I guess I’m feeling pretty violent these days, since last week I talked about how more people on TV needed to die and we’re revisiting the subject of death again this week. Though, with a slightly different slant – whereas previously I wanted more death, now I want that same amount of death, but slower.
In television, everyone seems like they’re in a huge hurry to die. Granted, the world of make believe is at least as dangerous as the real one, in fact, it’s infinitely more so. In a regular day, most of us won’t contend with tornadoes, Megasnakes, Sharktopi, advanced alien civilizations, primitive monsters, serial killers, psycho killers, bank robbers or mutated man-beast hybrids. Sure, there are some exceptional days, but for the most part we don’t have as much to worry about.
Regardless of what Last Action Hero says, I think we also have it safer, after all, we don’t just instantly drop dead at the slightest provocation.
For our cinematic brothers, life isn’t as kind. Death is around every corner and when he comes, he comes running. If you’re lucky enough to be the protagonist, or the antagonist, or perhaps just someone with a name not an occupational credit (Thug #4), you are potentially superhuman. You can take bullet wounds, explosions, and tremendous falls and just walk it off.
Find yourself below the line and making a day-rate, well brother you’re about to get proper fucked proper fast. On screen, death is almost always instantaneous. Shot in the stomach? Dead. Hit with a ninja star? Dead. Shot with an arrow? Definitely dead.
Where is the pain? The suffering? The horror of it all? These things aren’t immediately life threatening, in fact, sometimes they’re not even potentially fatal at all. You know how many people have died from ninja stars? I have nothing to back this up but I’m pretty sure the answer is zero. Throwing knives have a similarly low fatality rate, for the same reason – they don’t penetrate enough to kill people most of the time.
There are only a few immediately fatal targets on the body. If I’m being generous, the brain, the spine, the heart, and major arteries in the neck, leg, and groin are all viable “kill you in under 15 seconds” zones. Places that aren’t instantly fatal? Most of the chest, virtually all of the legs, parts of the face, pretty much all of the arms. Any damage to these areas, in most circumstances, isn’t going to kill you in the next 30 minutes. If you take a ninja star to the chest, you could honestly pull out that .25″ of penetrating steel and slap a bandage on it. You might need stitches, worst case scenario.
Three Kings did a decent job showing you what’s actually possible if you get shot in the lung – you can walk for miles with basic first aid and not die. A movie like Commando does a shitty job of showing you what happens when you take one bullet to the anywhere, and instantly flip end over end and explode in death.
And it isn’t just bullets. I’m not sure what it is about the bow and arrow that makes it especially deadly, but in westerns and other period films, taking a single arrow anywhere in your body pretty much meant you doubled over and died.
Horror movies are pretty terrible at killing people when you think about it. When Jason Voorhees snaps your body in two or knocks your head off, yeah you’re definitely dead, but when you get stabbed in the stomach in a Scream movie or catch a knife in the back, you wouldn’t drop down dead. You might drop down and sure you might die, but it’s going to take awhile. There’s going to be some screaming, some bleeding, and some pain.
Why ignore this? Fine – you want to move the plot along and get our hero past these minor players and onto the main fight, but wouldn’t it be a nice change to see some realistic injuries? If you’re looking to make a gritty film, don’t have the bad guys drop and have the lights turn out immediately. Let them suffer. Let them bleed. Because that’s fucked up – and that’s gritty. Plus, it’s more realistic. Death comes at his own pace, which usually takes fifteen or more minutes.
According to SpikeTV’s 1,000 Ways to Die there are at least one thousand ways to die, but they’re not all instant. Every time I see a sissy wound or a slow burner drop a man instantly, I go past my boiling point. Let the bastards suffer.