Photo © 2007 Warner Home Video. All rights reserved.
Movies are becoming ever so creative at dispatching horny teenagers, tripping heroines, cocky antagonists, and non-believers. Many have stuck with me so I combed through all my bookmarked flicks to jot down the most memorable deaths. This should go without saying but, SPOILERS, and lots of gory violence. Reader beware and carry on at your own risk.
If we missed any, let us know on Twitter what you think should qualify as one of the best horror movie deaths.
If you ever think a list of horror movie deaths wouldn’t include this iconic scene you would be WRONG. Never has there been a more iconic and influential death in cinema history. Back then you didn’t kill the main character halfway through the movie—let alone naked in the shower. It was a shock that set the audience into an internal frenzy because Psycho didn’t play by the rules. Well done, Hitchcock.
28 Days Later
While 28 Days Later isn’t a perfect movie, it did pretty well with upping the horror. Brendan Gleeson plays Frank, a father protecting his daughter, in the midst of an apocalyptic world ravaged by a virus that turns people into rage infected zombies. Frank travels with his daughter and fellow survivors Jim (Cillian Murphy) and Selena (Naomie Harris) in search of a safe haven. Along the way he happens to look up to see a bird pecking away at a severed limb. As he attempts to shoo the bird away, he startles it and it shakes a drop of blood directly into his eye. Immediately he screams for everyone to get away from him as the rage virus consumes him within seconds. It’s heartbreaking to watch a man who fought so hard to protect his daughter from the dangers of the world succumb to it by accident.
“The First Death”
A Nightmare on Elm Street
I could have very easily gone with Johnny Depp’s iconic demise but the one death in A Nightmare on Elm Street that still sends shivers down my spine is Tina’s (Amanda Wyss). Aside from the act being gruesome, I couldn’t imagine watching as her boyfriend and being powerless to stop it. Tina is caught by Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) in her nightmare and is sliced to ribbons. In the real world we don’t see the attacker; we see her skin splitting open with blood free falling down her body like a racing river. She is then picked up and dragged across the ceiling while screaming in agony before finally dying, falling back onto the bed, and splattering blood all over her boyfriend.
Ghost Ship is not a great movie, I’ll admit. I was duped by the opening scene and thought, “This will be good!” No. It wasn’t. I won’t venture into the plot because yes, as the name suggests, it is about a haunted ship discovered by a salvage crew. However let’s talk about the opening. In 1962 we see a young girl named Katie Harwood (Emily Browning), on board the ocean liner SS Antonia Graza, watching the adults waltz to dreamy music. The ship’s captain (Bob Ruggiero) sees she is alone and offers to dance with her. We are made aware of steel wires nearby the dancers before a gloved hand pulls a lever and, in a blink-and-you-miss-it moment, the wires shoot from one side of the ship to the other. At first the camera focuses on the stunned faces of the guests before they all slowly fall apart. Some grab onto the other halves of their bodies as they lay twitching in their own entrails and blood. The camera then cuts to Katie who looks scared and untouched. She glances up at the captain, who still holds her closely, and watches him fall apart on top of her. Blech. Cue shivers and stifle vomit.
“What’s Your Favorite Scary Movie?”
Following in the footsteps of Hitchcock, Wes Craven decided to give audiences a shock by killing who we all thought was the main character: Drew Barrymore. Barrymore’s face is slapped all over the Scream posters so when her death occurs in the opening scene it’s a pure “WHAT THE F**K” moment. Being psychologically tortured on the phone before being hung on the tree outside her house and disemboweled is not the way we thought this 90s darling would go out.
I love Hellraiser. The movie premise is disturbing and full of uncomfortable moments. Frank (played by both Sean Chapman and Oliver Smith) is a terrifying person—we witness him talking about his ambitions while performing them in his own bloody glory. Which includes murdering his own brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) and wearing his skin. Gross. The movie opens with Frank buying a mysterious puzzle box in Morocco. When he solves it hooked chains fly out of thin air, cling to his body, and pull him apart in a—actually not as gory as it sounds—shot. He meets the same fate again after being confronted by his torturers, the Cenobites, for escaping their realm and murdering innocent people to regenerate himself. This time we see each hook dig painfully into his flesh and start to slowly pull at him. His skin almost distorts his features to make him look like a wax puppet. He utters, “Jesus wept” before being pulled apart, his entrails and gobs of flesh splattering everywhere. Beware those Rubix Cubes, people.
I hate the phrase “Achilles heel”. Whether it’s a bruise or a razor cut from shaving too quickly, it all makes me cringe into a tiny ball. Naturally I had to add this movie to the list. Louis (Dale Midkiff), a grieving father, buries his young son Gage (Miko Hughes) in the haunted pet cemetery next to his house with the hope that, like their cat, he will be resurrected. Louis gets his wish—the boy returns reanimated…but with a thirst for blood. The image forever seared into my mind is when Gage hides under the bed from the family neighbor Jud (Fred Gwynne). When Jud approaches the bed, the evil little sh*t lashes out with a scalpel and snap! goes the tendons in Jud’s Achilles heels. Jud falls to the floor and Gage stabs the poor man in the face before clamping down on his jugular to feed. What a lovely child you have there, Louis.
This was a tough one—it was between the death of Paul Allen (Jared Leto) and Christie (Cara Seymour) the idiot prostitute. However watching Jared Leto get an axe to the face, after drunkenly pointing out all the things Bateman (Christian Bale) was doing to prep his murder, is both hilarious and disturbing. All the while Bateman chatters on about the brilliance of Huey Lewis and the News. You don’t exactly see Leto take the axe to the face but Christian Bale wailing, “TRY GETTING A RESERVATION AT DORSIA NOW, YOU STUPID F**KING BASTARD!!!” while he swings his axe over and over with “Hip to be Square” playing in the background is a scene which will live in infamy. Note to self: Don’t announce you scored a table at New York City’s hottest restaurant to unstable people.
Cabin In the Woods
There were so many amazing deaths in the final act of this film. Unicorns stabbing people in the abdomen, Curt (Chris Hemsworth) crashing into an invisible force field, giant Krakens, toothy demon ballerinas, etc, etc. The closing act is all carnage with no limit to the amount of blood on the screen. However the best death in Cabin in the Woods (next to Hemsworth’s failed heroics) is that of facility technician Hadley (Bradley Whitford). Hadley states early on in the film how much he wants to see a death by merman and expresses his anger at how one of the characters summons the creature. His partner Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) grimaces and says he wouldn’t want that because the clean up would be a nightmare. Hadley finally gets his wish when, out of the fog, slowly crawls a bulbous and disgusting looking merman. Hadley, wounded on the floor, screams, “Oh, come ON!!!” before the creature devours him, blood spurting out the back of its blowhole. It’s pure Joss Whedon hilarity.
It Follows terrified me the first time I watched it. While the premise is laughable without context, it actually is a pretty scary film. The most horrifying part is the death of Greg (Daniel Zovatto). The creature of this film is transmitted through sex; once you’ve slept with a “targeted” person, you’re next on its kill list. This isn’t a stabby or disembowelment kind of creature, rather it…*gulps*…rapes you to death. When the first victim is found on her back with her raised leg broken in half, suspended by rigor mortis, we think she was strangled. That theory is proven wrong when the creature later on takes the form of Greg’s mother and tackles Greg to the ground, simultaneously snapping his neck bones while sexually abusing him. While all the movie’s deaths are pretty gruesome, I couldn’t imagine a more horrible way of being sexually, physically, and mentally abused by a creature taking the form of your parent. I’ll be making an appointment with a psychiatrist now, thank you very much.
“Don’t Take Down The Decorations”
Trick ‘R Treat
If you have not seen this little indie gem, add it to your must watch Halloween list. This movie is a fantastic compilation of horror, gore, and funny as sh*t one liners mostly from Brian Cox and Dylan Baker. Trick ’R Treat fuses horror and black comedy into one amazing collection of intertwining short stories. The first death sets the tone. We see a couple, Emma (Leslie Bibb) and Henry (Tahmoh Penikett), returning from a party while she whines about how much she hates Halloween. Emma starts to remove the decorations but Henry tells her it’s bad luck to do so before the holiday ends. She rolls her eyes and promises him some nookie if he goes away and leaves her to take everything down in peace. Once alone she is attacked by an unseen (and screeching) assailant. Henry finds her body propped up with fairy lights, her mouth stretched and stuffed with candy. For those who don’t know Halloween has rules, use this death as a guideline for what NOT to do.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Texas Chainsaw Massacre will forever live in infamy as a true horror classic. The 1974 original brought more terror than any of its successors and is impossible to replicate. The most notable deaths are of the first two characters—technically it is one death but putting these back to back makes it that much more gut-wrenching. The 1970s was before revolutionary special effects but here it still makes my stomach drop. A group of friends run out of gas and Kirk (William Vail) offers to walk over to a nearby farm house for help. As he inches inside to see if anyone is home, quick as a flash, Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) appears and bludgeons Kirk in the back of the head. As he jerks around uncontrollably, Leatherface slams the door shut, leaving the audience to cringe and wallow in their worst fears.
Kirk’s girlfriend Pam (Teri McMinn) soon enters the house looking for her boyfriend. Pam spots Leatherface and runs screaming, she almost makes it, before he grabs her and pulls her back inside. By now the audience is squirming in their seats as they know she is about to meet the same fate…only this time it’s worse. Pam is attempting to break free so he slams her down on a meat hook like a fresh cut of meat. You never see the hook enter the flesh but you don’t need to in order to be utterly horrified. Her body convulses as she swings and screams…and horror movie history is forever changed.
“Jumping the Gun”
Night of the Living Dead
Speaking of horror movie history being forever altered, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead revolutionized zombie films. It has been copied, remade, paid homage to, spawned sequels and more. There is only one survivor left of the film and it doesn’t end well for him. This film was released in 1968, when there was heightened racial tension in the United States. The white protagonists didn’t make it but Ben (Duane Jones), an African American, did. As he makes his final escape he is gunned down by an all white zombie hunting group. Instead of waiting to find out if he was infected the men, upon seeing a black man, assumed he was dangerous and took him down. “That’s Another One for the Fire,” one of them chuckles. Whether intentional are not, it spoke volumes about the state of the country while giving audiences a shock of killing off the hero in the final minutes of the film.
Where would sci-fi horror be without Ridley Scott’s infamous Alien? I am going with the most obvious choice here but it is simply one of the best shock scares to terrify the audience…and the crew. That’s right, Scott didn’t even tell his actors what was going to happen. All that was mentioned in the script was “the thing emerges.” The only actor who knew in advance was John Hurt who was playing the victim Kane. When he was originally attacked by the Facehugger, unbeknownst to us, it implanted the next stage of the alien within Kane’s chest cavity. We all believed the crew were safe…how wrong we were. As the alien completes incubation it bursts violently out of his chest spraying blood and organs everywhere. Veronica Cartwright’s cries were real and you feel bad for her, but the scene is forever infamous for both the shock value and Ridley’s directing methods.
“What a Headache”
Hereditary is in my top ten horror films of 2018. The death of little Charlie (Milly Shapiro) is where the movie shifts from slow burner to bat sh*t craziness. After being dragged to a party by her older brother Peter (Alex Wolff), at the insistence of their mother Annie (Toni Collette), she goes into anaphylactic shock by accidentally ingesting peanuts. As Peter speeds down a dark empty highway, trying to get her to a hospital, Charlie’s throat completely closes. She sticks her head out an open window for air only to bash her head into a telephone pole after Peter swerves to avoid hitting a dead animal. The sickening crunch from the impact echoes in your ears long after the car has stopped. You can’t help but breathe along heavily with Peter, thinking, ‘Oh my god. Did that really happen?’ Peter is scared to look behind him, as are we. Our fears are confirmed when Peter drives home, slowly walks inside and lays in bed, not even rousing his parents to let them know their daughter is dead. Annie’s screams are hard to hear as she finds her daughter’s body in the car the following morning. While the film itself is great take on the horror genre, the unexpected and tragic death of Charlie is a suckerpunch to all.