Jeffrey DeMunn is best known for his more recent work on ‘The Walking Dead’ quite frankly one of the best things to happen to television since ‘The Twilight Zone’. I am a zombifan now more than ever thanks to the show. Sadly his character has passed on to more spiritual fields and will no longer be our moral compass and backbone. Yet many may not know that DeMunn has been Scream King royalty for some time. So I thought I would explore some of his extensive career by looking back at the nightmares he endured on his long journey to the zombie apocalypse.
In 1980 DeMunn played the character Joe in the movie “Resurrection” which starred Ellen Burstyn. Burstyn’s character experiences the afterlife for a brief time after a car accident that kills her husband. As she begins her long process of physical healing, she discovers that she has the ability to heal physical infirmities. While most people simply accept her gift, her lover (Sam Shepard) becomes mentally unbalanced and dangerous because she does not place the healings within a religious context. Jeffrey DeMunn’s character was a smaller part but it did begin his trip into the supernatural genre. The next project however firmly placed him into the world of darkness as Sergeant Fernandez Correlli in the 1980 movie “The First Deadly Sin” a film about a serial killer stalking the citizens of New York.
Also in 1980 he played in more known and cult classic horror flick that goes by the title now of “Christmas Evil” yet sometime ago it was called “You Better Watch Out”. A horror movie about a psychotic santa suit wearing killer. It is one of my favorite films and I watch it always at the holiday season as part of my Christmas festivities. DeMunn played Peter Stadling. This alone would make him Scream King royalty in my book. He took a small hiatus from the world of terror before coming back to the genre in bio-terror flick “Warning Sign in 1985. A film in which he plays Dr. Dan Fairchild. The movie is about a serious accident that occurs, spreading a sinister bacteria in a top secret government laboratory known as Biotek. The security guard of the complex, closes and seals the building, with all the personnel inside, making very difficult the struggle for survival, not to mention the actions that the relatives of the enclosed people are thinking to do.
After “Warning Sign” Jeffrey moved back into TV where he played on an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ in 1985. The episode was called “Kentucky Rye”. DeMunn’s character was named Bob Spindler. Then in 1986 he once again found himself on the big screen in the sadistic psycho flick “The Hitcher” which is one of the best performances by Rutger Hauer ever. The film is about a boy who is hired to take a car from Chicago to San Diego and makes the mistake of picking up a deranged killer who makes his life a living hell. Jeffrey DeMunn plays Captain Esteridge the one officer in the film that manages to go unharmed by the violent experience.
He went on to play Sheriff Herb Geller in the 1988 remake of “The Blob”. A film that I feel is one of the better attempts at a remake. I still watch it at least three times a year. The film is about a strange lifeform that consumes everything in its path as it grows and grows. Sadly DeMunn’s character does not survive the movie. The blob gets him and we find out as it goes for his girlfriend as she is trying to call him from a payphone booth.
After “The Blob” he stared in the TV 1991 movie “The Haunted” were he played the patriarch of the Smurl family who move into a duplex only to find out it is haunted. This is actually a pretty good ghost story. I have seen it a few dozen times over the years. In 1995 he played the TV movie killer in “Citizen X” based on an infamous Russian serial killer who ended the life of 50 people.
After “Citizen X” DeMunn was in the paranormal flick that starred John Travolta “Phenomenon” before starring in an episode of the TV series “The Outer Limits” a series that you can still find on Chiller. The episode was called “Fear Itself”. He played Dr. Adam Pike in a story about a man who is able to project fear into others after being treated for his own phobia. Then again DeMunn was in another cult classic series known as “The X-Files” where he played Ben Bronschweig, M.D.
In 2007 Jeffrey DeMunn once again became a character of horror in the Stephen King film “The Mist”. A movie that found a group of stranded citizens fighting unspeakable creatures from a parallel dimension while trapped in a grocery store. Of course he is best known for his more recent role as Dale Horvath in the AMC series ‘The Walking Dead’ from 2010-2012 . Which has guaranteed that Jeffrey DeMunn is and always will be a Scream King and a true icon of the best damn genre movies the world of entertainment can offer. Oh and R.I.P: Dale Horvath.