Death is a huge part of the horror genre, perhaps because for a lot of us, death is what we fear the most. We get along with our lives, barely noticing that death is an ever present background feature, and even when we do consider our own demises, we always hope for something quick and peaceful. Unfortunately, that can’t always be the case but no matter the scenario we might find ourselves in when we’re knocking on death’s door, it could always be worse – that is, we could be in a horror film.
In a way, the treatment of death is the genius of the horror genre as a whole, teaching us the frequency and the chaotic nature of something unchangeable. The other part of that genius is coming up with new and creative ways in which we see life cease to be.
Some are gruesome, some are tragic, and others are just plain silly – but there’s always something to be gained from seeing them. So I’ve compiled a list of the worst ways a horror film has killed someone off.
100. Being shot by a man making a quip about you taking your bins out – Silent Night, Deadly Night: Part 2 (1987)
Everyone’s favourite horror meme makes this list because it’s by far one of the strangest events to ever take place on film. Being shot isn’t exactly a new way to die, or a gory one, but being shot by man shouting ‘garbage day!’ as you push your bins down the drive is quite something, especially when it’s delivered by the whitest guy to ever make it as a horror villain.
99. Axe to the head – American Psycho (1990)
Picture this: work’s going great, everyone admires your talent, and you can get Friday night reservations at New York’s hottest restaurant. You’re out on the town with your pal, you’re getting nicely drunk and you’re having a great time. One moment he’s inviting you for a whiskey and a listen of some great pop tunes, the next he’s running at you with an axe that he then drives into the side of your face. What a way to kill those good vibes eh.
98. Have your brain melted by an enchanted Halloween mask – Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
The one Halloween film without Michael Myers is an odd one, and sadly quite underrated. It was a film that never really stood a chance because of it’s association with John Carpenter’s original masterpiece, even though it has some great moments. One of those moments is when a kid is wearing a Halloween mask that promptly dissolves his entire head. It’s quick and we don’t see much, but the various creatures exiting the mask afterwards, combined with the twitching hands of the dead child makes this quite disturbing.
97. Thrown down a long flight of stone steps – The Exorcist (1973)
The tragedy of The Exorcist is that it ends with the hero of the story sacrificing himself to save the day. This sacrifice is one that anyone would find hard to make though as it involves throwing yourself down a steep and painful flight of stairs, but when a demon takes over your body to hurt a little girl, the moment might just take you.
96. Being a mutant’s BBQ – The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
Mutants that are born from radiation and inbreeding are always going to be a go-to as the kind of people that would want to hurt us regular folk. So when they want to put on a family BBQ, it’s probably better to stay far away – this is definitely one of those ‘how to eat people and get away with it’ kind of scenarios.
95. Being turned into a cockroach and then crushed to death – A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master (1988)
Everyone has had some crazy dreams and some very haunting nightmares. But one in which your arms and legs start to break, the skin and muscle tearing away to reveal thin, black limbs, and then for your face and hair to melt, revealing your new insectoid head takes the cake a bit right? Not only that, but to then realise that you’re trapped in a small cardboard box that a very burnt man is holding, who then proceeds to laugh and crush the box, and your life flat? Damn son.
94. Being stabbed in the heart and hung from the ceiling – Suspiria (1977)
To this day, Suspiria is regarded as one of the most unsettling films ever made, and while the years might not allow new comers to appreciate it fully, there’s a very good reason for that – well three good reasons actually: loud noises, beautiful cinematography, and a lot of gore. The opening death is perhaps the best example of how effective this chemistry is as it kills off a dancer who knows too much with a loud, colourful culling as she is violently stabbed in the heart several times, and then hung from a glass ceiling.
93. Raped to death by a giant worm – Galaxy of Terror (1981)
Galaxy of Terror is a fascinating film for several reasons: it’s notable horror-star cast, the fact James Cameron was a set-designer on it, and because it has a scene in which a woman is raped to death by a giant worm. It’s a hard scene to watch, not only because of the sounds coming from both the worm and its victim, but also because the worm is actually a manifestation of this woman’s worst fears which makes the whole thing just feel even more cruel.
92. Getting pulled slowly toward a big splinter of wood eye first – Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)
Zombie Flesh Eaters, otherwise known as Zombi 2, is in my mind the best zombie film due to its unrelenting gore and great concepts. The film’s director, Lucio Fulci, was incredibly schooled in making grotesque and uneasy scenes – a lot of these scenes by the way, involved eyeballs so you can imagine how he achieved this unease so well. Here we have a woman slowly being pulled toward a bit of splintered wood in a slow burner of a scene that builds up the prolongs the coming impalement for as long as possible – of course, Fulci being Fulci, it doesn’t stop there or even speed up. Her eye-ball being punctured and pierced happens slowly, and knowing that this woman is about to be eaten is the cherry on top of it all.
91. Having your old chap cut off in the bath – I Spit on your Grave (1978)
I Spit on your Grave is a strange film because the extreme violence we get in the second half is all committed by the hero of the film, and no matter how gory and gruesome it gets, nothing is harder to watch than the extended rape scene that happens in the first half. But, admittedly that’s why it’s so satisfying when Jennifer takes her revenge on the rednecks that wronged her. And while, as a man, the thought of being emasculated is incredibly unnerving, I can’t help but root for this violent victim.