With all due respect to Freddy’s fingers, Jason’s machete and Michael’s knife, some of my favorite cinematic kills have come from more unconventional or improvised weapons. There is no shortage of unique and unusual ways to kill someone and you don’t have to be the Jigsaw killer to turn an unexpected or everyday item into the most deadly of utensils.
So I got down to thinking of a list of our most memorable kills by unconventional objects. There were no criteria for the selections. Just good memories and interesting devices of death. In no meaningful particular order, the list starts here:
Pencil – The Dark Knight (2008)
Heath Ledger brought an iconic psychopath to the screen with his portrayal of The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. And although we get introduced to The Joker in the opening bank heist scene, it is the pencil trick that really sets the tone for his character. The set-up is quick and simple. The Joker walks into a room filled with gangsters and places a pencil standing upright on the table. “How about a magic trick? I am going to make the pencil disappear”, he calmly recites before slamming the back of a thugs head into the protruding writing implement. Result: one less thug.
Pane of Glass – The Omen (1976)
When you see the truck backing up towards Keith Jennings, you automatically think that it is going to be run-of-the-mill splattering where the truck, human and wall all meet with squishy results. But director Richard Donner had other ideas and to the horror of audiences everywhere in 1976, a long pane of glass flies from the back of the truck and decapitates the character sending his head spiraling in the air. Over thirty years later, the scene still remains one of the best decapitation scenes of all-time and for the first time in many a movie, a pane of glass was not a prop for a speeding car to race through.
Cable – Ghost Ship (2002)
The opening scene of Ghost Ship also ranks as one of our favorite horror intros of all-time. The scene takes place on the open floor deck of a luxury liner. The band plays melodies while sharp dressed guests dance under the starry sky. But when a cable snaps from the ship’s rigging, the party comes to an abrupt end. The snapped wire slices its way through the crowd so fast that they don’t know what has happened until their bodies begin to separate and they fall in two separate parts to the ship’s dance floor. Like a warm knife through butter, body parts hit the floorboards in what becomes a blood bath massacre of epic proportions.
Boat Motor – Piranha 3D (2010)
There were a handful of great deaths in Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D. But our favorite is when the feeding frenzy fishies descends upon the spring break partiers and all hell breaks loose. The water turns red with blood and there are some great scenes of the piranha eating their way through bodacious bodies. But our favorite comes when a swimmer gets her long locks caught in a boat motor which revs up and pulls her face off. I haven’t been able to start a boat motor since without thinking of that grotesque fate (ok, I haven’t started a boat motor in my life, but in theory…), and the scene stands out in a movie that has more deaths than a Jim Jones’ Kool-Aid party.
Scissors – The Dead Zone (1983)
Considered by most to be one of the best adaptations of a Stephen King writing, The Dead Zone starring Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen had plenty to stand up and cheer about. For a movie based on the prose of the King of Horror, The Dead Zone is not chalk full of grotesque or bloody moments. However, it is a scene where someone takes their own life that had us wincing and thinking about it long after the screening. It takes place after Johnny Smith (Walken) has a vision of a murder and fingers a local named Frank Dodd. Smith and the Sherriff race to Dodd’s home where Dodd has locked himself in the bathroom. We watch as Dodd puts his hands behind his head and opens his mouth readying to thrust himself on a pair of scissors that he has strategically placed open-faced at the side of the tub. The action is more implied than realized as by the time Smith and the Sherriff break through the door, Dodd is already dead and twitching like a fish in a boat. Still, the scene unanimously made our list.
Piano Wire – Audition (1999)
Very few obscure horror lists can be complete without a nod to a Takashi Miike film. And it was Audition that really put him on the North American radar. The film is about a widower that interviews women in a bogus screening attempt to help him find a new mate. He definitely finds more than he bargains for when he hooks up with Asami (Eihi Shiina) and in the final scenes of the film, Asami shows her psychopathic self with a torture appetizer of acupuncture needles to just about every part of his body. And, just when you think he could be tortured no further, she pulls out some piano wire attached to two handles, puts the wire under his leg and pulls back and forth eventually severing his foot. Ouch.
Shish kabob – Happy Birthday to Me (1981)
Nothing can be more romantic than two lovers feeding each other food over a warm fire. Ahhhhh. What could possibly go wrong? Well, unless you are Steve Maxwell and you’re being fed Shish kabob from Virginia Wainwright. The scene is set-up by ominous music playing in the background so you just know something bad is going to happen. But before you figure out how Steve might meet his maker, the kabob is thrust into his mouth and through his throat. The film’s poster which uses this scene for its promotion implies that the action may be more graphic than what actually happens, but you can be sure that I have never let anyone feed me shish kabob since 1981 (it was also the last year I started a boat motor).
Church Steeple – Hot Fuzz (2007)
It’s unlikely that a comedy would hit our list, but the Church steeple scene that took poor Timothy’s life in the comedy Hot Fuzz still ranks despite its genre. Simon Pegg plays a top London cop who is transferred to a small English village where suspicious events have claimed the lives of various townsfolk. During an outdoor town gathering, Pegg’s character senses something is wrong and rushes to the Timothy character that is standing below a church steeple being pushed off its base by a mysterious killer. However, his attempts at rescue are futile and the steeple squashes Timothy like a bug much to the delight of those of us in the audience.
Food – Se7en (1995)
David Fincher’s serial killer masterpiece had plenty of good kills as our unnamed executioner used the seven deadly sins as his modus operandi. But using food as was described during the Gluttony murder investigation, was ingenious. Simply put, a rather fat man was forced to eat until he died. A few moderations to the initial plan and eventually, we have a victim who is found face down in a plate of dinner. We all know food can kill you (and I am not talking about Killer Tomatoes either) as diabetes and other related illnesses are directly linked to our increase obesity. But being force fed until you die is a fate I don’t wish on anyone.
Propeller – Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
For our final entry, we reviewed a lot of worthy candidates. The icicle in Die Hard 2: Die Harder. The orb in the Phantasm movies. Even the elevator that took out Emilio Estevez in the first Mission Impossible movie was optioned. But – and likely due to our fondness for the film – our final choice went to the propeller scene in the original Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) was already having an adventurous day when he was confronted by a behemoth of a German soldier in the Spielberg classic. But when he finds himself in a desert airstrip, the action soon gets bloody. A massive solider takes off his shirt in an effort to go mano-a-mano with the undersized Jones. The two fight with the solider easily handling the ineffective punches from our hero. Then, just when Indy seems done, we watch him hide his face from the rotating blades of a propeller plane that has been circling uncontrollably on the tarmac. The gruesomeness of the event is not seen in its entirety with only a splash of blood soaking the cockpit window to imply the demise. Still, it ranks steadily on a list of great murderous objects and we offer no apologizes for the inclusion.