Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Random thoughts on... the most implausible movie deaths

Watch at your own risk!

Deaths on the big screen range from the quietly subtle to the outrageously over the top. In many ways, films allow both the filmmakers and the audience to explore a range of emotions they rarely come across in real life. For example, I've probably seen hundreds of death scenes play out in films but never seen someone die in real life.

There's a certain disconnect between how people die on film and how people die in real life. I guess most directors, writers and performers can only guess what it looks like and the myriad of ways it can occur. Now there are some exceptions. The TV show CSI for instance usually adheres pretty closely to realism. Having said all that, sometimes film makers show such a basic lack of understanding of physics and biology it's baffling. Here's a few I've rounded up.

Top 5 implausible death scenes on screen

- McBain (1991) McBain shoots plane down from cockpit.

The sheer balls of everyone involved in this short scene is tremendous. Presumably, the screenwriter wrote this. On paper. He wrote the words “A jet fighter pulls alongside McBain's aeroplane. McBain pulls out a pistol and shoots the jet down. It explodes. McBain holsters his pistol.” The actors rehearsed the scene at least once before climbing onboard the plane or a mock-up of a cockpit (more likely) to film the scene. The director presumably was behind the camera the whole time, directing the scene, giving the actors their motivation “Okay Chris, you see the jet pull alongside. He talking over the radio saying you've got to turn the plane around. You pretend you can't hear him.” Later the editor must have cut the footage together. Splicing the bits of second unit shots with the close-ups. Getting the best takes. Making sure the dialogue flows. And AT NO POINT did any of these people say “What the f*ck? This makes absolutely no sense on any level.” Just watch the video, at no point do we see the bullet penetrate the cockpit window of either the plane McBain (Christopher Walken) is in or the jet fighter he's shooting at. The only thing I can hypothesize is that Walken rewrote this scene and then intimidated everyone else involved to go along with it.

- Highlander 2 (1991) McLeod uses electrical wire to decapitate jet pack assassin.

(Skip to 3:50 mark)

I'll put my hands up and admit, yes this is a science fiction film, and ordinarily they get a pass for having to be realistic but this film is littered with completely ridiculous logic gaps - not least the train scene where Michael Ironside cranks the speed up so fast people start flying through the air due to the g-force (presumably) while he remains completely unaffected. This particular scene, even when I first saw it aged 12, remains one of the stupidest bits of cinema ever. Connor MacLeod is being chased by a jet pack wearing assassin from distant planet called Zeist (unless your watching the director's cut where, even stupider he's retconned as being from the past!). In order to kill him MacLeod has to chop his head off (as with all the bad guys in the series), so in a rather roundabout way to get the job done, he grabs an electrical wire, wraps it around his sword and pulls it taut . Said assassin flies into the wire (very slowly), and in a blinding lack of the most rudimentary biological structure, the assassin's head is cleanly decapitated. What the hell? To top it all off, the assassin's body then slowly carries on floating (now upright?!) into an electrical fuse box, causing that to explode as well. There's over the top, and then there's Highlander 2.

- Commando (1985) Matrix throws pipe through Bennett.

Everyone knows this next one. We all watched it in the 80s. “Let off some steam, Bennett”. My friends and I used to say this too each other as kids. Commando was the first film to really be designed for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s terrible puns. Sure, he had some great lines in The Terminator and Conan the Barbarian but they weren't puns Commando is where they just started inserting the most random humorous lines to accompany his kills. I almost think the writers maybe started off with the lines, they wrote the fight scene around it. For those who are yet to experience the awesomeness of this here's the run through. Arnie has finally caught up with his treacherous former army colleague Bennett. They fight hand to hand in some kind of steam room. Arnie takes Bennett down then, to finish him off he grabs a pipe and throws it at Bennett at such a speed it penetrates his chain mail armour, and his torso, and the boiler behind him, making the steam from the boiler syphon out through the pipe. That's incredible. I'm not a physics expert or anything but the strength, to throws a pipe through a man's chest, through his spine, AND through a metal boiler must be enormous. Also, if the pipe's hollow surely when he went through Bennett it wouldn't have make just an open hole? How did that steam come out?

- Friday the 13th Part VIII Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) Jason punches Julius' head off.

Again, Friday the 13th is a pretty soft target. The series now has 12 films to its name and starting with Part 4 they began to just get ridiculous with the kills Jason would perform. No longer were people merely stabbed with a simple knife, they started getting heads crushed, taking a flare to the mouth or even murdered with a strimmer. In a lot of ways the Final Destination series are the spiritual successor to the Friday movies. Anyway, Part 8 is a particularly crazy episode in the now tired series. Jason is improbably brought to New York where no one bats an eyelid (okay, that's a nice joke.) As usually the victims split up to be taken down one by one. Julius, whose character has been set up as having an interest in boxing, is on a rooftop when Jason appears almost out of nowhere. Deciding he's got to man up Julius decides to unleash his boxing skills, giving Jason a left hook and a right hook. Jason just takes the punches before unleashing a massive punch... wait for it... that punches Julius' head clean off! Once again, like Highlander 2, the filmmakers seem to think that the human head can be removed like a piece of soft butter. What's that you say? Jason's an indestructible superhuman zombie. Fine, but surely if he's hitting the head with that much force, why does the body stay practically still?

- Sleepaway Camp (1983) The killer murders a cook by shaking the stool he's standing on, forcing him to fall off and douse himself in boiling water
(Includes all death scenes from the film, all are equally as stupid)

The Sleepaway Camp films (four and a half in total) are even more easy to pick on than Friday the 13ths. For those who haven't seen them before the Sleepaway Camp movies are like a poor man's Friday the 13th and the main reason they were modestly successful is that they went even further with outrageousness of the deaths. Not necessarily more gory (though a lot were) but in terms of the creativity of the kills. Notice have I've titled this 'the killer murders a cook'. Essentially the killer's identity gets revealed at the end of the first film and it's the one saving point for the whole film (albeit very, very weird). This is the opening murder of the film and really it sets a tone for the whole series. An innocent cook is boiling something in a huge saucepan. He uses a stool to get high enough to put stuff in it. Suddenly, as he stands on top of it someone behind him starts shaking the stool. Now does he:

A) Turn around, see who it is and make an attempt at stopping them
B) Just stand there like a lemon yelling and never once turning around

That's right. He chooses not to turn around, or kick with his feet, or yell for help, or (considering his size) just fall backwards and squash the attacker! I get that the director was trying to create tension by dragging the scene out but unfortunately it backfired and, like virtually all the death scenes, it just makes all the characters in the film seem like they're in alternate version of earth where everyone's IQ is 50 points below ours.

Right, so there you have it. Five of the stupidest movie death scenes. There's hundreds more so I might do a follow-up at some point.


  1. Brilliant post! The Jason Takes Manhattan death is definitely ridiculous, but funny also.

  2. Yeah, I'm gathering up some more for another post. I love the McBain one the most - what is it about Christopher Walken defying the laws of physics? Like the Fatboy Slim video for Weapon of Choice where he starts flying around.