October is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “31 days of horror.” Don’t bother looking it up; it’s true. Most people take that to mean highlighting one horror movie a day, but here at FSR, we’ve taken that up a spooky notch or nine by celebrating each day with a top ten list. This article about the best and most harrowing kills in the Halloween franchise is part of our ongoing series 31 Days of Horror Lists.
No one can quite agree on when the slasher film began. Arguments can be made for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace, Bob Clark’s Black Christmas, Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and a half dozen more probably. However, the Halloween franchise is where the concept thrived under its most basic propulsion — a killer with a knife. He’s coming to get you… once he slaughters all your friends first.
John Carpenter‘s original film is so wondrously simple. Halloween establishes a few teens with attractive personalities. We watch them die, all but sure our central heroine will fall under Michael Myers’ blade by the end. We’re relieved when she doesn’t until the movie gives us no reason to be so. Eventually, we have to settle into enjoying the killer as he stalks his way through numerous sequels, a remake, its sequel, a reboot, and its sequels. Evil never dies.
And as such, the Halloween franchise offers some of the gnarliest kills in the slasher genre. Selecting our favorites was no easy task, and there was much debate about where these sequences should fall in the ranking. What you find below is the most harrowing and horrifying Halloween kills as assembled by FSR’s Boo Crew, aka Rob Hunter, Anna Swanson, Chris Coffel, Jacob Trussell, Valerie Ettenhofer, Meg Shields, and yours truly.
10. Ben Tramor in Halloween II (1981)
Some people may call this kill a cheat in a list like this, but some people put ketchup on their fries, so fuck ‘em. So in a franchise that sees Michael Myers land a triple-digit body count, why include this kill, an accidental one that Michael doesn’t even commit? For one thing, it’s very sad! A kid out trick ‘r treating is run over by a cop who thinks he’s the masked killer, and worse, everyone pretty much moves on with their lives. Tragic. Also, it’s very funny! Not only is it an early ACAB recognition, but as a fun little Easter egg, Dick Warlock is playing the cop driving the car – Warlock, of course, also plays Michael beneath the mask in the film. Genius! (Rob Hunter)
9. Annie in Halloween (1978)
Is Annie’s death in the first Halloween film the most original kill of the franchise? No. It’s not as funny as the time Michael shoves his thumb through someone’s forehead, nor as outrageous as the killer masks in Halloween III: Season of the Witch, nor as emotionally resonant as some of the main character kills. Yet the moment when Laurie’s friend Annie Brackett (Nancy Kyes) kicks the bucket is among my favorite Halloween kills because it’s a chillingly grisly reminder of just how human the character of Michael Myers used to be.
Modern Michael Myers is basically an unkillable supervillain, but in 1978, he was just a man in a mask out for blood, and his kills felt largely realistic. He strangles Annie from the backseat of her car, which is an on-brand kill for a boogeyman who was initially invented to bring urban legends like the babysitter stalker to life. But it’s the way he kills her that’s memorably sickening: it’s like something out of a Hitchcock film, a prolonged and cinematic moment of on-screen suffering that sees Annie’s legs kicking while he squeezes the life out of her. When he’s done, we see her face slide down until she presses against the car’s horn, open-mouthed in a silent scream against the fogged-up glass. (Valerie Ettenhofer)
8. Sarah in H20 (1998)
Ah, Sarah (Jodi Lyn O‘Keefe), you did your best. With Michael Myers on your tail, you threw yourself into the dumbwaiter, hoping for a quick escape upstairs. Huddled next to an already corpse-ified Charlie (Adam Hann–Byrd), you keep your shit together while slowly reaching the second floor. Sadly, Myers slashes the dumbwaiter’s rope just as your foot gets stuck under the dead boy and the plummeting box nearly takes your leg off. Halloween H20 features several close calls where hope seems within reach, but director Steve Miner seemingly relishes such folly. Broken and crawling, Sarah’s last moments slinking toward unreachable freedom are heartbreaking. She’s just a bird with a broken wing, and Mike’s the cat enjoying his lazy afternoon. (Brad Gullickson)
7. Karen in Halloween II (1981)
Karen (Pamela Susan Shoop) bubbling in her hot tub soup has to be one of the most upsettingly gory deaths in the Halloween franchise. How is this one not higher on the list?!? It’s bad enough she mistakes Michael Myers for her d-bag boyfriend, and her final moments are spent nuzzling up to a soulless psychopath, but then to watch her get dunked over and over and over again as the temperature rises into the danger zone?? The way the film keeps cutting back to the gauge, allowing makeup technicians to apply thick layers of crackling, broiling skin to Ms. Shoop, is just awful. For better and worse, this death in Halloween II takes the franchise into another realm, where torment and gory fx execution become a principal factor for the viewer’s enjoyment. (Brad Gullickson)
6. Marge in Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Never tamper with the tags. It’s true about mattresses, and it’s definitely true about Silver Shamrock Halloween masks. Halloween III: Season of the Witch may ditch Michael Myers in its attempt to reinvent the franchise into an anthology series, but it doubles down on the gore factor introduced in the previous sequel. They don’t have John Carpenter to sharpen the suspense, but they’ve got buckets of Karo syrup and so many damn bugs. Marge Guttman (Garn Stephens) getting shot square in the face with a bright beam of blue light is bad enough, but it’s those creepy crawlies that come ripping out of her mangled jaw that really send the shivers down your spine. Halloween III loves to linger on the aftermath, but this blissfully red and raw moment is but an appetizer for the feast that will come in the climax. Stay tuned. (Brad Gullickson)
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