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Monday, October 2, 2023

Saddest Horror Movie Deaths of All Time

Horror films are nothing if not a group of characters that grows smaller as the narrative progresses. Of course, they can also be much more, but particularly when it comes to slashers that core truth will stay the same.



And, as with any film of any genre, some characters are going to be more likable than others. This makes it tough for horror fans; they need a body count to feel like they got their money’s worth but it can be so upsetting when a likable, even lovable, character bites the bullet…or feels the knife.

20 Annie Brackett

Halloween (1978)

Compass International Pictures

Halloween may have been bigger for Jamie Lee Curtis than any other cast member, but there’s much to be said for Nancy KKyes’s(then Nancy Loomis, ironically sharing the same last name with Donal Pleasance’s character) performance as Annie Brackett. As the sheriff’s daughter, Annie almost feels a little safer in the film than her peers…but that ends up not being the case.

Annie goes to her car in the garage, hoping to drive to her boyfriend’s house. But, as she sings to the audience, her keys are not on her person. However, when she returns to the car, she seemingly forgets her predicament and opens the door. But, she doesn’t need a key. And that’s because Michael has positioned himself in the back seat, butcher knife in hand.

19 Annie Phillips

Friday the 13th (1980)

Annie in Friday the 13th

The Friday the 13th franchise is like many other slasher IPs, there are early victims and final girls, with much more death in between. And, in the case of Friday the 13th, its first final girl, Alice, comes back not only in Friday the 13th Part 2 (briefly, a traumatic kill in and of itself) but Peacock’s Crystal Lake as well. However, that will make sense remains to be seen.

And, like Halloween before it, Friday the 13th gets rid of the ‘Annie’ character pretty quickly. That said, there’s an argument to be made that, while Brackett’s a great character, the protracted chasing and subsequent murdering of the chipper and sweet Annie Phillips is far more devastating. For anyone who believes all of Friday the 13th‘s characters to be the same (AKA just fodder), Phillips shows that, yes, some characters can be more likable and feel more real than others.

18 Jack Burrell

Friday the 13th (1980)

Friday the 13th 1980
Paramount Pictures

It doesn’t get more iconic than Kevin Bacon’s death scene in the original Friday the 13th. It’s also so well-constructed that the viewer, ostensibly knowing what’s coming to some extent, is forced to sit and watch as Jack, relaxed post-coitus, lights up a joint and sighs. Then, from below the bed, an arrow.

What’s so great about the bunk bed death sequence is that it’s prefaced with the reveal that not only is Jack’s pal Ned dead, but his body is lying on the top bunk. And, below the lower bunk: Mrs. Pamela Voorhees. For Kevin Bacon fans, this is the ultimate, and it’s never short of devastating.

17 Mark Jarvis

Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

mark in Friday the 13th Part 2
New Line Cinema

The Friday the 13th films can be brutal, it comes with the bloody territory. But, there’s an argument to be made that Friday the 13th Part 2 contains the apex of the franchise’s cruelty.

Specifically, the wheelchair-using Mark, a severely wounded athlete with a pure heart of gold. Many find Part 2 superior to the original, and it’s a fair argument. At the very least the first sequel has more guts.

16 Tina Gray

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Tina's death from A Nightmare on Elm Street
New Line Cinema

Wes Craven’s seminal A Nightmare on Elm Street has lost none of its power in the ensuing decades since its release. And, like Psycho before it, the film starts with a protagonist-related misdirection.

The audience is led to believe that Amanda Wyss’ Tina Gray is going to guide them through the rest of the film. But, after discussing her nightmares with her three friends, she becomes Freddy Krueger’s first onscreen victim. The brilliance of the scene’s construction (done via a rotating room) is impressive, and only emphasizes the emotional effect of the sequence.

Related: 15 Horror Movies That Are Basically All Jump Scares

15 Sara Parkington

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

Sara in Friday the 13th The Final Chapter

If there’s a most famous installment of the Friday the 13th saga, it’s Joe Zito’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. It’s John Hughes meets Jason Voorhees, and the cast seems fully on board for that. Is it hard to watch performers as talented as Crispin Glover and the ever-underrated Judie Aronson die? Absolutely. But, there’s one character in the film who reads as so organic to real life, so believably compassionate and insecure, that to watch her death sequence is traumatic.

That said, there’s one aspect to Sara’s (Barbara Howard) final sequence that nearly tanks the whole thing. Jason throws an axe through the front door of Sara and her friends’ rental house. The shot clearly shows the axe bashing through the door at just about head level, yet when Sara falls back the axe is in her chest. It’s an unfortunate distraction, but it only does so much to distract from the impact of the scene.

14 Nancy Thompson

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Nancy in Dream Warriors

An incredible sequel horror or otherwise, Chuck Russell’s phenomenal A Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors is genuinely as great as a Freddy Krueger sequel can be. A big part of that is the return of Nancy Thompson, especially considering it’s obvious from the character’s first frame that Heather Langenkamp still has a full hold on her character.

Nancy wouldn’t make it to A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, and that’s what makes her role in Dream Warriors extra special. The filmmakers knew she was the heart of the franchise, but they also knew that to kill her off would give the third film just that much more oomph.

13 Will Stanton

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

will in Dream Warriors

The casting director of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors did a lot of favors. From the return of Langenkamp and John Saxon to the cheeky cameo from Dick Cavett and Zsa Zsa Gabor (not to mention an early role for Laurence Fishburne).

But the best new addition is Ira Heiden’s skinny-as-a-rail Will Stanton, someone who in the 1980s would most likely be ascribed the name ‘Geek.’ But, of course, he’s so much more than that harmless characteristic…he’s also a hero. After all, like Jennifer Rubin’s Taryn White, he takes Freddy head-on. Unfortunately, also like Taryn, he doesn’t make it.

12 Rick Johnson

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

Rick ANOES 4

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master‘s Andras Jones may on the surface appear to be nothing more than a Christian Slater lookalike, but he brings a lot of depth to the role of Rick Johnson. As a whole, The Dream Master is an admirable expansion of the ANOES IP, and it does stand as one of the franchise’s best films.

What helps set it apart outside of more elaborate set pieces is the dynamic between Rick and his sister, Alice. The viewer truly believes them to be siblings thanks to the chemistry between Jones and Lisa Wilcox. So, to watch one-half of the duo die is to feel the other’s pain for the remainder of the film.

11 Rachel Carruthers

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

Rachel in Halloween 5

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers seems to do everything in its power to undo each interesting new direction Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers took the franchise. For instance, the fourth installment’s sincerely lovable protagonist, Rachel Carruthers.

She may only be the adoptive older sister of Jamie Lloyd Strode, but Rachel is all in, regardless of blood relation. And, just as she’s an integral part of the fourth installment, Rachel is positioned to be a major part of the fifth. But it’s not to be, as the film dispatches of her after about 20 minutes, and it never recovers from there.

Related: 12 Gory Vampire Movies with No Time for Romance

10 Gage Creed

Pet Sematary (1989)

Dale Midkiff and Miko Hughes in Pet Sematary.
Paramount Pictures

Mary Lambert’s suitably creepy Pet Sematary is bolstered by two performances, and they’re from performers of wildly different ages. They also just so happen to play the narrative’s two doomed characters.

The Munsters‘ Fred Gwynne portrays Jud Crandall, the elderly man who lives across the (dangerous) street from the Creeds. And, while it’s surely tough to watch Crandall have his ankles slit, it’s infinitely harder to watch baby Gage Creed wander out into the road, which has an eighteen-wheeler barreling down it.

9 Tatum Reilly

Scream (1996)

Dimension Films

Every character in Scream, even the two killers, has a degree of individualized likability. But, outside of killer Stu, there’s no character in the original film more likable than Rose McGowan’s Tatum Reilly.

Outside The Silence of the Lambs, Scream is the definitive ’90s scarer, and a major factor is just how real the characters feel. The more real they seem, the harder it is to watch them die, and thanks to Ghostface and a garage door, Tatum’s death is a brutal one.

8 Randy Meeks

Scream 2 (1997)

Randy Meeks Scream 2
Craven Films

Easily one of the best horror sequels to ever hit the silver screen, Wes Craven’s Scream 2 is barely as solid as his arguably perfect original. But it wouldn’t be that way if it didn’t bring back the first film’s adored characters…e.g. Jamie Kennedy’s film-savvy Randy.

Randy has an even bigger role in the second film than he does in the first, teaming up with Dewey and Gail to effectively progress the narrative. But, midway through, once Randy walks beside the wrong white van, Mrs. Loomis ensures his role in not just the film, but the franchise as a whole is over.

7 Helen Shivers

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Helen in a scene from I Know What You Did Last Summer
Columbia Pictures

If there’s a ’90s cast better than Scream or I Know What You Did Last Summer, one would be hard-pressed to find it. For instance, Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Sarah Michelle Gellar, whose characters got unfortunate send-offs in both Summer and Scream 2.

In the case of I Know What You Did Last Summer, she portrays beauty queen Helen Shivers. About two-thirds through the film, the Fisherman chases Helen through a department store, a parade, and, finally, an alley. It’s a sequence about five minutes in length and is a stretch of the film that’s unbearably tense.

6 Darry Jenner

Jeepers Creepers (2001)

Justin Long in Jeepers Creepers
United Artists

Justin Long has gone on to be a very reliable presence in Hollywood, and it all started with Jeepers Creepers. Victor Salva’s film is wildly inventive as if it were a Texas Chainsaw movie with a supernatural twist, but what makes it (especially the first 40 minutes) work as well as it does is cast chemistry.

The Creeper is a legitimately great horror creation, but he’s never as compelling as the organic dynamic between Gina Philips and Long’s Trish and Darry Jenner. The duo seem like genuine siblings, so the audience feels Trish’s devastation when the Creeper blasts out of a window, with Darry in his arms. Then, the film ends with a great shot: Darry’s skinned face, with the eyes removed.

Related: 30 Scariest Movies Ever Made, Ranked

5 Chrissie

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)

Jordana Brewster and Matt Bomer in Texas Chainsaw Massacre The Beginning

An underrated installment of its franchise, Jonathan Liebesman’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is also especially well-cast. For instance, protagonist Chrissie, who is played by The Fast and the Furious‘ Jordana Brewster.

Chrissie sure seems like she’s going to escape Leatherface and his wacky family. But, as she drives away from their death house, she looks in the rearview mirror to see an unannounced passenger. It’s a wonderful button scene, and it sends the audience away with a deeply unsettled feeling. Toss in the fact that Brewster was the film’s most recognizable cast member at the time and arguably since, and her unpredictable death sequence gains a whole new level of surprise.

4 Jenna

Friday the 13th (2009)

Jenna Friday the 13th 2009

Marcus Nispel’s Friday the 13th managed to not only breathe some financial life back into the franchise but surprise ticket buyers as well. Mostly, by dispatching the protagonist, Jenna (Danielle Panabaker, terrific in every scene).

Jenna dies in the film’s third act, and suffice it to say it must be the most surprising death of the entire franchise. The IP has its merits, but if it’s anything it’s predictable. Nispel’s remake changed that, and the character’s empathy that Panabaker never stops short of effectively selling makes her dispatching all the worse.

3 Eddie Kaspbrak

It Chapter 2 (2019)

Eddie fights a creature in It Chapter Two

Andy Muschietti had a major task ahead of him when it came to adapting the latter half of Stephen King’s It. But, all told IT Chapter 2 does as good a job with the inferior material as can be done. The key is casting, and for the most part, the adult versions of the characters are perfect.

This is particularly true of James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Jessica Chastain, and Sinister‘s James Ransone as the doomed Eddie Kaspbrak. Like in the novel and the 1990 miniseries, Kaspbrak is one of the story’s more beloved characters, and it’s always sad to read/see him die. As is the case in the miniseries and novel, the character dies in the third act, once the story has pretty much jumped two entire sharks to include a Spider-It.

2 Cameron Elam

Halloween Kills (2021)

cameron halloween
Universal Pictures

Cameron had a nice little two-film arc in David Gordon Green’s rebooted trilogy of the Halloween franchise. And, while he’s set up in the first film as a major enough character to last three installments, he does not.

The character is brutally murdered by Michael in front of his girlfriend, Allyson Nelson, at the tail end of the particularly violent Halloween Kills. It’s an event that changes Allyson, especially in Halloween Ends. But at least Cameron goes out a hero, as he distracts Michael long enough for Allyson to get towards the front door of the Myers house, where her mother will soon be holding Michael’s mask as a further distraction. And, like Cameron, it’s only but so much time until that distraction turns into their demise.

1 Dewey Riley

Scream (2022)

David Arquette as Dewey in Scream 5
Dimension Films

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett did an incredible job with 2022’s Scream reboot, crafting a film that makes the viewer feel like Wes Craven never left the Earth. And, while the new characters of Sam and, especially, Tara Carpenter are fantastic additions to the franchise, it’s a legacy character who steals the show.

David Arquette gives his all to Scream (2022), delivering a performance that’s greater than his work in the first four films combined. Why he hasn’t blown up a bit since the film’s release is a mystery. Dewey is the heart of the fifth installment, the one who makes feel audiences comfortable even as the series is presently changing its course, emphasizing the presence of new characters. And watching him die with the Ghostface line “Yes, today!” is both instantly iconic and heartbreaking.

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