By Cougar Garza
Halloween is right around the corner, which means that horror movies are back on the menu. Whether your taste in horror is slasher, zombie or haunted house-oriented, one extremely important aspect of any horror film is “the kill.”
Character demises have to be especially memorable and/or gory so as to establish the cruelty and outright danger of our antagonist. Sometimes these kills can be quite humorous, in the darkest way imaginable. Other times they’re just plain disturbing.
I’ve put together a list of 10 Memorable Horror Film Deaths from many different films, some seldom seen and some classics. Many of these kills are funny, some are gross-out, and others are a mix of both. Whatever the case, think of this list as a smorgasbord of blood and brains with which you can fill your belly this Halloween season.
10. Psycho II (1983): The Shovel
The first on the list, while not particularly gory, is featured in the final scene of the not-that-great Psycho II. It’s eerie and uncomfortable. It’s also quite comical if you have a darker sense of humor. Psycho II takes place many years after the Hitchcock classic and focuses on the rehabilitation of Norman Bates. In the end of this forgettable sequel, Norman finds out that his mother wasn’t his biological mother when his actual, still-living birth mother confronts him in his home. This reunion is short-lived as Norman shows the poor woman his own unique brand of hospitality.
9. The Stuff (1985): Chocolate Chip Charlie Explodes
The Stuff is an amusing little cult classic that serves up commentary on consumerism and the addictive nature of processed foods. It’s also chock full of off-the-wall practical effects, and answers the all-important question, “What ever happened to Garrett Morris?” In the 1985 film, an ice cream conglomerate partners with junk food mogul “Chocolate Chip Charlie” in hiring an industrial saboteur to investigate the origins of a mysterious white yogurt-like substance that has been flying off the shelves and threatening their business. This memorable scene shows you just what “The Stuff” is and what it really does. Still hungry?
8. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974): Leatherface’s Hammer Came Down Upon Kirk’s Head
This death is relatively tame compared to its reimagining in the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboot, but I think it’s much more effective. The gritty abruptness of Kirk’s death really sets the tone of the rest of the film, which is pure terror. The awful sound the hammer makes when it strikes Kirk—and then that terrible convulsing—make this death feel all-too-real. And the door slam at the end is perfect punctuation.
7. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981): Wheelchair Ride
The Friday the 13th franchise is famous for a whole catalog of memorably gory horror movie deaths. One of these is Mark’s death from 1981’s Friday the 13th Part 2. It’s pretty excessive, and kind of sad considering the character is easily the most sympathetic in the movie—maybe even the whole series. Poor guy didn’t deserve this death, but it is funny in such a terrible way.
6. The Burning (1981): Raft Massacre
What do we have here? A disfigured man comes back from the dead to hunt down the negligent youths who wronged him. This all-too-familiar ‘80s slasher plot line is at play once again in The Burning. This film, however, is one of the better slashers of the era and one that deserves to be mentioned. The most memorable kill sequence features the disfigured antagonist surprising a group of canoeing campers with a pair of gardening shears. Hold onto your fingers; this killer’s got surgical precision.
5. Zombie, aka Zombi 2 or Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979): Splinter to the Eye
Zombie, or Zombi 2, is a classic Italian horror film and one of the finest zombie flicks ever made, if you’re asking me. Directed by Lucio Fulci, this film is basically the Italian-made sequel to the totally unrelated George Romero film, Dawn of the Dead. Despite the confusing titles, this film has some of the best practical effects of its time. The most memorable death in this one is by a slow and painful splinter to the eye—a scene that is sometimes, if not always, unpleasant to watch.
4. The Cabin in the Woods (2012): The Monsters Unleashed
Drew Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods, while a horror film in its own right, is also a parody of horror films. The premise is ridiculous: A sinister company—headquartered in the very vague “Facility”—throws real-life people into real-life horror movie scenarios, monitoring their every move as they encounter real-life monsters, all to appease an audience of demigods. Near the end, the “final girl” breaks into the Facility, and, in an attempt to escape, releases all of the Facility’s monsters from the elevators which once held them. The result is… well, just watch!
3. Hellraiser (1987): Jesus Wept
The Hellraiser series is a mixed bag, but the first entry is no question the very best. The film centers around a puzzle box which, when solved, opens a portal to an alternate dimension of pain and torture occupied by sadomasochistic creatures known as Cenobites. This particular death scene involves recently resurrected Frank, who, after experiencing the horrors of the puzzle box earlier in the film, is destroyed once again by the Cenobites when he attempts to murder another character. See why Jesus wept.
2. Day of the Dead (1985): Choke on ‘Em!
Day of the Dead is, of course, the proper sequel to George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, albeit not as good as its predecessor or its unauthorized Italian counterpart. Day of the Dead does however have a very memorable death scene involving its most vile and despicable character, Captain Rhodes. Rhodes is awful to everyone in the movie, and is without a doubt a much more nefarious antagonist than any of the zombies that are slowly consuming the planet. Due in part to the iconic salute from “smart” zombie Bub and in part to its overall balls-to-the-wall gore, this death scene just had to make this list.
1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): Glen Falls Asleep
My number one features an iconic celebrity—none other than Johnny Depp—in an equally iconic death scene. If you haven’t seen A Nightmare on Elm Street, maybe consider tuning in just to see Depp, in his debut feature film role, become a giant geyser of blood. Enjoy!