed by Karen's Mr. Teague, only for a series of bizarre occurrences to begin unfolding. When the family's patriarch confronts Teague, he discovers that the developer had relocated a cemetery to make room for the houses, though he opted to save money by moving only the headstones and leaving the corpses underneath the homes.

Karen might have had minimal on-screen time in the film, though his role and the confrontation his character has with Craig T. Nelson are some of the film's most memorable components.

Karen returned to the horror world for 1985's Return of the Living Dead as the manager of a warehouse that held the remains of a zombie that was "killed" during the events of Night of the Living Dead. Unfortunately, the remains are burned, creating a toxic cloud that ultimately turns to rain that resurrects nearby corpses.

While most of the film embraced the inherent goofiness of the premise, Karen's performance gave the film one of its more emotional sequences.

“It was the deal where he figures out he’s becoming a zombie and decides to incinerate himself in the crematorium,” Karen detailed to DVD Talk in 2006. “He kisses his wedding ring as he goes in. It was a very emotional scene, but it also got me out of being one of the rain-drenched zombies milling around outside the place at the end of the film. I didn’t really want to do all that muddy stuff.”

Karen also appeared in films such as Capricorn One, Mulholland Drive, The Pursuit of Happyness, 13 Days, and dozens more.

On the small screen, Karen appeared in Little House on the Prairie, Seinfeld, The Larry Sanders Show, and The Golden Girls, among many others.

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You can check out the actor's IMDb page to see his immense list of credits.

[H/T The Hollywood Reporter]