Every so often you’ll be watching a movie and all of a sudden somebody gets clipped. It’s a surprise for the viewer and generally more of a surprise for the movie character. Sometimes you might get tipped off a half second before the action takes place, but sometimes it comes out of the blue.
I decided to put together my list of top ten list surprises. It’s an utterly eclectic selection of memorable scenes from movies I’ve watched over the past several years. Just when you thought everything was Kool and the Gang . . . .you’re dead!
“Uh Oh, No Soda.”
This one of the early scenes in the atrocious, yet enjoyable Stephen King adaptation of “Trucks” called “Maximum Overdrive”. The basic premise is that a meteor passes by the Earth and all of the machines come to life and kill off their human oppressors. A little league softball game takes a break while the coach strolls over to a pop machine to get some refreshments for the kids. It has apparently malfunctioned after taking his money yet not producing any pops. He bangs and kicks it, but still no pop. He steps back a few feet to peer into the slot.
The first pop can shoots out at some absurd speed, nailing him square in the crotch. He doubles over and gets shot in the stomach. Sinking to his knees, his face is now in line with the dispensing slot. A great POV shot from the angle of the vending machine is used as the final killing can catches Coach right in the forehead, leaving a bloody circular impression about the size of the bottom of a pop can. I thought vending machines worked on some sort of gravity feed but Stephen King has proved me wrong.
Put a Fork in Him, He’s Done.
In the recent movie “Drive”, there is a scene towards the end where Bernie and Nino are discussing how to take care of business from here on in. The job’s gone wrong and they decide they need to get rid of everyone who knows anything. Cook happens to be in the room with them and he’s also unfortunately part of the team. In a brilliantly choreographed scene, Nino and Bernie decide on Cooks fate with no verbal communication. With just a few subtle facial movements and body language, Cook’s fate is determined.
The lack of dialogue and simple body language is pretty intense and gives us about half a second’s warning. Cook doesn’t even see this coming, pardon the pun, as Bernie comes at him from behind and stabs him in the eye with a fork. Not quite finished there, he grabs a huge kitchen knife and buries it to the hilt in Cooks neck. And then a few more times just for good measure. It’s a blinding flash of violence that is juxtaposed with the slow pace of the last few minutes of this great scene.
This one is from the movie “Taken”. Peter is one of the henchmen involved with kidnapping girls. Bryan (Liam Neeson) confronts him in a cab outside the airport. He kindly asks for information, but Peter is not forthcoming. Getting dragged out of the car by Peter’s accomplice gives Peter a few moments to run away – the wrong way up an off ramp.
At the top of the ramp in a move of sheer desperation, he jumps to the highway below, timing his landing on the top of a truck and rolling off to the pavement below. He looks up at Bryan, who is standing motionless, unable to make the jump.
“Man, that was close, almost got caught by . . . .” A blue truck appears out of nowhere and puts an end to that foot chase.
Before Matt Dillon got all cute and cuddly with “There’s Something About Mary”, he played a pretty decent villain in the 1991 version of “A Kiss Before Dying”. High on the roof of a building, Jonathan makes Dorothy sit on the ledge of the building. Looking down, she has seen a skylight roughly 20 stories below.
He briefly asks about her shoes before saying, “I’m sorry, Dorry. You only have yourself to blame.” Then shoves her over the side. She plummets 20 stories, through the skylight, then into what appears to be the lobby of the building. Some great camera work when her head makes contact with the tile, spraying blood and brain matter over an innocent bystander.
Oh Man, I Shot Marvin in the Face.
Pulp Fiction has some great moments, but none as good as this. Vincent and Jules are driving with Marvin in the backseat. They are having a philosophical debate about God’s intervention into the shooting that just took place back at the apartment. Vincent turns, resting his massive handgun on the back of the seat, to ask Marvin’s opinion. Just at the end of the question, the gun accidentally goes off, plastering Marvin’s brains all over the back window.
Dario Argento made some fantastic movies. Opera is no exception. The scene that stands out in this one (aside from the crow eating the eyeball) is where Betty is tied up by the murderer who tapes needles under her eyes, so she can’t blink. Her boyfriend comes back from making her a cup of tea to find her tied up. Confused, he slowly approaches her. As he gets close, a knife is thrust up into his neck so deep it ends up in his mouth. He drops to his knees and then gets absolutely butchered. Sadly, he gets killed to horrible 80s rock music which I don’t think he saw coming either.
Alien Chest Burst
This one has to be on the list because this scene was a total surprise for everyone in the room. The whole crew of the ship is sitting around the table having a meal. Everyone is in good spirits and Kane seems to have suffered no ill effects from his encounter with the “Face hugger”. Happy team, bonding together, breaking bread . . . .until Kane starts to cough and convulse, ending up on his back on the table as the alien punches through his chest and escapes into the ship. What a terrible way to end a meal.
Los Bastardos (The Bastards, 2008)
Most movies have elements of hope, aspiration, glory or triumph. This one wallows in misery and suffering. There is no redemption here at all. From the beginning it feels oppressive and hopeless. There are two elements of surprise that happen here. I need to set this one up a little bit. What’s important here is that the timing of this movie is incredibly slow. I mean really slow; the opening scene is one long shot of Fausto and Jesus walking down an empty flash flood catch basin. It takes 4 minutes – that’s practically an entire MTV video.
The first surprise is when Fausto blasts Karen with a shotgun. We know its coming because that’s what he was hired to do. However, the pacing is so slow that we don’t really ever expect to see it happen. When it does, it’s a complete shock as it’s such a huge contrast to the rest of the movie. Karen’s teenage son is really a non character in the movie – he simply isn’t there. Except near the end where he blows away Jesus. We don’t even see him until after Jesus is killed. Swift, uber-violence contrasted against the plodding pace is what makes this one so good.
Oh No, Not Leo!
I found The Departed to be just OK, nothing really stood out for me except one scene. The elevator door opens as Marky Mark, formerly of the Funky Bunch, is talking to Leo Decaprio. The doors slide open and suddenly Leo’s head disappears in a red mist. Poor Leo, he didn’t survive the sinking of the Titanic either.
I’m still undecided on the movie “Rubber”; I just don’t know what to make of it. One thing is for certain; it’s a highly unusual premise. A used tire comes to life and kills people with psychokinetic powers. What? Don’t over-think it. One of my favorite scenes is where the older guy accidentally hits the tire off the road with his truck. It catches up with him later at a gas station. And it’s pissed. The guy gets in his truck and closes the door to find the tire sitting outside his door, seemingly staring at him. The tire starts to shake and suddenly the guy’s head simply explodes. A lot of work went into this scene and a good amount of blood that was liberally sprayed around the inside of the cab.
That’s my list – let me know if something else should be included!