Dying is easy, life is hard

if you don’t like spoilers or are too fragile don’t read any further and avoid the comments.

ethel the actress

this dog was not harmed in the making of this death scene

I usually only watch horror films, spiced with the occasional psychological thriller,sci-fi indy film, or action flick. So recently when someone asked me what my favorite death scene was, from a movie, I first piped up with an obvious one from one of my favorite horror movies.

“No,” she said. “I mean for the impact it had on you. Not for the plot to advance.”
I had to think hard. I mean, very hard. There are so many deaths in the movies I watch, you see, and yet most of them are plot devices, not seriously meaningful beyond that. Not the kind of thing that affects me, really. I mean, even when I watch emotional movies, I don’t get very emotional, and I’ve never cried during a movie (books, yes. movies? no.)

So after a few days of deep thought, I’ve made a list. There are a lot of spoilers in it, and if you don’t like spoilers or are too fragile to handle knowing the end of something don’t read any further and avoid the comments. I’m serious, I’ll just delete comments complaining about spoilers. 

My favorite death scene? The one that’s got the most emotional impact on me, in retrospect? Roy Batty, in Bladerunner.

I know there are a hundred reasons people like this movie, and yet for me the reason I loved it (and the book it was based on) was the desperate pursuit of more time, more life.  As someone who has been on occasion suicidal, that might seem weird. But it’s true. The times when I want to live, I do not ever want to die. Ever. And I’d be glad to squash heads for a few more hours. The knowledge of impending doom, and the sacrifice entailed in using the last bit of time to help another being- that resonates with me, strongly.

The rest of these scenes I couldn’t list in any particular order after that one. Here they are, all jumbled together.

The Green Mile- Mr. Jingles
That fucking mouse. I swear I got depressed, very depressed.

Quint, in Jaws.
That fucking shark. I swear.

Pan’s Labrynth. The Captain.
So much emotionally wonderful release of a slowly-building hate for that character. Ofelia ‘dying’ or not didn’t matter half as much to me, since she was already in Fairyland, and her character continued beyond that part of the film.

Kilgore Trout, in Breakfast of Champions
Speaking of Fairyland, and on the opposite side of the scale of emotions. When this character died, a little part of me died with him. Although it looked very nice, that’s for sure.

The son, in The Woman.
Another huge emotional release, with a side of ‘hell-yeah-the-world-is-safe-from-future-trouble”.

Marty, in The House of Yes
FUCKING PARKER POSEY. One of the few deaths that gave me chills, but also one of those movies that made me profoundly uncomfortable the entire time I watched it.

Random dude who looks like the Tapeworm, in Irreversible
This hit me hard once I’d watched the whole movie. Until the rape scene, this death scene had no impact on me beyond “omg this movie is already fucking crazy”…then during the long horror of the rape scene…it hit me. And I realized. And both scenes got that much worse.

Viggo in The Road.
Ok, yeah. It’s definitely the sappiest movie among the postapocalyptic-cannibal genre, and it was like nails on chalkboard every time the useless kid yelled “paapaa”. But man…he didn’t think he’d die that way. Not in that world.

Steve Buscemi in Fargo.
Yeah, he’s one of the bad guys. But it drove home just how unpredictable minnesotan sociopaths can be, even to their allies.

Milton Dammers, The Frighteners.
This was the one I named as my favorite. And now, thinking about it- it doesn’t just advance the plot. It has emotional impact for me. Here’s a man who has absolutely all the brainiac knowledge and ability to battle the paranormal, who has the force of the Goddammed United States behind him, who dislike women as well…and he meets his match, in such a perfect moment. I know I should probably feel about this the way I felt about Ofelia, mentioned way up above…but I admit to having a crush on the actor in this case, so I’m definitely biased.

Suicide, in Return of the Living Dead- and Julie, in Return, part three.
Suicide is one of my favorite women in horror films. She’s unabashedly sexual, direct about it, and also has the kink of character that gives her an interest in gory, scary things. (Is this what they call ‘identifying with a character’? Maybe. It doesn’t happen to me very often.) She gets exactly what she wants in this movie. Julie, on the other hand, has a complicated relationship with death, and her death, at the start of the film, becomes its entire purpose, its entire theme. The fact that her own instincts and her own life come to mean more to her than any relationship does…that’s a very strong moment for me, as a viewer. Most teen-romance plots end up just the opposite way, with the boy saving the girl, the girl sacrificing to stay with the boy. It’s a nice trope-tweak.

Carrie’s mother, in the 1976 Carrie.
I wanted to smack that woman the whole time. Emotionally satisfying, and very tense.

Dead Man, Nobody.
When he sees Nobody die…I think this is the one movie that actually almost made me cry. And it had nothing to do with Depp’s character, because who cares? We knew he was dead, from the beginning. Nobody, on the other hand, is alive, a real human character with depth and backstory (and even a pissed-off girlfriend), so his death hit me, both unexpectedly, and emotionally.

30 days of night- Iris.
None of them think they will die, none of them expect to be injured at all. And yet she’s toasted. She knows it’s death, and she allows it. The length of her life, until then, unimaginable, and the last stoic moment of nihilist agreement to die…this was a very strong death scene.

Also, I should mention here that any time a dog dies in a movie, I am immediately furious. FURIOUS. Looking at you, Will Smith.