hor·ror | ˈhȯr-ər
An intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust.
Children screamed in horror.
synonyms: terror, fear, fright, alarm, panic.
Horror fans are inundated with numerous plot twists, jump scares and countless images of gore and violence.
|Nightmare on Elm Street, anyone?|
So, why is it so few things truly shock us at the movies anymore?
In theory, I guess it’s because we’ve developed a tolerance to all things perverse and truly “horrifying.” Or we reserve those things for the news. We’ve become desensitized. It almost seems like horror films are just themed movies as this point. Holiday horror, summer camp horror, next door horror… So rarely do I feel genuine fear when watching anything lately.
In fact, the only movie I recoiled from this past year was Kurt Russell’s death scene in The Hateful Eight. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be funny, but those SOUNDS he makes are beyond grody.
I thought it would be real cool to compile some of the best death scenes in cinema.
Not necessarily the grossest or most realistic, but the ones that elicit the strongest reactions out of viewers. Or in this particular case, this viewer. My goal is for at least one of these scenes to gross you out, make you laugh real hard, or withdraw in terror…. you know, the things that make you feel alive. So, my gift to you, my friend, is the gift of on screen death scenes. Try saying that five times fast.
Actually, don’t, just read the article. We don’t have all day.
Opera is, I’ll say it without batting an eye, my favorite Argento movie.
Yes, I know, Suspiria, Tenebrae, Deep Red… I could go on.
But, I won’t.
It has everything this particular fan could want in a movie. It’s steeped in eighties nostalgia, the music is killer (pun intended, shut up), and the death scenes are utterly fantastic. Argento is one of the Kings of Giallo. I’d say he’s in my top three favorite directors, but there’s about twenty five of my top three favorite directors. I’m too impassioned. But, the kills in Opera are both gruesome and laughable.
I mean laughable in the way that you would have to laugh uncomfortably at least once during them unless else you’re some kind of Patrick Bateman certified psycho. I chose this specific scene (the video is in Spanish, although for our purposes it’ll do just fine) because Giulia is a pretty rad character. She takes no bullshit, does her job, and sasses better than Queen Bey (I hated writing that).
Her juicy death, however, is quite eye widening, literally.
Day of the Dead (1985)
I can’t possibly be the only one who grumbles, “CHOKE ON ‘UMMMM” while eating barbeque, right?
There’s not much left to say about Romero’s masterpiece Day of The Dead. It’s tried, true, and gory, too. The first time I saw this flick was in early high school, not long after my brother showed me Dawn of the Dead for the first time.
However, this time, I ventured to watch it on my own without him. Uhh, yes, Dawn is a terrifying, gorgeous film, but Day of the Dead is massively visceral in its brutality. This scene in particular had me gripping my own hands while waiting for Rhodes to meet his appropriate demise.
Extracurricular knowledge: Did you know that between takes, Joe Pilato who plays Rhodes, was gagging from the smell of the actual rotting animal intestines they used in the scene? You can see on his face… that ain’t acting!
Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)
The cast and crew of Riki-Oh actually did really well for such an over the top violence machine.
The film itself isn’t silly with plot, but the concept is unique. Privatized prisons are utilized to house criminals, but also to churn out drugs and mass labor. You know, like the current prisons in the United States.
There are a load of absurd deaths in this puppy, but this scene takes the cake for me. The warden, an appropriately evil character with an impish, overweight son for his sidekick, finds himself in a fight to the death with the protagonist, Ricky.
Directed by Scott Spiegel, this gem went undetected on my radar for roughly… mmm, ever.
I picked up a Blu-ray of Intruder without having seen it at Cinema Wasteland in Ohio a few years back.
It “stars” Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi, and Ted Raimi.
Except for that it doesn’t star them.
Which is totally fine, it’s just hilarious that Paramount pushed it like they did. Now, this on screen death is super. Makes your teeth hurt, your eyes squint, and you can’t help but watch in suspended shock as this band saw goes to town on an unsuspecting grocery store worker. Ouch.
Death Proof (2007)
Uuugh, I just realized this movie is almost a decade old. Exasperated emoji face.
I saw Grindhouse in theaters four times. Which is saying something for me particularly.
Even though I’m a diehard horror and action fan, I actually hate going to theaters, especially when they’re packed. I don’t mean to, but I mentally remove myself from the film and just start thinking about a hundred plus people eating as loudly as they can, running to and from the bathroom, while facing a wall with moving pictures on it. It’s too much humanity at once sometimes.
I massively digress. Appy-polly-logies.
Kurt Russell is a phenomenal villain and I wish we would see him cast in that role more often. The cast, the writing, the crew, the cinematography, the stunts, the director… everything lines up like the stars and planets. The music and the effects in this scene are jarring and perfect.
Just watch for yourself and tell my your leg doesn’t feel creepy afterwards.
Or also known as its original title, Zombi 2, was initially intended to serve as a sequel to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. Which it did when it was first released in Europe.
Domestically though, it’s just good old Zombie. Lucio Fulci, who made classics like The Beyond and Don’t Torture a Duckling, is probably best known for this masterpiece.
The splinter meets eyeball scene is perhaps my favorite of any on screen deaths, period.
When your movie opens with one of the most memorable scenes in Giallo history… you’re bound to make some witchy waves.
I know I said Opera is my favorite Argento, but this one’s a real close second.
Suspiria was the first Giallo film I ever saw. I remember being wowed by the colors, the themes, and of course, the music of Goblin. It also stars Jessica Harper of Phantom of the Paradise. She’s the perfect 1970s Nancy Drew. Although she’s not in this scene, it’s the crux of the film which causes a flood of events to meld into a shocking climax.
Let the Right One In (2008)
I’ve preached the wonders of this film many times before, so I’ll keep it short. Yes, Let the Right One In is probably best known for the pool massacre at the end (Spoiler alert, you really should have seen this by now), but the unsung hero is the scene featured here.
It reminds me so much of the similar hospital scene in The Omen, it almost borders on feeling like an homage. The practical effects are stunning as is the…. well, graphic thud.
If this one doesn’t make your face scrunch up, you’re probably a heartless ogre.
But, you do you, bro.
The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
Oof, this one’s ten years old, too. My life is escaping me at an alarming rate.
I almost feel bad talking about this one, let alone posting it in an open forum on das internet.
If you’re a human who’s ever known someone who had a baby or maybe you’re one of the elite members of the genus who are capable of making babies and have done so… this is one of the more physically uncomfortable clips to watch. I remember being utterly taken aback when I saw this in theaters.
I still stand firmly in my feeling that The Hills Have Eyes remake is one of the better, if not the best of the mass exodus of recent remakes. The Crazies is up there too, but it’s nowhere near as frightening as The Hills Have Eyes.
Watch it and tell me otherwise. Or just keep your precious thoughts in your noggin and your arms inside the vehicle at all times. Your call.
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Couple things. Sorry I talked about Kurt Russell like three times in this article, but I don’t care and you should be happy I did.
You can’t have a best on screen death list without Big Trouble in Little China.
I’ve shown this movie to a lot of BTILC virgins and I love watching their faces during this scene. It’s usually a lot of “What?!” and “Oh, boy. Okay. That’s not…. good.”
But, it is good! Carpenter took a hell of a gamble going with this hokey climax. Action and humor are such a lovely mix and I feel Big Trouble’s the perfect combo of both. Also, who’s ever mad about exploding ninjas?
Aside from, you know, ninjas.
Well, that’s all for this session of Best Death Scenes, folks! I hope it’s inspired you to embrace the gnarly, the goofy, the graphic, and the macabre.
Until next time, keep it real.