Jerome & Nick Argue the Greatest Movie Deaths for 'ABCs of Death 2'
by Alex Billington
October 28, 2014
In theaters this week is horror anthology sequel The ABCs of Death 2, featuring 26 short segments of wacky, grotesque, creative horror. Perfectly timed for Halloween along with the theatrical release of the film (currently available on VOD from Magnet Releasing) is the latest discussion point: what are the greatest movie deaths of all time? Have at it! In addition to our interview, we get to feature this fun discussion between filmmaker Jerome Sable and producer/writer Nicholas Musurca about what movie deaths they love. It starts with The Lion King and ends with Bambi, but there's some brutality discussed as well. Dive in.
Jerome & Nick are the filmmakers behind the segment "V is for Vacation" from ABCs of Death 2, which we teased with this exclusive first look photo. The two have written their own discussion about the greatest movie deaths ever, and beneath that we've added a video from Drafthouse featuring many of the other ABCs of Death 2 filmmakers' favorite death scenes, too. Chime in with your own thoughts in the comments below.
Jerome Sable: I think I speak for everyone when I say that the most horrifying movie death ever, in all of cinema history, is undeniably the death of Simba's father, Mufasa, in The Lion King. Once Simba is out alone, waiting in the gorge for his father, directors Allers & Minkoff waste no time before assaulting us with a terrifying wildebeest stampede, tapping into our worst fears about not only wildebeest but also the frenzy of Christmas shoppers, as they expertly combine the two familiar but disparate horrors into one unforgettable sequence. And then, as if possessing firsthand knowledge of our childhood nightmares (are these guys in my head?), Allers & Minkoff torture us by showing Simba, just rescued by Mufasa, witness with his own innocent eyes, his heretofore invincible father dragged back down into the swarm. Simba frantically scans the flurry of tramplers, but can't find Mufasa—and then suddenly, a wave of hope as Simba sees his father climb back up the cliff wall.
This is Allers & Minkoff at their most sick and depraved, since this joyful optimism they allow Simba in this brief moment is merely the filmmakers toying with us perversely, for this joy is soon to be crushed in the most sadistic of ways. Mufasa attempts climbing up the cliff wall, but his brother, Jeremy Irons, arrives to stop him, and in Irons' most chilling use of claws since disemboweling his twin brother with his custommade gynecology claws in Dead Ringers (what is it with Jeremy Irons and fratricide by claws?), Irons viciously digs his claws right into the top of Mufasa's paws, utters, “Long live the king!” and flings him off the wall, sending him to his demise. As Mufasa falls backwards to his certain death, he swats helplessly at the air, comforted only by the thought, perhaps, that he won't feel most of the wildebeest hooves stamping and punching his organs to a bludgeoned pulp because his spine will likely have snapped on impact as he hits the ground, removing most feeling below the neck.
But Allers & Minkoff aren't done—oh no, those ruthless masters of horror go further, as they force us now to watch Simba inspect his father's rotting corpse. Simba walks up to Mufasa's cold carcass and talks to his lifeless father, a child too young to understand death, alone in the perilous African desert, pleading with him to wake up. Of course, Mufasa does not wake up, and Simba is left staring at the stinking mass of fur and bones, a prepubescent child too young for his own good, left to be raised in the wild by Nathan Lane and his weird friend.
Even Shakespeare—the depraved mind who tortured us with a scene of two young teenagers poisoning themselves to death because of a silly misunderstanding—spared Hamlet of this horror when his uncle killed his father. Do these psychotic filmmakers have no mercy? Truly and undoubtedly, the most horrifying movie death ever.
Nicholas Musurca: Yes, The Lion King features a disturbing kill—but the movie itself is no more than a crass remake of David Hand's 1942 horror classic Bambi, a film that traumatized three generations of children with its elegantly brutal depiction of a mother's slaughter. For Jerome to discuss The Lion King without even mentioning Bambi is as ridiculous as praising Rob Zombie's Halloween without acknowledging John Carpenter. But of course Jerome Sable is the same person who once told me to skip Hitchcock's Psycho because "there's a newer version which is in color and has Vince Vaughn," so what can you expect?
Notorious for years after its release, Bambi was recirculated on VHS as a cult film in the 1980s, passed by hand from guilty parent to unwitting child, to be watched alone in a dark suburban basement. Can we not blame the woes of today's thirtysomethings, so reluctant to take on the mantle of parenthood, on this first experience of watching Bambi's mother die in the snow? In fact I suspect that Jerome's defiant choice of the The Lion King over Bambi—as well as his overall rejection of adulthood and responsibility—demonstrates his inability to grapple with this deep trauma inflicted on him at an early age. Also he generally refuses to watch films made before 1994 because they're “boring and slow and the effects look cheap."
And there is no question that Bambi employs restraint and deliberate pacing, waiting until almost fortyfive minutes into its running time to pull the rug out from under the audience. This vicious tonal shift—from frolicking deer to fullon horror—would not be surpassed in intensity for more than half a century, until the infamous final act of 1999's Audition. The kill itself lasts just over a minute, and is notable for its use of implied violence as well as one of the earliest uses of "stalker POV," a long shot from the perspective of the Nameless Hunter that slowly zooms in on its target and, in a stunning Brechtian confrontation that predates Michael Haneke's Funny Games, implicates an audience that may have just recently eaten a venison meal. "How does it taste now?" The director seems to ask this wellfed consumer family.
Most disturbing, perhaps, is the way that the killing blow falls offscreen, as Bambi abandons his mother to be shot again executionstyle and flayed by the hunter's knife, boiled and eaten in a remote cabin by vicious hillpeople, the product of generations of incest—or so we imagine, unlike the tortureporn excess of The Lion King, which makes its degradations explicit by showing everything. I wonder whether Jerome hesitates to cite this scene because he senses some parallel between Bambi's craven abandonment of his mother, and the way he left me at this warehouse party in south central Los Angeles, even though I told him that I didn't have a car and my phone was dying and I didn't even want to come out here in the first place, because seriously, you can't pick up girls by telling them you made a segment in the ABCs of Death, no one knows what that is.
Really, though, can someone come get me? I'm sick of writing this stupid blog and those guys over there are looking at me funny and my battery is running low. I'm not sure how long I can
Sent from my iPhone
Here's a look at more choices for all time favorite movie deaths in this Drafthouse Films video on Vimeo:
Listen to our interview with Jerome Sable & Nicholas Musurca here, watch the ABCs of Death 2 trailer here.
ABCs of Death 2 is the follow-up to the 2012 horror anthology ABCs of Death, with productions spanning from Nigeria to UK and everywhere in between. Alejandro Brugués, Bill Plympton, Chris Nash, Dennison Ramalho, Erik Matti, Evan Katz, Hajime Ohata, Jen and Sylvia Soska, Jerome Sable, Jim Hosking, Juan Martinez Moreno, Julian Barratt, Julian Gilbey, Julien Bustillo and Alexandre Maury, Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper, Lancelot Imasuen, Larry Fessenden, Marvin Kren, Robert Boocheck, Robert Morgan, Rodney Ascher, Soichi Umezawa, Steven Kostanski, Todd Rohal and Vincenzo Natali all directed segments in the sequel arriving on VOD October 2nd and limited theaters this Halloween, October 31st. Ready?