Don’t lose your head.
Horror is full of different ways to die. For the most part, if not always, death is the ultimate horror episode, the one fate every character on screen is desperate to avoid. Slasher movies saunter around, amassing massive body counts. Some entire franchises such as final destination are based almost entirely on dodging and avoiding death. While all deaths are bad, some deaths just feel way worse. Perhaps rooted in childhood fears of green ribbon girls. Perhaps it’s the not-so-consoling notion that brain activity can persist for a few minutes after death. Whatever it is, it’s likely that decapitation, especially, is the worst type of horror death. Fast, efficient and common, it’s a frightening concept.
Here, in a list that is not at all grim, we look at 10 of horror’s best beheadings. While this list isn’t a decapitation dispositif, these are 10 of the best we’ve seen (in no particular order).
10. The Omen
Perhaps one of horror’s most famous deaths, the decapitation of The Omen is remarkable for several reasons. First, given the year it was released, it was probably considerably more shocking to audiences than some more contemporary dishes. Plus, everything feels so unexpected. Midway, The Omen becomes something like an Indiana Jones movie. Robert Thorn by Gregory Peck and Keith Jennings, photographer by David Warner, travel to Rome to investigate the true origins of Robert’s son, the Antichrist. There, a misguided truck rolls down a hill, and below, a pane of glass slides off, severing Keith’s head. It shatters the window behind him, a glorious spectacle of nasty, shocking gore in one of the best beheadings in the genre.
9. Sleepy Cave
Tim Burtons Sleepy Cave should be one of the definitive Halloween movies. Few others have so aptly conceptualized the sense of mid-Atlantic decline. With his beautiful sets and dedicated acting, Sleepy Cave Enduring decades after release, one of the touchstones of big-budget R-rated offerings so eagerly produced in the ’90s. Of course, there are several beheadings in a film based around the Headless Horseman, but perhaps the best is Samuel Philipse, Richard Griffiths’ magistrate. His decapitation is a gothic set-piece straight out of a dream, and it also serves its purpose as the death that tricks Johnny Depp’s Ichabod Crane into believing the rumors of a headless Hesse are true.
8. Friday the 13thth
What else is there to say? Tom Savini is a master of effects work. Aside from Kevin Bacon’s arrow through the throat, most of the deaths in Sean S. Cunningham’s slasher debut are relatively benign, at least by genre standards. That’s probably because the best is saved for last. Last girl Alice (Adrienne King) engages in a mind-blowing brawl with killer Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) on the lake shore. She spies on Mrs. Voorhees’ machete and tries to reach her in time. She does, viciously decapitating the killer in slow motion.
7. Ultimate goal 2
Elevators are terrifying. Whether because of Dick Maas’ The lifta quasi-slasher about a sentient, murderous elevator, or the old urban legend that there’s “room for one more,” I’ve never quite trusted them. terminus 2 perversely solidifies that fear, transitioning from act two to act three with a quick, unexpected death through the elevator door. Lynda Boyd’s Nora has already lost a son, and as the survivors of the freeway accident gather, she remarks that when the time is right, she is ready to leave, if only to be with her son. She is exiting the elevator and inside has her braided hair caught on a hook belonging to a man who is inexplicably carrying a box of hooks. As she struggles to free herself and refuses to die, her body ends up outside the elevator on the next floor. She is unable to get back in, and as the car rises, her head is severed. Secure, resident Evil might have done it a few years earlier, but terminus 2‘s decapitation convinces not only by the wildness, but also by the cruel irony of the whole thing.
There’s no denying that Hereditary is a bit more conventional than most A24 horror outings. It gives access to the narrative pace and the horrors, even as it houses some of the most disturbing imagery in the genre. While Toni Collette’s death by garotte is a strong contender here, it’s Milly Shapiro’s decapitation that wins the chocolate and walnut cake. After suffering anaphylactic shock at a party, brother Peter (Alex Wolff) races to the hospital. Shapiro’s Charlie is struggling to breathe, so Peter opens a back window so she can stick her head out. As he dodges the car to avoid an animal, Charlie’s head collides with a telephone pole, flatly knocking him off.
5. High Voltage
high voltage is a great movie let down by a rather annoying ending. It’s not only bad, but patently illogical, impossible to reconcile with the events that preceded it. That being said, everything before that is pure Home Invasion heaven with a dash of road movie pursuit. Marie from Cécile de France is ready to spend the weekend with Alexia (Maïwenn) and her family at their rural country house. The night they arrive, an unnamed killer breaks in, butchers the family and kidnaps Alexia. The killer is at least kind enough to ring the bell, and when Papa (Andrei Finti) answers, his throat is cut. What’s more, his head is wedged between two balusters on the stairs. The killer then pushes him a bookshelf and breaks off his head cleanly. In other words, high voltage NC-17 rating tracks.
4th Day of the Dead
While all previous beheadings were quick affairs, George Romero and Tom Savini were kind enough to slow them down. When Private Torrez (Taso Stavrakis) is devoured by a swarm of undead, they tear him to pieces. His skin crunches and his blood spurts, and to top off the whole horrific affair, his head is ripped off clean.
3. Halloween H20: 20 years later
Until the end Halloween H20 was retconned years later with the release of Halloween: Resurrectionthere was perhaps no better ending Halloween film than the one shown here. Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode escapes with Michael, sure he’s not dead. Michael wakes up in the van, they fight and Laurie and Michael get blown down a hill. When Laurie comes to, she finds Michael pinned to a tree next to the van. He’s reaching out for redemption, and for a moment, Laurie looks ready to obey him. That is, of course, until she grabs a handy ax and chops off his head cleanly, ending her nightmare for good. Or so it seems. Why, Halloween: Resurrection? Why?
wax houseBeheading might seem low key by the standards of this list, but it’s still a treat. Remember Jaume Collet-Serra wax house was one of the last true slashers with a wide release in the 2000s. As the subgenre faded, ghosts and J-horror remakes dominated, leaving the slasher and all of its severed heads to rot in the dust. Luckily, Collet-Serra spared no stylistic effort wax house, and whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying that it’s a good looking film. As Dalton wanders into Wax Town by Jon Abrahams, unaware of the danger, he is attacked by Vincent (Brian Van Holt). Stumbling down a waxy staircase, Vincent rams two beautiful, gilded knives into Dalton. At least that’s what the audience thinks. When Dalton goes silent, Vincent pulls the body away, leaving Dalton’s severed head behind.
1. The cabin in the forest
Poor Jules (Anne Hutchison). She just wanted to have an intimate moment with Chris Hemsworth’s Curt. At the behest of some pheromones released around the house, Jules and Curt are tricked into having sex. While making out in the woods, the two are ambushed by the zombified corpses they accidentally summoned earlier. As they put up a respectable fight, Jules is impaled on a chain by a modified bear trap and dragged toward her doom. Her head is cut off with a huge saw. It would have been worth it, too, if Marty (Fran Franz) and Dana (Kristen Connolly) hadn’t decided to end the world.