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Forgoing the more traditional horror approach of having a masked maniac stalking clueless teens or a ghoulish apparition stacking chairs and making doors slam, films in this genre love turning something innocuous – inert, inanimate, safe – into a terrifying killing machine. The biggest advantage of this supernatural happenstance, on the entity’s end, is that you’ll never see it coming until it’s too late.
In this Friday’s Sinister, the demon known by name as Bagul lives through film and photographs, bringing to life a terrifying power from something supposed to be a (non-living) purveyor of warm and fuzzy memories and general entertainment. With found footage morphing into a terrifying power from beyond, let’s run down some seemingly insipid things to look out for if you find yourself in a horror film.
As seen in: Child’s Play, Dead Silence, Dolls
Strengths: The attack will likely happen when you are still sound asleep.
Weaknesses: At least you can fit their creepy asses in the microwave.
Perhaps the most simultaneously terrifying but relieving daily object that can come to life, the doll is half killing machine and half cuddly joke. The biggest advantage little teddy, Malibu Barbie or Furbee has is the element of surprise – you never suspect the doll until it’s too late (and even when you do it’s certainly not immediately intimidating).
But that advantage goes a long way, because when your toys start diving at you from out of the closet and clambering out of the toy chest with a large steak knife, you’re SOL. They also have the creepy propensity to slightly alter their originally adorable faces into a twisted-cutesy hybrid, representing the worst of Toys R Us-driven mayhem.
But 30 seconds on power level 7 should do the trick.
Ventriloquist Dummies and Puppets
As seen in: Pin, Dead Silence, Puppetmaster
Strengths: They’re like dolls…but to the max!
Weaknesses: If you’re lucky, they are linked to a more vulnerable human master.
Puppets, marionettes, ventriloquist dummies and all things similar — as with dolls — are a mixed bag of threats. On the one hand they often have their own evil powers (and creepy visage) not to mention an oft-insane or revenge-obsessed human pulling the strings, so to speak, which doubles both the general threat and the motivation for slaughter. However, more favorably, if you can get to the puppeteer they are usually much easier to dispatch of than the dummy. I would recommend something ironic like strangling them with the puppet strings.
Laundry Folding Machines
As seen in: The Mangler
Strengths: It’s the ultimate surprise when your laundry machine folds you instead.
Weaknesses: If you’re a guy you probably never do laundry anyways.
A bit of a niche category, I’ll admit, but I put the laundry folding machine just above dolls and dummies simply for that aforementioned element of surprise which far surpasses that of your childhood play things. I personally know of two or three people who are terrified of dolls and dummies, but I don’t know anyone who is terrified of a laundry machine (at least not peril-based fear, maybe the fear of doing actual work).
Sure dolls have legs that hypothetically could be used to scamper after you, but getting offed by a laundry machine is the ultimate insult. The Maytag of death also gets props for its killing potential. If it gets you, consider yourself, dare I say, pressed for time.
As seen in: Scarecrows, Jeepers Creepers II, Dark Night of the Scarecrow
Strengths: Even if you escape you have to clean up that straw…
Weaknesses: They don’t actually work so farmers tend not use them that often.
Scarecrows: the scorn from the corn. The problem with encountering a frisky scarecrow is that they are harder to kill. Both taller then dolls, more mobile than a laundry machine, creepier than a dummy and almost always impervious to gun shots, knives, drowning, blunt force, etc,, their only weakness is, obviously, fire, which unfortunately is generally hard to come across in a situation of panic.
But scarecrows are usually subject to irony, such as a rip in their clothes leading to a de-strawing and eventual collapse, crow attacks and vengeful farmers. My only advice? Don’t end up in a pumpkin patch at the climax of a fright flick, as I assure you, he’ll have the upper hand.
As seen in: Maximum Overdrive, The Refrigerator, Poltergeist, Pulse (1988)
Strengths: If you live in the developed world, you have way too may appliances.
Weaknesses: At least you can make a latté while you wait to die.
What appliances lack in raw killing potential they make up for in sheer volume – DVD players are spitting disks at you, the blenders got an attitude and the vacuum really sucks. True mobility is a bit of an impediment, but with Wal-Mart at its back you will inevitably have a bit of a panic on your hands. Thankfully, the only thing the West has more of than useless things are guns, and even a feisty toaster can’t survive a buck shot to the coil (but dammit why is the gun shop always next to the Best Buy?).
As seen in: Pet Semetary, Resident Evil
Strengths: Bark isn’t always worse than bite.
Weaknesses: You’re fine if you’ve only owned goldfish.
Aside from the extremely creepy appearance of a walking, rotting cat you, have to deal with both the emotional distress that comes with seeing your beloved Buster, Fluffy or Nibbles back from the dead, as well the obvious life-threatening issues that accompany an encounter with reanimated animals.
As you curse the neighbors down the street who have owned Great Danes all their life, make your way to the nearest vet ricky-tick and load up on all the syringes, pain killers and dangerous chemicals you can, teach those old dogs some new tricks and bury their fury behinds back in the ground.
As seen in: The Shining, The Haunting, The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist
Strengths: It’s not a sellers market.
Weaknesses: At least you don’t have to pay the rest of your mortgage.
When buildings come alive and start to mess around with the people inside them (either physically or psychologically), it’s just a matter of getting out. Unfortunately, those badass bungalows are pretty damn good at house arrest, and they often slowly – manically, methodically – ramp up the evil until it’s too late to realize what’s going on.
So hope you didn’t put shutters on the windows or have a long carpet in the hall and pray you have a cellar that takes you to the backyard. Setting fire to your abode is a good trick, so is rigging an explosion, but you need to make sure you can get the hell out of dodge before you go ripping the gas lines out of the stove.
As seen in: Mirrors, Candyman, Every Medicine Cabinet in a Horror Movie
Strengths: So many things can produce a reflection, and there’s bound to be some bad luck involved.
Weaknesses: Smashy, smashy.
The thing about mirrors — or reflections in general — is you can’t escape. Windows, water, metal, they all could harbor some terrifying evil. Unless you have a puffy room made of cotton balls you better grab yourself a hammer ASAP; you’re at the risk of both being pulled into the mirror, having something emerge from it and even if you make it to the end there is going to be a hell of a mess to clean up.
So band together, hope you have a stupid friend who gazes at his suddenly mesmerizing reflection long enough for you to escape, close your eyes, grab some baseball bats, tire irons and crow bars and run to the forest until the threat has passed. But for the love of god don’t take an idiotic aside for a dip in the lake.
Electronics and Film
As seen in: The Ring, FeardotCom,
Strengths: With quality programming like Jersey Shore and the sordid allure of the internet, what chance to we have?
Weaknesses: Though modern technology of this ilk is everywhere, all it takes is a heap of willpower. Your brother is in the next room, you don’t have to text him.
This age of information has left nothing to the imagination and the desensitization of modern society means we’re always looking for the next “new.” If someone gave you a video tape (or for more modern purposes a Blu-Ray disc) and said “hey, take this, but don’t watch it” what chance do we really have in the end?
Such is the very heart of this weekend’s Sinister, the furthered exploration into some disturbing film reels quickly reveal they should have been left well enough alone. Everything is available to us at the click of a mouse and if something evil is lurking within the code, it’s getting out and it’s getting everyone.
As seen in: “Of the Dead” Films, Resident Evil, Re-Animator
Strengths: They’re hungry, they’re creepy and they smell bad.
Weaknesses: The ol’ bullet to the head.
There are two kinds of corpse animation: the kind where the buried dead bust their boney asses out of their coffins, and the kind where people get bitten by some sort of infected individual, die and then come back to life soon after. Hope for the first. There is less likelihood you will get “infected” (or whatever) plus they’ll be all dried up and crusty so you can kill them with a sledge hammer much more easily.
If you’re not so lucky and get the worldwide pandemic typ,e then just do what everyone does: stockpile, hole up with a gang of amateur but surprisingly ace marksmen, and wait it out. And if you do get bitten make sure to go out in spectacular fashion (something along the lines of driving a gasoline tanker into a nuclear power plant).
As seen in: Maximum Overdrive, Christine
Strengths: They’re fast, they’re relentless, they can drive stick.
Weaknesses: Poor gas mileage.
I’m giving a very slight edge to the metal menace over the zombie apocalypse simply because of their tendency to never give up. Zombies don’t have a goal. They amble around aimlessly and if you play it smart you may survive, but the GM with the grudge will not give up, and eventually you will have to fight and 18 wheels always beats two feet.
Animated autos also have a duel weapon in that they can both crush you and strangle you to death with the seatbelt stealth style if you happen to be so unlucky. Other (un-possessed) cars can be a valuable weapon if you have an ace driver, or find yourself a shooter with a keen eye who can drain the metallic beast’s gas tank. Luring them to water can work, and popping the tires can slow them down, but everything depends on how wily it is. If it’s a Ford you may survive, but if it’s a Ferrari, arrivederci.
As seen in: The Ruins, The Happening, The Evil Dead
Strengths: Mother Nature is a real bitch.
Weaknesses: Global warming to the rescue.
Now nature as a whole is certainly “alive,” but far from universally animated. In the case where plants, trees or nature as a collective whole starts to fight back you’re pretty much *bleeped*. It feels no pain, nature is vast and strong, and we kind of rely on it for food. Sure we can burn down the rest of the rainforest, maybe pollute to the extreme in the hopes nature has asthma, but when push comes to shove we’re all going off the deep end.
All you can do is hope you have super special connections to a) a billionaire b) a genius inventor or c) a high ranking government official (note: if you’re part of the President’s family you’re golden) and say hello to your new home on Mars or in a secret underground installation with enough food to last a decade.