Anyone can die in a horror movie, it is one of the basic foundations of the genre. Yet in order to make sure that the audience doesn't get bored with what they are seeing on the screen, filmmakers will occasionally throw in a shocking death to both spruce up their movie as well as keep the audience on their toes. A surprising death can also give the viewer the idea that anything can happen in the movie and that they should expect the unexpected in their viewing experience.
With that in mind I have created this list of the most shocking kills in horror movie history. They are ranked according to how shocking the kill was as well as how memorable the death scene was in the canon of horror film history. So please read, enjoy, and if feel free to leave a comment about the list or any other deaths you think could have made the cut.
10. Amanda Detmer in Final Destination
The first Final Destination movie was easily the most serious of the series before they became Rube Goldberg machines for killing unsuspecting teens. Yet with all of the gruesome deaths in the first film, none were more surprising than the death of Amanda Detmer's character, Terry Chaney. After an argument at a coffee shop between the survivors of the beginning plane crash, Terry steps away while telling off rivals Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) and Carter Horton (Kerr Smith). Yet death gets the final say as Terry is massacred by an oncoming bus, covering the other survivors in her blood. It was a great jump scare moment that really helped set the pace for the movie as well as its eventual sequels.
9. A Carload of People in The Mist
After escaping a grocery store filled with religious fanatics and a world overrun by monsters from another dimension, the audience thought that David Drayton (Thomas Jane) and co. were home free for the time being. Yet when it appeared that the titular Mist was never ending and monsters were closing in as their car ran out of gas, David realizes that the end is near. With his son asleep in the car and the other survivors realizing the dire nature of their situation, David pulls out his revolver, which only has enough bullets for all but one of them. Coming to an agreement David kills everyone in the car, his son first, in order to spare them a death by monster. Unfortunately the sounds they heard following them were not the monsters, but the military taking care of the situation and killing the monsters. It was such a great twist ending compared to the Stephen King story of the same name which had a much more ambiguous ending and left the audience in stunned disbelief.
8. Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween Resurrection
After over twenty years of fighting for survival it seemed like Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) had finally killed her brother Michael Myers by decapitating him in Halloween H20. Yet somehow the masked killer was coming back in Halloween Resurrection. The trailers featured what seemed to be an epic battle between Curtis and Michael, but fans were shocked to see a institutionalized Strode in the beginning of the film with Michael coming to finish her once and for all. It was explained that Michael had switched clothes with an EMT he knocked out and Strode and gone crazy after realizing that she killed the wrong person. After a brief fight it seemed that Laurie would get her revenge as she had Michael tied up, but not wanting to repeat her previous mistake, moved to take off Michael's mask. Michael would attack and stab her in the back before throwing her off the roof to her death, effectively killing the preeminent scream queen within the first 10 minutes of the movie, truly shocking.
7. Tyler Patrick Jones in Feast
In the first movie of the Feast trilogy, each character is introduced with a character bio that includes an estimated chance of dying. Young Cody (Tyler Patrick Jones) is the son of barmaid Tuffy, who is left hiding in a bedroom above the bar after monsters begin attacking and eating bar patrons. Fortunately Tuffy is able to find her son unharmed by the monsters. It is short-lived though as a monster breaks through the window and snatches up the boy, eating him in front of his mother. It was a shocking scene in that kids getting killed on-screen is a rarity in movies and that his character bio tricked the audience by claiming that he was going to live a long, eventful life.
6. Johnny Depp in A Nightmare On Elm Street
One of the many things that made the Nightmare On Elm Street series so great was the fact that the audience never really knew if the main characters were in the dream world until it was too late. This was especially evident in the death of Glen Lantz (Johnny Depp) who eventually falls asleep and is sucked into his bed, before a geyser of blood shoots up to the ceiling. The shock of seeing the main characters love interest die in such a horrifying matter really set the Nightmare series apart from the dozens of slashers films that were out at the time.
5. Scatman Crothers in the Shining
Arguably one of the greatest horror movies of all time, The Shining took psychological horror to a new level. By the time Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) was tearing through the Overlook Hotel in search of his family, his young son Danny (Danny Lloyd) had contacted the hotel cook Dick Hollaran (Scatman Crothers) via their shared ability to Shine to come rescue his mother and he. After making the arduous trip to get to the hotel, fans felt that Dick was going to be the savior to young Danny. That was cut short though because as soon as Dick had entered the nearly empty hotel Jack buries a fire axe into his back, killing him and ending the rescue mission even before it really stars.
4. Duane Jones in Night of the Living Dead
After battling the undead as well as people on the brink of insanity, you would think that unofficial leader Ben was going to make it to the end credits still as one of the living. Unfortunately he was mistaken for a zombie by one of the hunting parties and shot through the window he was peeking out of, eventually being tossed into the fire used cremate the actual zombies that Ben had fought off the whole previous night.
3. John Hurt in Alien
In one of the most shocking moments in movie history, the death of Kane (John Hurt) in Alien earns its spot on the list at number three. After coming into contact with the eggs containing Facehuggers and getting caught by one, the crew of the Nostromo didn't know if Kane would live, yet would be shocked when the Facehugger would simply die and fall off, leaving Kane seemingly okay. Yet at dinner Kane began to cough and convulse before his chest exploded, killing him and revealing the young Alien to the crew. What made this death more great was that the rest of the cast was not told beforehand what was going to happen, so the shock and terror that they show in the scene is their legitimate reactions.
2. Samuel L. Jackson in Deep Blue Sea
While Deep Blue Sea is a ridiculous horror movie about super smart sharks. What makes it stand out is one scene in particular featuring Samuel L. Jackson who was easily the most recognizable cast member next to LL Cool J. While giving a rousing speech about how they were going to work together in order to survie the shark onslaught and sinking research facility, it seemed like the crew were ready to follow Jackson to the end of the Earth in order to survive, but his speech would be cut short by a shark who lept out of the water and bit into Jackson, bringing him into the water where he was torn in two by two of the sharks.
1. Drew Barrymore in Scream
In the first Scream film, fans were lead to believe that E.T. star Drew Barrymore was the lead actress in the movie since she was by and far the biggest name actor in the whole film. Hell, she was the central focus of all the promotional material for the movie. So imagine the viewers' surprise when Barrymore is not only the first person killed in the movie, but she's killed in the first ten minutes, even before the open title screen. It was a shock that would set the tone for the whole series as saying that no one was safe if the biggest star in the movie could be the first to die.