David Harley Looks Back on 13 Memorable Death Scenes of the Decade

When thinking back on all the cinematic gore and grue of the past decade, it’s apparent that there’s one art form that hasn’t been lost: the almighty death scene. Whether we’re musing about the latest slasher flick or whatever Jigsaw has been up to recently, we can all appreciate a good kill, whether it’s over-the-top and elaborate or a simple, dramatic stab. Hell, in many cases, the film doesn’t have to be good to have a memorable death scene (as is evident by the list below); it just has to have a moment where everyone in the theatre/living room drops their jaw to the floor and says, “That. Was. Awesome.” So here they are, 13 memorable death scenes from horror films in the past decade.

Ghost Ship – Down To The Wire

In what is probably Dark Castle’s most forgotten film (well, besides for The Reaping), Gabriel Byrne stars as the captain of a salvage crew who finds a long-lost cruise ship floating in the middle of the ocean and decides to tow it back to port, malevolent spirits and all. While most people claim Ghost Ship was loosely based on Death Ship, it’s actually closer to a film of the same name made in 1952 and was originally intended to be a psychological thriller with very little splatter. It’s a shame that the opening credit sequence, which kills almost everyone on board in the blink of an eye, was just a tease and not a true sign of things to come. If only the rest of the film had been that good!

Silent Hill – Beauty Is Only Skin Deep

Sure, the screenplay/dialogue is pretty dire and the acting is questionable, but you can’t knock the atmosphere, aesthetics and soundtrack that accompany the gruesome happenings in the small, cult-filled town. If anything, I would say Silent Hill is on par with some of the lesser and more senseless Fulci and Argento flicks – and this is coming from someone who loves both directors. In what was one of the biggest WTF theatre moments I had this decade, Pyramid Head decides to make an example out of one of the town’s inhabitants by skinning her alive and throwing her epidermis up against the cathedral-style doors. Oddly enough, that is not the biggest blood sacrifice the town has ever seen.

Jason X – Cool As Ice

Jason X has a few things going for it but two really stand out to me. The first is that it’s actually a fun film, which can’t be said for any of the sequels after Jason Lives – at least, in my eyes. It’s so over-the-top that I couldn’t help but laugh with delight at every moronic moment (and there are plenty). The second one happens to be one of my favorite death scenes in the entire series, where after thawing out, Jason decides to freeze a helpless intern’s face in a sink full of liquid nitrogen and then smash it open on the countertop. I also give big kudos to the sleeping bag death but we’d already seen that in The New Blood more than a decade before.

Hatchet – Say Aaaaaaaah!

After creating an army of support (literally), Adam Green burst onto the horror scene in a big way with Hatchet. It was everything I expected it to be: over-the-top, campy and a pretty decent throwback to the 80s, making it one of my favorite slashers of the decade. In what is probably the greatest one-two punch of gore I’ve seen in quite a while, Victor Crowley manages to dispatch a husband and wife – the Permatteos – in the most gruesome way possible. And while watching someone get hacked up with unholy amounts of blood spurting about is great, it’s the 360 head splitting that really deserves the kudos.

Feast – Puke-O-Rama

Kid death in a horror film is often hard to come by – because it’s not PC or something like that – but Feast definitely steps it up in that department. In one of the more memorable scenes in the film (of which there are actually quite a few), one of the creatures gobbles up a kid and then vomits all over the place. And while Gulager would feature some fairly ridiculous baby deaths in the sequels, it’s this death that always made me laugh the hardest.

Let The Right One In – Hold Your Breath

Let The Right One In is possibly the most grotesquely beautiful film I’ve ever seen. It’s a coming-of-age story about love, friendship and the awkwardness and confusion that surrounds adolescence. Oh, and there’s vampires in it, too. In fact, many of the other writers on the site agree that this film is amazing – well, enough to put it at number one on our `Top Twenty Horror Films of the Decade’ list. While some people might point to the infamous cat scene or maybe the hospital fire as the most memorable moment in the film, I’d argue that the pool deaths register much higher on an emotional level, since it’s sweet in the most morbid way possible.

House of Wax – The Hilton Pole Vault

What is there to be said about Dark Castle’s House of Wax, aside from the fact that it’s more of a remake of Tourist Trap than the Vincent Price classic or Fay Wray version? Oh, that’s right, PARIS HILTON GOT A POLE STUCK THROUGH HER HEAD. I remember leaving an early screening of the film and getting handed a `I saw Paris Hilton die’ pin; WB knew exactly what they were doing – marketing an awful film on the basis of getting to see a very maligned heiress die. And on that level, the film succeeds tenfold.

American Psycho – F*** Me Gently With A Chainsaw

Whether you consider American Psycho to be a horror film or one of the best black comedies ever (I’m in the former camp), I think we can all agree that Patrick Bateman is a very memorable character and that, in a way, we all have had really bizarre thoughts like him – though hopefully not as severe! There’s a few key scenes in the film that really resonate with me – most of them consisting of gore and witty banter – but the chainsaw scene stuck with me the most because of its mean-spirited nature and full on display of testosterone.

Final Destination 2 – A Car Accident Waiting To Happen

I don’t think anyone is ever going to say that the Final Destination series is important or necessarily “good” but let’s face it: we keep watching them because the death scenes are hilarious and over-the-top. The original FD was thought to be really innovative – but not really, since Sole Survivor did almost the same thing in 1983 – but Part II always worked the best for me, simply because it embraced its overall sense of humor more and the deaths were REALLY mind blowing. I wish I could include the whole film as one entry on this list but, to be fair, I’ll just use the opening car crash, which is easily the most intense “premonition” of the entire series. And just in case you’re wondering, I’d rank the BBQ scene at the end next.

Mother Of Tears – Of Course There’s A Monkey Watching

After not working on the series for over 20 years, Dario Argento finally return to his beloved witch trilogy with Mother of Tears, which turned out to be the goriest film of his career. While the entire thing is pretty batshit insane, it’s the woman getting strangled with her own intestines that kind of takes the cake. But – let’s be honest – it’s the inclusion of a monkey that’s the cherry on top.

Saw III – Talk About Hanging Yourself On The Cross!

I’m going to be upfront with everyone: I’m not a fan of the Saw series at all – though, I’d say that out of the ones I’ve actually watched, Part II was my favorite – but I realize that it’s the only major horror franchise I’ve been alive for from beginning to end and it has really shaped the horror trends of the past decade. But even though I don’t care for them, I’d say that, more often than not, the traps and kills are really impressive. Much like Final Destination, I could probably populate this whole list with nothing but really cringe-worthy scenes from the series but the crucifixion trap always made me squirm the most – go figure it’s from the entry that I dislike the most! The trap held its captor in place with a spike through each hand and foot, and a rotating lock held his head in place. Each section could rotate 180 degrees, breaking all the bones in his arms, legs, and neck.

Hostel II – Bathing In The Blood Of Virgins

If any torture film this decade could manage to be entertaining in a very strange way, Hostel and its sequel would be the best bets. While the first film manages to blend frat humor and grisly tension pretty seamlessly, the sequel was more of a slow-burn, harkening back to films from the 70s and perhaps a hint of Audition thrown in there for measure. Both films have their fair share of ghastly torture but the Bathory scene is the most memorable simply because it’s the most sensual death scene this decade.

Inside – C-section

In the time between High Tension and Martyrs, Inside ruled the horror scene as THE French gore film to watch. It’s commentary on motherhood and abortion was fairly interesting but what kept most people watching was the immense amount of blood that overtook every frame and the fast pace. Shotgun blasts and scissor wounds are pretty prominent but the primitive c-section by La femme is just really… well, nasty.