There are plenty of distressing stats in the world indicating how many televised and filmed deaths the average American child sees before they're six. The word “desensitized” isn't used in too many sociological discussions these days, but the discussions of how many deaths children should see is still on everyone's lips. Especially media watchdog groups and hysterical politicians.
Me? I saw plenty of deaths as a kid. As a young boy, I regularly watched Star Trek, and it didn't take me long to recognize what happened to every redshirt. I saw people get phasered often, and I even recall with mild horror that one episode wherein a woman was dehydrated into a spongy polyhedron, and then crushed in the fist of a malevolent alien. But that's the thing; no one ever died in usual ways on Star Trek. It was either death by ray gun, mind control device, colossal negative space wedgie, or android. Few were stabbed with knives or shot with bullets. I had to go to horror films to see that sort of thing.
(Well, maybe not bullets. I wonder why so few people are shot to death in horror movies?)
The point is, while I have seen plenty of depictions of realistic and brutal death, featuring the requisite buckets of blood, rending, and decapitation, I have probably seen just as many deaths by… shall we say, “unusual means.”I once wrote an article on characters from movies who melt. Melting, dude. It happens more often than you think. People convert into puddles of goop. In real life, as far as I know, flesh doesn't melt. But it happens in movies a lot. I have seen people be converted into plants before (as in the two Troll movies). I've seen a pot of gold grow inside a man's body, causing his belly to become misshapen and distended.
Indeed, weird death happens more often than you would assume. Death, after you shoot hundreds of people, can seem oddly commonplace. What's to do, but invent new ways to die? And I don't just mean new ways to stop a person's heart from beating, but new, creative ways to mutilate a human body? Y'know, like magically? Ever see that scene in Warlock: The Armageddon, where Julian Sands transforms a guy into a miniature statue? How about in Hellraiser III where a guy gets CDs embedded regularly along his cranium?
The point is, even though we witness hundreds of murders on TV and in movies as children, I'm willing to bet the bulk of those are Weird Deaths. Deaths that cannot be recreated in your backyard. True, the meltings and transformations and absorption scenes disturbed the hell out of me (oh yes, I had nightmares galore after the basketball scene in Deadly Friend), but they were, I would argue, healthier viewing than watching a guy get shot in the head, blood spraying across the shooter's gleeful face. Weird Death, for however cartoonish and nightmarish it was, made death more abstract, and easier to accept for a kid.
Or at least is was a better way to scare us. Who, for instance, has ever forgotten this?
Keep an eye out for an infographic (put together by the The Cabin in the Woods people) here on CraveOnline on Wednesday the 11th. It will make explicit the stats of all the various forms of death on horror films over the years. The number of stabbings will, no doubt, be high. It's the 1% deaths I'm personally looking forward to.