The Horror Honeys: Reality vs Horror: 5 Horror Deaths Dissected

Reality vs Horror: 5 Horror Deaths Dissected

This article is dedicated to anyone who has ever watched a super violent movie and eye rolled their way through it because of some bad makeup effects, or an unrealistic "suspension of disbelief" expectation put forth by a studio or a film. As a fan of the slasher sub-genre of horror films, I'll cheer on the death of an endless array of useless characters, but there are certain things that make me bristle more than others. Namely, unrealistic death scenes. I know that might make me a wet blanket, but the very best horror films that make you squirm the most, are the ones that you can actually imagine happening to you.

I'd also like everyone to note that my google search history is now completely suspect...

The Throat Slash
In the movies: Depending on the movie/show, death is either instantaneous, and happens in a quiet and almost beautiful manner, gasping for air and clutching for the throat. Or, if we're in Tarantino-land, there's a massive fountain of blood and a lot of gasping and gurgling and choking for added squirm factor. The throat slash is a bit of a throw-away death, reserved for characters who need to be dispatched quickly and quietly.

In real life: Death occurs via exsanguination - massive blood loss or "bleeding out." A severed carotid, without immediate intervention, would bring the victim to unconsciousness with in 1-3 minutes or less, and death would follow shortly. Blood flow is obviously controlled by the pumping of the heart - an elevated heart rate means faster blood flow, inverting the body (a-la Hostel II) increases flow as gravity works with the pump of the victim's heart, but a veritable shower or fountain of blood and some stumbling around for help? Ehhhh not as likely. Real Fatality: 5/5

The Stomach/Back Stab
In the movies: The stab to the stomach is one of the most often used horror movie death methods. Sometimes our hero will take a few quick stabs to the gut and will live to fight on, but more often than not, they're left for dead after one or two thrusts to the abdomen. Back stabbing is also a popular method of dealing death, and while death seems to be a guarantee from these kinds of wounds in film, it's also a good source of killers coming back for another swing at our hero.

In real life: In Scream, Billy and Stuart talk pretty candidly about how to stab in the body cavity without doing too much damage, and while they're mostly right, they can actually be doing a lot of internal damage if they happen to hit the "hollow organs" like the colon or bladder which (inevitably) spill their contents into the body cavity (ew). Stabbing in the back most likely will be hitting the lungs, and while not fatal if the victim gets some quick medical attention, it's definitely a lengthy and painful way to die. Stabbing in the chest or the back is ideally aimed at the heart, but more often than not, ribs get in the way and our victim survives. Real Fatality: 2/5

In the movies: Perhaps to save on time, horror movies have gone out of their way to make it look like strangulation and hanging is a relatively simple process. Whether it's death at the hands of a jilted lover, or a terrifying silent killer, they usually make short work of their victims who struggle feebly and make the requisite choking noises so that you really get the point. Strangulation is usually a crime of passion, although, like the throat slash, it's also used as an "easy" kill in horror films.

In real life: Murder is an intimate process, especially when it comes down to the personal kinds of murder like strangulation. For hanging victims, it's the drop that does the work for the killer, breaking the neck and severing the spinal cord. The knot of the noose is placed at the left side of the subject's neck, under the jaw, this way, the jolt to the neck at the end of the drop is enough to break or dislocate a neck bone called the axis, which in turn severs the spinal cord. In this case, death is instantaneous. Strangulation, however, is a much more involved process and is a far more excruciating experience. The complex process from artery compression to brain swelling and eventual stoppage of the heart takes anywhere from five to twenty minutes. Not every strangulation ends in death, but depending on the method of application, and how soon the victim is released from their strangulation device determines the level of recovery possible. Brain damage or death from lack of oxygen is a very real side effect of being rescued just a little too late. Real Fatality: 4/5

In the movies: Severed heads fly around almost as much as eyeballs in horror movies. Knocked off accidentally, taken off by low hanging tree branches, pruned with scythes, heads have been rolling in horror films for a VERY long time and they make it look EASY and even a little haphazard.


In real life: Decapitation isn't as easy as it looks. Even in Renaissance England where they had all but perfected the art, it took a skilled headsman, a sharp axe or sword, and a victim who was holding reeeeally still with their head braced on a block of wood to get the job done - and even then sometimes it took a few whacks to get that sucker to come off. While the throat is easily sliced (as discussed earlier), the spinal column is a little harder to navigate due to the fact that separating the vertebrae on the first stroke is almost impossible, especially if you're flailing around on a beach with a crazed Mrs. Voorhees. Real Fatality: 5/5

The Neck Break
In the movies: In horror movies, it's all in the wrist, right? One twist or two, and we've got a dead teenager/hero/cop/marine accompanied with the usual breaking bone sound. Another 'phone it in death' like the throat slash, neck snaps are used as a bloodless, but still brutal and speedy death for sideline characters.

You and your bird arms couldn't
POSSIBLY pull that off. 
In real life: The amount of force and torque needed to truly execute a neck snap is beyond what is usually available to horror film characters. Putting aside the characters who have superhuman strength, the "normal" human attempting to execute this kill is more likely to fail than succeed. Even if our neck snapper were able to pull it off, much like hanging, the breaking of the cervical vertebrae and severing of the spinal cord are the only way to guarantee death - a broken neck is no guarantee of a "silent kill" either as, if the spinal cord is not severed, your victim is now a quadriplegic victim - dying, but not yet dead, and still able to speak and scream. Real Fatality: 3/5

Special mention: Eyeballs!
In the movies: Horror films really aren't complete without an eyeball or two flying about - Lucio Fulci's films feature some extreme eyeball action, as do many modern horror films. Are they really that easy to pop out? Are we really just running around with glass marbles rattling around in our skulls that can fall out at a moment's notice?

In real life: It's surprisingly easy to pop out an eyeball, and the human facial structure is delicate, especially in the ocular region... but the logistics of eyeballs flying around willy nilly is a little more, delicate. Stabbing into eyeballs seems to be gaining a bit of popularity as a body horror feature, but for those of us who remember dissecting cow's eyeballs in high school, they're really more like thin skinned balls full of jelly-like liquid, not exactly the most solid stabbing target. Eyeballs are also often not shown in horror films as having any kind of musculature attached - how the hell do you think Liz Lemon perfected that famous eye roll of hers? Not without some help from her muscular ocular structure. The eyeball victim will survive, although perhaps with a larger blind-spot than before. Real Fatality: 1/5