Saturday 9 June 2012

My Top 10 Slasher Movie Death Scenes

I'm going to take a break from wrestling for tonight and revisit the buzz that got me blogging last year - films. More specifically, slasher films. For those not in the know, the slasher genre is the one where you have some killer stalking some hot young twenty-somethings playing teenagers with plenty of gore, titties and sometimes genuine frights. Honestly very few of these films actually scare me because they are very easy to predict. Watch Scream if you want a complete list of the rules (and then see them ironically not played straight). What we really watch slasher films for is to see how creatively our victims can be knocked off. I don't really look for buckets of blood because to me that's just a cheap way out. What a good death scene needs is suspense, shock and obviously a bit of creativity. A nice chase beforehand works just as well. As the title suggests there will be spoilers for each film so read at your own risk.

10) Sleepaway Camp - Billy:
Sleepaway Camp is a 1983 straight-to-video slasher that was released as part of the big craze in the early 80s after the success of Halloween and Friday the 13th but is remarkably original in a few places, though with some terrible writing and appalling acting in some places (one could almost consider it a parody of slasher because of how bad some parts are). The deaths however are very unique and original and for me it was a toss up between this one and another scene where a character gets killed with a hot curling iron that makes her very sorry she's a girl. But most of what's in that scene is only implied so I went with this which is also pretty rare in that it features a male death. Most guys getting offed in horror films get taken out quickly, usually with shock deaths while the more suspenseful ones are reserved for the females. Right here however you have a character with virtually no development getting punished for throwing a water balloon at our poor sweet Angela. The killer decides to punish him by waiting for him to use the outhouse, trapping him inside with a broom and then tossing a bee hive through the window. As someone who is terrified of bees and wasps this scene was one of the most shocking things I'd ever watched. I loved it!

9) Scream 4 - Olivia:
I love the Scream series and I actually loved Scream 4. It was the only slasher film I got to see in the cinema and it was also the only one I could feel genuine suspense from because I knew it wouldn't follow the typical horror clichés. I said before that suspense is key to a great death scene and Wes Craven really delivered with one of the best deaths in the series. Here we have our two young teenage girls Jill and Kirby sitting in their room watching a movie on TV while on the phone to their friend next door Olivia. They get a call from someone using the killer's voice who knows exactly what movie they're watching (on DVD too!). Although it appeared to me as one of the most clichéd scenes in horror movie history when I was in the cinema, I found the fear and suspense building up inside me and I was itching to see what would happen next. I think the words that gave everyone chills were "I didn't say I was in your closet".

8) Halloween 2 - Karen:
While the first Halloween was a masterpiece and pioneer for all future slasher films, it didn't really offer up much in the way of elaborate deaths. Filmmakers didn't start getting creative until Friday the 13th but by the time the second Halloween was being made, John Carpenter and Debra Hill were riding that wave. Continuing with the whole "have promiscuous sex and be horribly murdered" theme that worked for pretty much every victim in the first film, this time they made it even more heavy handed. The Karen in question happens to be a nurse in the hospital the film takes place in and, not only shows up to work fifteen minutes late, but she abandons her station to spend some quality time in the jacuzzi with a paramedic. Oh and did we mention she's a nurse on a maternity ward? That's right, this woman leaves a group of newborn babies alone so she can take a dip. You know she's going to get punished big time. If Jaws scared you out of swimming at the beach then chances are this film will scare you out of going into a public jacuzzi late at night.

7) Friday the 13th - Jack:
Yay, another male death has made it onto my list. And people said slasher films were misogynistic. Anyway what's funny about Friday the 13th is that the more creative deaths happen offscreen such as the one guy (I won't name him for fear of "spoiling" the film for you) who is found nailed to the door with arrows. But what's even more amazing is that back in 1980 audiences had never really seen a film like this before so there was genuine suspense. In the cinemas you had audience members shouting out "don't open the curtain!" or "don't go in there!" when Marcy is in the outhouse. What's probably my favourite death in the film goes to a young Kevin Bacon before his Flashdance fame. When I was watching it, it was only my third slasher film so I assumed that since Kevin Bacon was a star then he would be okay. I assumed the body from the top bunk would fall down on him and thus alert the teens to the killer. However what I didn't expect was for Kevin frickin Bacon to be the third character killed off. And apparently they used real sheep's blood which Tom Savini had to blow through the tube himself because the machine wasn't working. That's a really gross dedication to your art.

6) Prom Night - Wendy:
Here we have a film that's mainly known for being one of Jamie Lee Curtis's series of slashers (nicely pointed out by Scream) though if you watch one of these expecting to see Ms Curtis bumped off you'll be disappointed since she always played the Final Girl who survived to the end. This is a film that builds its suspense up over a long time and the first death doesn't actually occur until about 45 minutes in. However it goes the full hog after that and offers up what is quite possibly the longest slasher movie chase scene. Now of course length doesn't always help suspense as a lot of the time you will just want the killer to go ahead and do it already. But here it worked out quite well and to me it was effective because Wendy in question was the typical high school Alpha Bitch that you hated. So when a scene makes you fear for that character's safety then you know the filmmakers have done their job.

5) The Cabin In The Woods - Jules:
Now when I first started watching The Cabin In The Woods, I wasn't sure exactly what kind of film I was actually looking at. I had been told it was a Cosmic Horror Story but to my amazement the first few minutes turned out to be a slasher with a twist. I can't really say much more about it without spoiling damn near the entire film. But let's just say I watched this first online with a really bad quality video so that only actually added to the terror. I mean, I hadn't even been expecting a death and it happened to a character I liked too. But poor Jules was shoe-horned into the role of The Whore and horror movie logic dictates that once she is corrupted she dies first. I will warn you, this death is particularly brutal.

4) Final Destination 4 - Samantha:
Now of course the big debate amongst hardcore horror fans is over whether or not Final Destination can be considered a slasher film (okay so the "big debate" is one topic with three pages on the IMDb boards). It's a curious question since the killer is death himself/herself. Now the deaths in this series range from the creative and suspenseful to the downright campy and ridiculous. FD4 is no exception but for me it has one of the best death's in the series, which also happens to be the only good one in the film. It was a hard three-way decision between this, the infamous tanning bed scene in 3 and the gymnastics one in 5. But I decided by looking at it this way - I am not a gymnast anymore and won't be in a situation like that and I knew way before seeing FD3 that Tanning Beds were death traps. But I do go to the hairdressers every month or so. It's an unavoidable situation. The scene is so carefully set up with all the red herrings and possibilities, it's almost like it's in the wrong film since all the other deaths are so...well...half assed. Keep your eyes on this one folks.

3) House Of Wax - Paige:
The 2005 remake of House of Wax is a film that gets a lot of unnecessary hate which stems mainly from having Paris Hilton starring in it. Paris even got a Razzie award nomination for Worst Actress for her role. What was her role? Why, Paige of course. Personally I didn't know who Paris was when I saw this film so I was able to watch it unbiased and I found nothing wrong with her performance. Nothing standout either but who gives standout performances in a teen slasher film? Oh, by the way, this was my first slasher film ever so I went into it knowing nothing about the rules or the formulas so Paige's chase scene kept me in suspense and made me into a slasher film fan. The filmmakers showed good awareness of building up suspense and knew how to do a proper chase scene. Not as long as some of the better ones but still very effective. And of course Paris's haters will just love watching her die on screen.

2) I Know What You Did Last Summer - Helen:
Noticing a lot of blondes making this list? Yeah that's not a coincidence. The trope is called "Slashers Prefer Blondes" where the blonde characters in films like this rarely make it to the end. For some reason the blonde is always contrasted with a raven haired Final Girl, and heaven help the poor blonde if her best friend is Jamie Lee Curtis. Anyway back on track, IKWYDLS was one of the first slashers released in the wake of Scream's success that put a post modern spin on the genre and revived it. We have some really effective suspense built up over the first act and now we drive right into what is possibly the best chase scene in slasher movie history. Here is a character you can root for and that you want to survive so therein lies some of the suspense. Of course the rest is all just the filmmakers thinking of everything to possibly scare you.

1) Suspiria - Pat:
Now here's another "slasher" that's seriously up for debate. While it's closer to the Italian giallo films and also quite close to a Tim Burton-esque dark fairytale, this 1970s gem definitely had a lot of influence over many future slasher films. If you thought Jules's death was brutal then prepare yourself. Here is one of the more effective "buckets of blood" type deaths. Dario Argento helps to work it in a way that the killing seems brutal unlike many Torture Porn films like Saw and Hostel where the death scenes undermine themselves by giving an almost "wasn't that cool" caption by the end. Style over substance really. But here there is style and substance blending together in a spectacular way. What makes this even more impactful is that this is the type of high octane brutal murder that you'd expect to see in the film's climax after a huge battle with the killer. But you see, this death happens about ten minutes into the film and lets you know exactly what kind of ride you're in for.

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