In this weekend's Law Abiding Citizen, Gerard Butler plays a man so crazy, so driven to the brink, that ordinary murder weapons won't do. I'm not going to spoil the body count of the movie (though it is quite high), or how most of these acts of revenge play out, but rest assured that everyday items like steaks and cell phones will seem very, very dangerous by the time you leave the theater.
But Gerard Butler's character in this movie isn't the first guy to get creative with his means of offing others. It's a time-honored cinematic tradition for a character to look at something seemingly innocuous-- a toy, a movie, an emblem of the gods of the sea-- and say "Hey, I could kill a guy with that." So behold, the movies that made us fear the everyday objects around us, or at least the objects you wouldn't instantly fear, with the knowledge that, in the hands of the right person, it could be the last object we ever see.
SPOILERS TO COME, OBVIOUSLY
The Dark Knight
It wasn't the most important of the Joker's murders, or even the most inventive. But when the Joker asks if you want to see a magic trick, we all now know that the answer is "God, no."
Final Destination 3
Just because we’re talking about murder weapons doesn’t mean there has to be an actual person using them. The villain of the Final Destination movies, Death, is notorious for claiming lives in the most horrific and innovative manners. Thanks to FD3, most people desperate for a glowing tan will be opting for a self-tanner because after seeing Ashley and Ashlyn (Chelan Simmons and Crystal Lowe) incinerated via tanning bed, a healthy hue just doesn’t seem worth the risk. Not that it’s all that healthy anyway.
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Brick Tamland (Steve Carell): Yeah, I stabbed a man in the heart. Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell): I saw that. Brick killed a guy. Did you throw a trident? Brick Tamland: Yeah, there were horses, and a man on fire, and I killed a guy with a trident. Ron: Brick, I've been meaning to talk to you about that. You should find yourself a safehouse or a relative close by. Lay low for a while, because you're probably wanted for murder.
A Clockwork Orange
In a movie as twisted and weird as Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange it takes a special sort of pizzazz to stand out. Or it just takes murdering someone with a giant, plaster, penis. The penis belongs to the cat lady, a collector of strange erotic art and, unfortunately the owner of a home broken into by Alex De Large. The cat lady responds to the break in by assaulting Alex with a Beethoven bust. Alex responds by beating her to death, delivering the coup de grace with whatever happens to be closest and easiest to grab, in this case an oversized, rocking dick.
For the most part Unfaithful is a slow boil drama about a marriage falling apart, but in one brief, horrible moment, the movie gives itself over to violence. Richard Gere's character Edward arrives in Paul's (Olivier Martinez) apartment and finds a snow globe he gave to his wife (Diane Lane), confirming his suspicion that they've been carrying on an affair. Shocked, the normally mild-mannered Edward clocks Paul over the head with it, killing him. Not just content to be kitschy mementoes or somewhat obvious symbols of a marriage gone cold, in this movie, snow globes can KILL.
There Will Be Blood
In an outstanding movie full of great scenes, this is the one that became iconic because it's completely insane. Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) taunts Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) about having taken all his family's oil-- yes, yes, he drank his milkshake-- but then he really goes for it, taking one of the pins from his indoor bowling alley and beating Eli to death with it. It's a movie full of symbols, but I'll be damned if I know what a bowling pin symbolizes here, beyond Daniel Plainview's complete, bloody descent into madness.
Friday the 13th, Part V
Most people throw a belt around their waist to keep their pants up, but not Jason Voorhees. His pants stay up firmly on their own, leaving his belt free to be wrapped around his victims heads and cranked so tightly with a stick that they're left looking like a demented LeVar Burton. The endless slew of machete deaths is happily broken up by this, one of Jason's masterpieces.
Film geeks who heard stories about projectionists killed in infernos in the old days were perversely delighted to see Shosanna (Melanie Laurent) use the power of film, quite literally, to kill a whole theater full of Nazis while she had the chance. Tarantino filmed the giant pile of film reels beautifully, of course, making them look all shiny and deadly sitting there so quietly next to a lit cigarette. The Nazi propaganda movie onscreen may have been what they thought would be the most powerful, but never underestimate the power of an angry Jewish girl with a knowledge of explosives.
Sometimes it’s not the actual killing that permanently ingrains a film murder in your mind, it’s the image of the aftermath. Poor Jimmy Howell gets the most gruesome facial piercing in history when Michael Myers jams a hockey skate into his face in Halloween: H20. The result is so grisly, I bet you forgot the man done in by the skate blade is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Funny thing is, he still looks better skate-in-face than he does all suited up as The Doctor in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
The Chronicles of Riddick
Monty Python's Holy Grail
They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but in Monty Python and the Holy Grail the French serve revenge up with a lengthy round of taunting followed by the vicious airborne return of Sir Bedevere’s hastily constructed wooden rabbit. The French have wicked aim with their catapults and their dead-eyed gunner successfully lands the knights' oversized Trojan contrivance smack on top of a loyal, coconut wielding page. In the process of slaying a page we must also presume that along with him, they murder at least one knight’s horse since the gentle clip-clop of one loyal steed’s hooves is never heard again. That rabbit’s dynamite.