Boiling Point: Pull the Trigger


Last I checked it was still October (months fly by when you’re having “Polanski’s” (that’s champagne and ‘ludes)) and we’re still talking horror.  If there is one legitimate gripe many people can air about the vast majority of horror films it’s that some of the characters behave stupidly.  They’ll go up when they should go down, turn left when they should turn right, or drop the keys into a sewer grate when they should just hop on their bicycle.  But to me, none is so annoying, so mind bogglingly stupid as the failure to execute the villain.  The failure to stab the knife in a vital area.  The failure to pull the trigger.

The gun is a miraculous invention.  It is perhaps the easiest way on Earth to end a crime or stop a killer.  The original point, click, results machine.  Yet when faced with an adversary who is several yards away and advancing slowly, if he is of the ilk to die from bullets (as many aren’t) the character will undoubtedly fail to pull the trigger.  Or wait until the absolute last second and then fire only as the killer knocks the gun away.

This, when filmed, never seems to work.  The audience is always sitting there shouting “Shoot him! Shoot him you dumb bitch!”  Yet the shot never comes.  I’m sure this is supposed to be a tense and dramatic moment, but it comes across as stupid.  On the page it probably reads “VICTIM, paralyzed with fear feebly attempts to pull the trigger but can not, as KILLER approaches.”  Okay, cool.  On screen it looks like “IDIOT, not pulling trigger, DIES.”  Maybe if it was a 14th century crossbow or an antique muzzle loading pistol there’d be a reason for someone to stumble around.  But no, the gun is point-click-kill.  It couldn’t be simpler.

Mechanics aside, who is to blame for this?  Possibly the writer, for thinking there is ever a time when someone with a gun within 15 feet of another person is in some danger of not being able to shoot in time.  For that to be scary or a matter of mere fractions of a second, the killer would have to be very close or moving very fast.  So maybe we blame the director, for how he blocked the scene.  Putting the slow moving killer the whole way over there and having him lumber oh-so-slowly while our victim refuses to just pull the damn trigger.

From a character standpoint, it’s almost worse.  I mean, presumably this guy has already killed several of your friends by now.  He’s probably going to kill you unless you do something.  If only you had a gun with which to kill him.  Oh wait, you do.  Or a big ass knife.  Why the hell would you stab some sadistic killer in the leg then figure it’s all good to run away?  When you stab him in the leg and he falls down in pain you get in there and finish the job with some serious knife work to the chest and throat.  Finish the guy.  Look, it’s not like this guy is some burglar that broke into your home.  He is a masked serial killer or some other out of the realm of reality bad guy.  The cops aren’t going to arrest you for murder if you jump on this guy and bury a blade in his forehead.  You get this one for free.  He’s already killed a bunch of people, and there is probably some myth or legend about him in your town so when you finally do go nuts on his neck with a razor, you’re not going to jail.  You’re going to be a hero.  So kill the bastard.

So writers, directors, stunt guys, fight choreographers, whoever gets the final say in this – let them pull the trigger.  It’s not full of tension, it’s full of aggravation.  We the audience are a wiser, smarter, more bloodthirsty lot.  When faced down with masked killers or people who’ve slaughtered and eaten our families, we will pull the trigger without hesitation.  If you don’t want characters killing your villain that soon, don’t give them a gun or don’t have the bad guy slowly walk towards them with a target on his chest.  Every time I see some sissy let more people close to them die, I shoot right past my boiling point.

What do you think?

Robert Fure is many things: horror expert, ruggedly handsome man of the world, witty prose composer, and writer of his own biography page. Beneath the bravado is a scared little boy, ready to grow into an awesome man and make lies about a scared little boy inside of him. Wait a minute...

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