In honor of the remake of “Friday the 13th,” this past weekend’s box-office darling, this week’s edition Top 10 Tuesday brings you a list from Charles Gooch, who writes for ink.kc.com. If you have a list you’d like to contribute to Scene-Stealers, email firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, enjoy Gooch’s Top 10 Instruments of Death in Slasher Films! Here’s Gooch:
Where do they get those horrible toys? Machetes. Knives. Chainsaws. More knives than you can shake a fist at. Guns that shoot killer cotton candy.
The one thing you can always count on in a slasher film–besides of course the predictable outcomes, the inventive use of gratuitous nudity, the unstoppable killers and the frenetic, often deplorable, camera work–is the killer won’t resort to a conventional weapon to do his worst. He’ll use a hammer. Or a bat. Or soome of the more famous instruments on this list. And there will be blood. Lots and lots of blood. For those scoring at home, you won’t be seeing Ash’s chainsaw hand from “Evil Dead II” in this list. You also won’t see the lawnmower from “Dead Alive.” Or the stone phallus from “Cannibal Holocaust.” Those aren’t slasher flicks. Those are zombie flicks. And I could make an entire list out of inventive instruments of death used to eliminate zombies in modern cinema. I could literally spend hours on that list. But, for the sake of this list, we shall focus on slasher films, which are defined in this list as a horror film involving a psychopathic killer (usually wearing a mask) who stalks and graphically murders a large number of adolescents, preferably in the span of one night.
Close, but not quite–some runners-up: The glass unicorn in “Black Christmas.” It just misses, mostly because it wasn’t a repetitive-use weapon. Also just missing, the rotary saw in “High Tension,” mainly because I thought the movie was god-awful.
10. A pogo stick in “Leprechaun” (1993)
Should I be worried that this was the first thing I thought about when I decided to write a Top 10 list about murder weapons? I say no. How is it not awesome to watch the Leprechaun go sick on someone with a pogo stick? Why don’t we make more movies about slightly stereotypical fantasy creatures? I might pay money to watch a movie about an overweight redneck unicorn that gores teenagers at Lake of the Ozarks with its horn. Lots of money.
9. The hook-for-a-hand in “Candyman” (1992)
This Clive Barker adaptation is probably a little underrated as far as horror movies go. The acting was iffy (featuring Oscar nominee Virginia Madsen!) and the plot wasn’t that remarkable, but did you want to look into a mirror after watching this movie? Did you look at dudes with hooks for hands the same way after this? It used to be that was the ground reserved for the likes of Peter Pan. Post-”Candyman,” it’s now pretty much a horror-flick staple.
8. Santa’s axe in “Silent Night, Deadly Night” (1984)
A killer, dressed as Old St. Nick, uses lots of weapons (including an inventive use of Christmas lights), but mostly he has an axe to hack at his prey in one of the most controversial movies of the 1980s. Apparently, we didn’t have a lot going on in the 80s. Or we decided that killers dressed as Santa Claus were more damaging to our children’s welfare than cocaine, neon leggings, jellies, and the cast of “Knots Landing.” Revered film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert went so far as to read the credits for this movie aloud, saying “shame, shame” after each one. Of course there was a sequel. Of course.
7. The miner’s pick axe in “My Bloody Valentine” (1981)
I haven’t seen the recent 3D remake because I still can’t wrap my brain around why they remade such an awful movie. My wife said it was good. But then again, she thinks “Class of Nuke ‘Em High” is an adequate Christmas gift. But I remember one thing about the original. The pick axe was the only redeeming factor in this movie. It was the last worker’s tool yet to be scooped up in a horror movie. Or at least it is until they finally get around to filming a movie about a guy that beheads people with a garden trowel.
6. An American flag in “The Hills Have Eyes” (2006)
Another remake. Another needless, ridiculous, idiotic, and irredeemable remake. (This one directed by Alexandre Aja, who helmed the previously mentioned “High Tension”) But God bless the U. S. of A. and our iconic flag for providing the single redeeming scene from an otherwise so-so movie. (The original, directed by Wes Craven and starring Michael Barryman, was a fantastic 70s horror movie that had held up all right and didn’t need to be remade. This is just another example of a major studio lacking a shred of originality.)
5. The cotton candy gun in “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” (1988)
No list of slasher weapons is complete without the single most outrageous and non-ironically hysterical weapon possible: A ray gun that puts its victims into a cocoon of cotton candy. Tes, you read that correctly. You don’t really need to know the premise of this movie (I’ll tell you anyway: Alien clowns try to take over Earth. Duh, it’s in the title!) or understand the fact that the movie is downright horrible to be able to enjoy the novelty of a gun that shoots death-inducing cotton candy cocoons. Cotton candy cocoons are always awesome.
4. The kitchen knife in “Halloween” (1978)
In John Carpenter’s era-defining slasher movie, the weapon is just your average, run-of-the-mill kitchen knife. Nothing out of the ordinary. But in the hands of a crazed mental patient in a William Shatner mask it becomes oh so much more. It becomes the edge of the tension that builds in our chests as we wait for the last girl standing to bring Michael Myers to his end. It becomes the shiny object reflecting the moon that draws our attention to where the killer is hiding. It becomes an instrument that can kill lots and lots and lots of cute teenage girls. And make us slightly afraid of dicing onions for some reason.
3. Anything in the hands of Jason Voorhees “Friday the 13th” (1980)
This movie deserves a lot of credit (or scorn depending on how you feel about slasher flicks) for popularizing two gimmicks: the he-wasn’t-hiding-behind-the-curtain-HE’S-BEHIND-YOU shot that everyone uses these days and the use-whatever-weapon-you-can-find approach to murder. The unstoppable killing machine that is Jason Voorhees more than lived up to that ethos, but his most common instrument of death-bringing was a machete. It was so convenient and remarkable as a weapon that the students who brought frozen Jason onto their spaceship in “Jason X” (oh, how I wish I had enough words to describe the plot of that movie in more detail) where thoughtful enough to bring his machete with him. MACHETES IN SPACE! The only thing that keeps this from being higher on the list is that he’s more recognized by the hockey mask he wears than the weapon he uses.
2. The chainsaw in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974)
To think, we once used a chainsaw for something as innocuous as cutting down trees. Thank God men don’t do that kind of work anymore and chainsaws reside only in the realm of our nightmares wielded by guys with butcher smocks who wear a mask made out of another human’s skin. Of course, thanks to this movie that man also does pirouettes in the streets with this device, its engine growling manically, the sound gaining on you as it gets close enough so you can almost feel the teeth grinding individually. Many things have changed in our culture (the taste of Coca-Cola Classic, the price of marijuana, the value of your home), but this is one thing I think we can all agree is progress. Thank God we have evolved into a nation of pansies.
1. Freddy Krueger’s razor claws in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984)
One knife is all right. But if you want to give children of the 1980s nightmares for the rest of their lives, there’s only one set of knives that will get the job done. Freddy’s four fingers of death. This is the definitive made-up slasher weapon. Like if Wolverine snapped, somehow had half his face melted off, wore an even creepier sweater and invaded your dreams when you slept. Probably one of the most frightening scenes I can remember from my childhood was when Freddy came claws-first out of the bathtub. I was mortified for days. Afraid of the tub. Afraid to go to sleep. Slight tangent: I actually think the iconic red-striped sweater freaks me out a little bit more. I’m never going to see a set of razor claws coming at me. But I might catch eyes with that guy from marketing whose mom gave him a new sweater for Christmas last year (and it just so happens to have red horizontal stripes) in the bathroom and absolutely freak out one day. Shudders.