Halloween is upon us once again and if you are like me, there’s only one thing you will be doing on the spookiest night of the year. No, not dressing up as Goose from Top Gun or McLovin from Superbad and going trick-or-treating. You are not going to be attending a party – trying to win a costume contest or a bob-for-apples competition.
If you are a true movie fan (and lover of Halloween), you will be sitting in a dark room somewhere, possibly with your favorite treat and some friends, watching a marathon of horror films. And if you do this every year like me, then you know all the classic cliches and the common ways that our unsuspecting protagonists end up in body bags. That’s why I thought it would be fun this year to list some of the more unique death scenes that have appeared in horror films. Now keep in mind that many of these are disturbing, gory, gruesome and some are well…downright disgusting, but that comes with the territory, right? It’s also worth mentioning that scenes reveal SPOILERS for their respective films. Proceed through this list of 10 unique horror film deaths with caution…
M Night Shyamalan may have lost his way a bit in recent years with underwhelming releases such as The Last Airbender, Lady in the Water and The Happening, but there’s no denying he has maintained a unique style and voice in his films, specifically in the horror genre. He certainly developed an original, albeit preposterous, story for The Happening, a film that centers on a group of survivors attempting to escape an invisible environmental airborne plague that induces mass suicide.
However, the ridiculous premise did give us some original and unique moments like the lawnmower scene, in which an infected plague victim lays down on the ground in front of a running industrial size grass-cutter. Couldn’t he have picked a less messy, less painful way to go? Shyamalan didn’t cut away – while the mower cut the guy to pieces. Yuck.
The original Scream was credited for revitalizing not only Wes Craven’s career as a horror director, but also the slasher genre itself. The film’s success was largely due to its tongue-and-cheek approach, with the script poking fun at horror film cliches and character archetypes.
Rose McGowan’s character Tatum is the tough and sassy best friend of our main character Sidney, who appears to fend off the killer Ghostface by pelting him with beer bottles in the garage. After realizing that he is blocking the only entryway back into the house, she attempts to flee through the dog door at the bottom of the garage door, but gets stuck. Ghostface, who has appeared somewhat bumbling and clumsy up to this point, finally gets a little clever. Instead of chasing after her, he simply pushes the garage door button and lets the rest take care of itself. This is the only time (that I can recall at least) that a doggie door has been used as a lethal weapon and one of the few times that the audience kinda has to hand it to the killer. Well done Ghostface. Well done.
When a zombie apocalypse threatens to destroy all of humanity, as one of the few remaining survivors, you have to be resourceful. We quickly learned that many of the main characters in the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead were indeed resourceful, as they were able to customize buses with armor plating and barb wire from leftover materials to escape the mob of hungry undead cannibals. However, as we all know, even good plans don’t always end well and in horror films, not everyone makes it out alive.
It appeared that their traveling fortress was working quite well, as survivors took turns fending off zombies with gunfire, explosives and a small chainsaw that could fit through the gap in the armor plating. However, the combination of the bus being attacked, some bumpy terrain and an inexperienced member of the clan (Glen) wielding the chainsaw, causes him to accidentally kill Monica and himself with the weapon. We have seen plenty of chainsaw deaths in horror films, but never quite like this. Usually the death is intentional, but I guess accidents happen even in horror films. Oops.
We were first introduced to the ugly mug and the murderous tendencies of Freddy Krueger in the original Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984. In the film, we were also introduced to a young actor that would later become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars – Johnny Depp. Depp played Glen, the boyfriend of central heroine Nancy, who tragically falls asleep in front of his television while lying in bed.
Over the years we’ve seen Krueger dispatch his teenage victims in an innumerable amount of ways, but to this day, we’ve never seen one like this. In fact, we’re not quite sure what happens to poor Glen, other than that he is sucked into his bed and has his blood spewed across the ceiling in a geyser. Was he eaten? Was he liquefied? One thing we do know is Glen didn’t make it out of this one.
There have been countless cheesy old horror movies involving killer animals, insects and even tomatoes of all things, but one that seems to hold the cheese and stand the test of time is Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. This is most likely due to Hitchcock’s handling of the material. His assured direction and ability to build tension and suspense created many memorable and terrifying scenes in The Birds.
Although there aren’t many actual fatalities in the film (onscreen anyway) being pecked to death by birds is certainly a unique and unusual way to go, even for a horror film. One man in the film is killed when he lights a cigar while unknowingly standing in a puddle of gasoline (that was spilled by another man who was attacked by birds). Let’s just say his appearance in the film is cut short when he drops the match.
With the Final Destination series there are so many inventive deaths to choose from and not enough slots on this list, so unfortunately, we’ve narrowed it down to one. The death that stands out as particularly unique comes from Final Destination 3 and involves a day at the tanning salon gone way, way wrong.
The controls to the bed get wet, causing a malfunction and the temperature to rise. Then a board falls perfectly in place, locking poor Ashley inside while knocking her friend unconscious. What happens to Ashley is pretty expected at this point, but what’s surprising is that her friend is electrocuted and also killed off during the scene as she tries to rescue Ashley. Double burn.
Another series with a plethora of bizarre, unique and often disgusting death scenes is the Saw franchise. As the series dragged on, story lines became more convoluted, characters became more thinly drawn and Jigsaw and his devoted minions of mayhem started to repeat themselves. Most of the Saw trap victims were sliced up or shot, but one of the more unique and creative setups appears in the original Saw, where a man is poisoned, placed in a dark room where the antidote is hidden and given only a candle to light the way. Oh, but with Jigsaw there’s always a catch. The man is also covered in flammable jelly and one false move will set him ablaze.
This trap is unique because there are two ways that our victim could perish. He could simply not find the antidote and die from being poisoned, although this would certainly be anticlimactic, or be lit up like his candle. I haven’t done the exact math, but over the course of the series, I would say successful escape rates are pretty low, around 10% or so and unfortunately this was not one of those few. As the idiom goes, if you play with fire, you will get burned.
A sauna is normally the sign of a relaxing time, but this is not the case in the film 247° F, as a sauna plays the villain role. The premise involves four college kids vacationing at a cabin (sound familiar?) who get locked inside its custom European-style sauna. With the control panel on the outside, the tension mounts as the heat continues to rise.
What’s interesting about this one is that the sauna doesn’t directly inflict death upon its victim (spoiler alert, only one of the characters dies). Instead, the heat causes him to go into hysterics and he presses his body into the red-hot coals in a last-ditch effort to cool down the room. And you thought walking across hot coals was rough.
After Mason Verger captures his arch-nemesis Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the 2001 film Hannibal, he makes an interesting choice as how to dispose of him. Do I shoot him? Hang him? No, how about man-eating pigs? Of course, Verger’s plan backfires when Clarice Starling shows up to intervene, freeing Lecter, who turns the tables and the boars on Verger.
This is a pretty unique death considering not only the method used, but also the history of Verger’s revenge plot. All that time training those pigs and he eventually becomes the feed. Not surprisingly, this isn’t the only unique and gruesome death in the film. The finale deserves honorable mention, as Lecter feeds Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta) his own brain. It’s understandable if you lose your appetite after seeing this one.
After encountering alien life for the first time in the film Alien, John Hurt’s character Kane is attacked by an organism that attaches to his face (i.e. the facehugger). After attempting to remove the creature unsuccessfully, the crew of the Nostromo decide to let Kane rest. After he awakens, he feels and looks fine, but starts convulsing at breakfast and unfortunately it doesn’t have to do with anything he ate (well actually it kinda does). Kane ultimately suffers one of the most horrific and unique deaths in film history in what we now know as the chestburster scene – the alien is birthed from his body, popping through his chest.
After a bevy of sequels and spin-offs in the Alien franchise, this may not seem that unique, but upon the film’s original theatrical release the scene shocked, stunned, disgusted, mortified and horrified audiences worldwide. It is still one of the most talked about scenes in film history and although there have been chestbursting aliens to follow, none of them played like this one.
And that’s it! Of course, there are plenty of other bizarre, original, unique and often times gory deaths that are not included here, so we’d like to hear what scenes and films you think should have made the cut. Have a great Halloween and if you enjoy being scared, there’s no better way to spend it than by watching some of the films on this list!