The headline photo of this article from Friday the 13th Part 3 looks really fake. But in the early 80s… yeah, it still looked pretty unconvincing. That being said it was in 3D and everyone wearing those uncomfortable glasses screamed (then laughed) watching that scene in the theater. It was pretty cool.
As times have changed so too are the ways filmmakers create special effects. Since the scenes in the list below involve the head, you couldn’t put the actor in danger just to get the shot. That means practical effects engineers have to come up with something to pull off the gag.
Final Destination 2
Driving behind logging trucks became an instant trigger after the release of Final Destination 2. The massive highway pile-up premonition is one of the most memorable in the franchise.
Poor officer Thomas Burke can’t avoid a spilled log as it crashes into the driver’s-side windshield and ultimately through his head.
Friday the 13th Part 3
Although the gimmick looked cheap (as mentioned above), there was a lot of work that went into 3D movies from the 80s. Filmmakers had to invent ways to make it work even if that included ruining the effect because of exposed fishing wire or other visible gadgetry.
Let’s face it, the tech was rudimentary. However, that didn’t stop us from paying money to see it, and when we learned that Friday the 13th III was going to use this contrivance, we leaned into the hype.
There were a few great moments in the movie, including this one where poor Rick got his skull crushed by Jason. It may look cheesier now than it did then, but it was one of the highlights of the movie.
Talk about movie buzz, perhaps this is the most memorable of all the horror movie head trauma. When Scanners was released in 1981 it was actually the cover of Fangoria magazine that spoiled this effects showstopper for everyone.
The issue, although hidden in the 18 and over section of bookstores, gave away the classic Cronenberg ending with the image of a headless torso emitting smoke and viscera.
That image alone got the public interested in this movie and they weren’t disappointed when they finally got to see the film and this famous scene.
Planet Terror (2007)
This jump scare comes out of nowhere, and it was a bit emotional because the character was pretty cool.
Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror has some great special effects, but since it is an homage to schlocky grindhouse movies of the 70s the viewer is never sure if the director meant some of them to resemble the low-budget feel of that period.
That anxiety was triggered even further by the unexpected and realistic death of Abby (Naveen Andrews) in the film.
Ari Aster’s masterpiece is all about head trauma. So it would be remiss to not include the centerpiece, and most memorable plot twist, that of Charlie being decapitated by a telephone pole.
The scene is so unexpected and tragic, it was all anyone could talk about following its release. To avoid spoilers, when people discussed the movie, they would refer to it as “that scene,” and if you knew, you knew.
The Thing (2011)
This poor movie never gets the love it deserves, mostly because people didn’t know if it was a remake, a reboot, a requel? But it stands on its own as a fearsome entry into The Thing universe with some great special effects, both practical and digital.
If you are a diehard fan of the original you can appreciate what director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. was trying to accomplish here, which was to try and capture the anxious tension of the original but also give fans what they really came for: the gore!
Deadly Friend (1986)
Deadly Friend: Warner Bros.
Raise your hand if you miss Wes Craven. Move over M3GAN, there was a killer “robot” way before your circuits were built. Her name was Sam and although she was born human (she is resurrected via a microchip), her skills are just as murderous and R-rated.
Coming off her role as the slapstick villain in the pirate adventure film The Goonies, distinctive actress Anne Ramsey was cast as a serious villain in Deadly Friend. It was a little disturbing to see her death scene in the latter film after her comedic performance in the former.
Watch out PG-13 M3GAN, there was an R-rated version of you back in 1986.
There is so much body horror in the Saw franchise, it’s hard to pick just one. As far as horror movie head trauma goes, this makes the list because of its uniqueness and effect.
Detective Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) gets the evil plan re-cap from Logan (Matt Passmore) just before his head gets split open by lasers.