Are We Running Out of Ways to Die?

Horror movies have been going strong for a century now, but the actual technology used to kill people has fallen way behind.

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You know, I’ve seen people stabbed, bludgeoned, decapitated, drowned, eviscerated, exploded, melted, disemboweled, cannibalized, flash frozen, shot, boiled, crucified, ripped in half and absorbed into a gelatinous alien mass. I’ve also seen those things in movies. It makes me wonder… have we run out of ways to die? Er… in a horror movie?

If you think about the sheer volume of horror movies over the last hundred years, and surmise that – in a very modest estimate – an average of 2.5 people are murdered in each of them (the “.5” refers to maimings), it becomes instantly clear that we’re facing a shortage. Unlike oil, which yes, I have seen people drowned in, death is not a limited resource. We can always kill people. But have we reached a creative impasse when it comes to the deed itself? Was Jason slamming that sleeping bag into a tree in Friday the 13th Part VII really the last hurrah for imaginative brutality? You can call out your favorite example of original murder from the last two decades if you really want to, but they’re the exceptions to the rule. Personally, I blame technology.

Back in the days of yore, humanity envisioned the future as a vast world of giant supercomputers and ray guns, when in fact the post-2000 era has, thus far, seen technology mutate and shrink to unbelievable sizes. You could feed a hapless teenager into a giant box of gears and ticker tape machines and probably grind it to a pleasingly bloody pulp, but it would be a lot harder – and certainly less spectacular – to vivisect somebody with an iPhone. Not impossible, mind you (surely there’s an app for that), but a challenge nonetheless. And you can’t strangle somebody with a telephone cord anymore, because there are no more telephone cords with which to strangle. The point is that technology is turning significantly less hazardous as time wears on. That’s good news for your kids – assuming you like them, obviously – but bad news for horror enthusiasts who are seeing their medium fall back on more stabbings than are artistically, and certainly medically, recommended.

On Friday the 13th (that is to say the actual Wednesday the 11th, not the film), we’ll be publishing a new infographic from The Cabin in the Woods that puts all the manners of horror deaths into a percentage format, giving us a clear picture of where we’ve been and, hopefully, a clear view of where we need to go as a genre. We’ll see you there. Bring your iPhones.