For anybody who’s watched Starz’s Ash vs Evil Dead, you know that half of the fun of the show is seeing deadites and demons get dismembered with a chainsaw and other nasty implements in the bloodiest way possible.
Evidently, the trailer for the second season was too bloody to be shown at Comic-Con last week, so they had to release it elsewhere. And in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, star and producer Bruce Campbell promises season 2 will contain “perhaps the worst onscreen death in the history of all visual arts. ‘Worst’ meaning ‘most outrageous.’” Now, that is a pretty bold statement Mr. Campbell made there. And truly, many of the goriest, grossest deaths have come from the Evil Dead franchise, but there have been some doozies out there in the horror sphere; hell, that’s what half the fun of grotty body horror, and most of what was made in the ’70s and ’80s, is the new and interestingly vile ways to destroy a body.
So, because it’s fun and because we can be hyperbolic too, we’be compiled our six favorite examples of over-the-top and outrageous onscreen, gory deaths in horror movies. In no particular order, and featuring some tasty NSFW violence.
Choke On ‘Em! – Day of the Dead (1985)
Captain Rhodes—as played by the unabashedly scenery-chewing Joe Pilato—is the snarling, shouting, perpetually angry villain in George A. Romero’s darkest zombie film, Day of the Dead. That movie contains some extremely nasty and well-designed Tom Savini deaths (which include a guy getting his face torn off and another getting his head slowly ripped from his body whilst his vocal cords stretch, raising the pitch of his scream), but the grossest might well be the final, gut-wrenching (pun intended) moments of Rhodes, where zombies overwhelm him and tear his abdomen open, leading to one of the best/stupidest final lines in horror history.
Car Wash – RoboCop (1987)
Oh boy, the 1980s, that was the decade when the desire to see gross and dark things was on a par with the makeup effects technology to make them ultra-believable. While ostensibly a sci-fi action movie, much of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 masterpiece RoboCop feels like a Cronenbergian body horror flick. The movie starts with our hero getting his kneecaps shot out and his hand blasted off before finally getting put down, only to be revived as part man, part machine, all cop. But the real kicker for over-the-top gore comes when one of the baddies—a particularly loathsome gang member played by Paul McCrane—gets a toxic waste bath. He emerges with much of his body melting away and able to do little bit stagger around muttering for help. He stumbles out into an oncoming car chase in which his boss plows right into him, and his acid-eaten body goes sloshing across the car.
Where Did This Room Come From? – Suspiria (1977)
This one’s in my mind mostly because I just watched it (and you can read my Schlock & Awe about it here!), but there are some nasty, sort of unnecessarily hostile deaths in Argento’s work, and Suspiria is a prime example. The death of our lead character’s friend is at about the halfway mark in the movie and the tension is built up beautifully as she walks through a weird attic or something. Honestly, as much as this movie makes no sense, the part that makes the least sense might be this scene. Why would witches need a person with a knife? Why can’t she find the exit? Why is there a room that is just a pit of razor wire? I don’t get it! The scene was later aped for one of the Saw movies.
Death Bed: The Bed That Eats People – A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Okay, so most of these deaths involve a body getting mangled, in disgusting and unsettling ways, but you can’t discount a whole scene in which a person is sucked into a bed as they sleep and get liquefied and exploded out of said bed into a geyser of viscera. You know, that one. Johnny Depp in his first major role played Glen, the dopey, can’t-stay-awake-at-all-despite-a-TV-in-his-lap boyfriend of Heather Langenkamp and he gets all kinds of destroyed. The thing that never really makes sense to me is why his parents immediately assume the pool of flowing red is their son. I mean, it IS him, but they seem very quick to accept that a dream monster turned him into an ocean of claret.
The Meat’s a Little Off Today – Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)
I feel like most people these days have at least seen parts of this weird Chinese film based on a Japanese manga, but it’s one of the goriest movies of all time. It’s also just a weird and awesomely shit movie involving a superhero guy who gets sent to prison and has to kill his way out. It’s an absurdly violent movie with some of the cheesiest looking effects you’ve ever seen, but for sheer horrendous deaths, it’s one of the tops. Not only does a guy get his head crushed, another guy get his jaw punched off, and a number of nobodies get decapitated at once, but it ends with the evil villain turning into a marshmallow monster and get thrown into a giant meat grinder. Seriously, what a weird-dumb-fun movie.
Oh, You Know, Everything – Dead Alive (1992)
I’m not even going to attempt to choose a winner from Peter Jackson’s hilariously gory homage to both the Evil Dead films and the Romero zombie flicks. It’s zany, it’s wacky, there’s tons of utterly disgusting ooze and pus, and it ends in complete bedlam as a big old house gets turned into a battleground. There are many, many instances of people getting their rib cages torn out, their legs devoured, and the back of their heads punched through. And, as if to say a chainsaw simply wouldn’t do, the hero dispatches the bulk of the zombies with a lawnmower tied to his torso. It’s…it’s just the best, folks.
And there you have six randomly chosen, wholly not definitive examples of really nasty movie deaths. I missed, I’m going to say, roughly a billion good ones so share them in the comments below!
Image: Renaissance Pictures