Five years ago I was a film and television student in my first year at University. I decided to start a blog as a side project separate from my studies. It began as a way to express my views on recent films both independent and mainstream that I’d seen from all genres. Naturally, the first review I ever wrote was of Scream 4 (2011) then eventually I made the site completely horror specific and Hayley’s Horror Reviews is what it is today. Several great opportunities have come my way since beginning the blog, including the chance to get to know and review the work of a number of talented filmmakers. I am now very lucky to be writing for the Horror Movie review site LoveHorror.co.uk and working alongside Caitlyn Downs (from Scared Sheepless) on our collaborative project Ghostface Girls where we provide festival video coverage and record podcasts. Our next event will be the UK’s Horror Con in July 2016!
In previous years my anniversary reviews have covered My Top 10 Horror Films of all time (since 2011 it has more than likely altered!), Urban Legends on screen and behind the scenes, why we watch Horror Films and last year my favorite underrated slashers. This year I’m taking on a countdown of a subject I’m surprised I haven’t covered by now. It’s all about the visual effects as I reveal my personal favorite horror movie death scenes. Death scenes are at the core of horror movies, even if a film might be particularly badly executed sometimes the saving grace can be some good old splatter. On the opposite end of the spectrum sometimes it’s what you don’t see and what’s implied that can really get under the skin. There’s also nothing more heart-breaking for a horror fan than when one of your favorite characters is hacked to pieces leading to emotional trauma!
Here are my top Horror Movie death scenes of all time! Remember folks, as always its subjective.
There will be spoilers, so get that TV on if you haven’t seen any or some of these films and come back to this article.
**WARNING** This Article will include blood, guts, gore and strong language. Not for the faint-hearted!
Comment below if you agree or disagree with my choices or tweet me on @Hayleyr1989.
10. Final Destination (2000): Terry Chaney is splattered by a bus!
To kick things off is a death scene so quick and unexpected it’s pure brilliance! This moment marked the beginning of the darkly twisted sense of humour in the Final Destination franchise. Up until this point Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) and his friends have survived a harrowing plane crash and are grieving over the apparent “suicide” of best friend Tod (Chad Donella) whose brother died on Flight 180. Both scenes deliver a suspenseful build up with gruesome results. This moment however takes place in the middle of the day, Alex and love interest Clear Rivers (Ali Larter) are trying to figure out death’s design. Enter rival Carter (Kerr Smith) and girlfriend Terry (Amanda Detmer). Carter is convinced that Alex is to blame for the deaths of the plane victims as well as Tod but he soon gets more than he bargained for! While antagonizing Alex, his long-suffering girlfriend finally snaps. In an ironic speech, Terry speaks about never wasting another second of her life and states Carter should have better things to do than fight with Alex. She then utters the immortal lines of “you can just drop fucking dead!”. Backing into the road Terry is hit by an incoming bus and the remaining survivors recoil in horror as her blood splatters on their faces. It’s the twisted irony of this scene that makes it surprising and thrilling letting the audience know that anyone can go at any time by any means.
9. Zombie Flesh Eaters (AKA. Zombi 2) (1979): Eye Splinter Scene
Even without context the eye splinter scene from Lucio Fulci’s notorious ‘video nasty’ Zombie Flesh Eaters is an iconic cinematic moment in horror. The scene is so sqiurmworthy as you (literally!) see it coming a mile off but it doesn’t let up on the suspense. Paola, the wife of Richard Johnson’s character Dr. David Menard is alone in the house when a zombie breaks in. Actress Olga Karlatos displays a genuine look of horror as her vulnerable character attempts to bombard the Zombie from entering the house. Unluckily for her she is dragged through the door and impaled right through the eye with a piece of splintered wood. Her eye is pierced right through in a masterful visual effect, we see the eye squelched and the object penetrate right through her skull! The moment sets the tone for the carnage to come making it one of Italian Horror’s nastiest kills.
8. I Spit on Your Grave (1978): Blood Bath
The second video nasty on this list. I Spit on Your Grave is unapologetically exploitative cinema centering on the brutal, unrelenting rape of a young woman. Aspiring writer Jennifer (Camille Keating) retreats to the backwoods as she works on her novel, but she is horrifically brutalized and gang-raped by a group of local men. However, it wouldn’t be a rape-revenge film without a nasty dose of payback! After some time has passed Jennifer is back tougher and stronger than ever as she sets about to seek vengeance on her attackers. In one of the film’s most gruesome scenes Jennifer lures ring leader Johnny (Eron Tabor) into her car, inviting him around for some wet, and bubbly fun…or so he thinks! Jennifer hides a knife under the bath mat and as she begins to seduce Johnny when he least expects it she takes a knife to his most sensitive area!! It takes him a few moments to comprehend what’s happening while Jennifer leaves him there to bleed to death. She proceeds to lock him in the bath room and makes her way downstairs while Johnny yells that he can’t stop the bleeding. She drowns his screams out with a nice bit of classical music. The scene is particularly disturbing as Jennifer allows herself to be in a sexual situation with her rapist. Johnny completely goes along with it showing what a horrendous character he really is. It’s so well executed and unsettling, making ‘blood bath’ from I Spit on Your Grave one of cinemas best revenge death scenes of all time.
7. Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987): Welcome to Prime Time Bitch!
There are many inventive death scenes in the most highly regarded Elm Street Sequel Dream Warriors but this one had to be selected as it captures Freddy Krueger’s (Robert Englund) darkly menacing, twisted sense of humor. While the Puppet Master moment and Needle fingers sequence are exceptionally creative and unique death scenes it’s difficult to overlook fame-seeking Jennifer’s (Penelope Sudrow) TV demise. This moment is fourth wall breaking and surreal as Freddy possesses the television, manifesting himself onto a late night talk show. The television turns static encouraging Jennifer to approach it. In a crazy visual effect mechanical arms emerge from the sides of the television, clutching Jennifer. Freddy materializes from the top of the television set sprouting antennas. He then smashes her skull through the television set uttering the iconic line “Welcome to prime time, bitch!”. The Elm Street franchise is known for its elaborate and creative death scenes that are more entertaining than a man in a mask just slashing with a knife. This scene is a solid example of how the franchise utilizes its special effects accompanied with quirky dialogue enhancing that when it comes down to Freddy Krueger anything is literally possible!
6. The Burning (1981): We’ve found our canoe!
The Burning appeared on my list last year as one of my favorite underrated slasher films. It centers on a scorned caretaker who seeks revenge on the inhabitants of a summer camp where he suffered a horrific accident several years previous. It’s under the radar due to the success of Friday the 13th (1980) but then became infamous in the UK once it appeared on the Video Nasties list, and this death scene is the reason why! Tom Savini’s sensational gory FX during this scene cemented The Burning as being one of the first to receive it’s ‘video nasty’ reputation. A few of the camper’s head down the lake on a makeshift raft in order to fetch their canoe back. The typical teenagers argue while rowing but become excitable as they get nearer to the abandoned canoe. The scene is set up well using a sense of dread as they become closer and closer. No matter how many times you watch it and are aware what lies ahead it’s still shocking as the killer Cropsy (Lou David) appears from the canoe with his shears and the bloody massacre commences! This moment of the film features the image that appeared on the iconic cover art of Cropsy’s silhouette holding up the shears. It’s pretty harrowing as unlike the majority of slasher films the teenagers cast in the film genuinely look their age rather than having 25-year-old’s playing a 16-year-old’s. The fact that it takes place in broad daylight in an idyllic location makes this deadly moment even more horrific.
5. Hellraiser (1987): Jesus Wept
This scene is one of my earliest, goriest cinematic memories and has made the list for being downright gruesome. At a young age this was one of the coolest death scenes in horror that I’d ever seen. It’s time for Uncle Frank (Sean Chapman) to get his just desserts at the hands of the Cenobites. Wearing the meat suit of his brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) he attempts to kill niece Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) in the attic but thankfully (as thankful as it gets in a horror movie situation!) Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his demons appear ready to drag Frank’s damaged soul directly back to hell. Pinhead promised he had “such sights to show” us and this unrelentingly proved what the Cenobites were capable of. There’s an otherworldly presence to the scene with the bell chime ringing and the mist surrounding the attic. Hellraiser was famed for its dynamic make up effects, with Pinhead’s appearance making him an intriguing horror villain; but it’s Frank’s demise that is as grizzly and gory as it gets. As he raises a blade to Kirsty he is stopped in his tracks with a hook through the hand, chaining him to the Cenobites world forever. Hooks pierce his skin, tearing his face. As Kirsty recoils in sheer disgust Frank says “Jesus Wept” before being ripped apart, with blood and guts galore!
4. Inbred (2011): Dwight’s Dirrrrty Death!
Over the past five years Inbred has become one of my favorite horror films. One of the several reasons is due to its creatively nasty death scenes. It stands out in what it does, with strong character development allowing the audience to empathize with its protagonists, as well as a twisted sense of tongue in cheek humor that equally puts us on the side of the villains. It’s somewhat of a black comedy but goes right for the jugular with a set of cruel and mean spirited methods of bumping off its victims. The warped villagers of Mortlake attend a show put on by local landlord Jim (Seamus O’Neill). Having already killed off one of the young lads involving vegetables and a horse, this time the Inbred’s capture Dwight (Chris Waller), the remaining protector of the group. Sacrificing himself for the safety of his care worker and fellow youth offenders, Dwight is subjected to a rather dirrrrrrty demise! Tied to a chair and forced to wear a wig, he is cruelly tormented by a man resembling a droog from A Clockwork Orange (1971) who proceeds to empty a hosepipe of shit down Dwight’s throat until he explodes all over the unusual members of the audience! It needs to be seen to be believed but commended for its use of old school FX over CGI giving us an old school backwoods bloodbath!
3. Der Fan (AKA. Trance) (1982): Killer Obsession
Der Fan is a film I’ve mentioned a bunch of times on the site. An undiscovered gem that screened at Celluloid Screams in 2013, Der Fan enters unexpected territory with an unforgettable and bizarrely crafted death scene. A German Exploitation film, it pushed the boundaries with its female lead being played by a 16-year-old. Household name Desiree Nobuch of Radio Luxenburg fame played psycho fan Simone and did full frontal nudity in the film as well as acted out a scene of murder and cannibalism which certainly would not be done in cinema today! Simone sleeps with R (Bodo Steiger), a Gary Numan inspired pop star who she’s absolutely obsessed with. When reality bites and Simone becomes another used fan girl to R what happens next is completely out of the left field. In my original review I described it as one of the most “chilling and extreme” deaths in cinema. It’s lengthy, horrific, controversial and unsettling leaving the viewer feeling grubby once the credits roll, making it feel like a completely different film from the one that started. This is one I won’t spoil for you however if you’ve already had the experience of watching this underrated exploitation check out my original review.
2.Scream 2 (1997): Randy Meeks Death Scene
Master team Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson taught us no one was safe in their iconic slasher-revival Scream. When Drew Barrymoore is killed off in the opening moments of a film it’s guaranteed that anything can happen! Scream 2 is the strongest sequel in the franchise as it raised the stakes. There are so many excellent set pieces in the entire film from the cinema slashing’s at the beginning to Sarah Michelle Gellar’s brutal demise being stabbed in the back and thrown out of a window; however, the death that really cuts close to the bone is that of Jamie Kennedy’s popular character Randy Meeks. Self-confessed “movie buff” Randy survived Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) and Stu Macher’s (Matthew Lillard) reign of terror in the first installment closely following the horror movie survival rules. But even he knows that he could be disposable as a new Ghostface stalks the campus of Windsor College. Randy’s death scene is well executed and unexpected. The most shocking aspect is that unlike the previous deaths this one takes place in broad daylight. He is pulled into Gale’s (Courtney Cox) news van and stabbed repeatedly. It’s horrific as it goes unnoticed by crowds of people on the campus. The camera focuses on the van’s wing mirror as Randy is brutally killed, a group of students unknowingly walk by with a boom box drowning out his screams of pain! His bloodied face is then revealed. It’s tragic and heart-breaking as he never does get the girl and is a missing presence from the dynamics of the core characters. It’s certain that it’s Mrs Loomis (Laurie Metcalf) who murders Randy as she viciously attacks him for speaking “poorly” of her delightful son Billy in an act of revenge. The most ironic element of Randy’s death is because he knows the rules of a horror movie inside and out the killer cleverly catches him at the most unexpected moment and doesn’t wait until dark. Craven and Williamson kept the franchise fresh with surprises like this!
- I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997): Death of the Beauty Queen
What sets I Know What You Did Last Summer apart from its slasher counterparts is the well written and well-acted main characters. Sarah Michelle Gellar gives a tragic performance as Helen Shivers, the former Beauty Queen who loses her future after being involved in a hit and run and an ill thought out cover-up. After she witnesses the murder of her boyfriend Barry (Ryan Phillippe) at the hands of the psychotic fisherman; the police do next to nothing to help her. Helen’s death scene is harrowing as she almost makes it to safety. There’s a slow-paced build-up of tension from escaping a crashed police car to running for her life and hiding out in her sister’s store; Helen fights for survival. Her death isn’t shown explicitly but is incredibly effective and atmospheric set to a chilling score composed by John Debney. Helen falls from the stores window but then finds an alleyway leading to the 4th July Summer parade. Fireworks blast into the air and there’s a sense of relief; albeit momentarily, Helen then approaches the parade but becomes distracted and looks behind her. She is then face to face with the evil fisherman and slashed with his sharp hook amongst a stack of tires. There’s quick cuts, flashing lights and the sound of screams but one thing is certain, the true heroine of the film has met her demise. Helen’s body is later discovered by traumatized best friend Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) on the fisherman’s boat officially confirming there is no return for her within future films in the series. It’s Gellar’s helpless performance as the doomed young woman that hits hard with emotional impact. As sad as the scene is it’s essential to the progression of the film as many fans agree if Julie had been the one to meet her maker it wouldn’t have achieved the same upsetting impact. Helen’s death goes to show that you don’t need to go gory to execute an effective and gut-wrenching death scene.
As always thank you for reading and supporting Hayley’s Horror Reviews.
Hayley Alice Roberts.