by David Thomas October 26, 2022
Your favourite household tool has a dark side
Any fan of horror and action movies knows scissors can be absolutely lethal, even if it is a lot more common to go all slasher with a knife. We did some digging into some movie lore to pull some of the more colourful – i.e. bloody – cinematic uses of everyone’s favourite household tool.
One of the advantages of working scissors into your frightfest is it tends to be unexpected. A serious slasher psychopath tends to go for a knife as a weapon. Or maybe an axe, or chainsaw to mix things up. But scissors are usually something convenient that a character grabs in the moment, to escape a certain death. Call it a double-bladed deus ex machina.
We can start with a bad film, starring Sharon Stone and called, you guessed it, Scissors. Made in 1991, just before the pretty terrible but enormously popular Basic Instinct (to be fair, most horror movies are low-budget and pretty bad but the fun is finding your own favourite kind of trash, right?).
Scissors the movie is a bit of a warmup for Basic Instinct, but instead of stashing an ice pick in the bed to hack up a boyfriend, Stone’s character turns to a pair of scissors for defence when attacked in the elevator. The things we keep in purses … Scissors got zero critic reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and picked up an Audience Score of 31%.
We can’t do horror without referencing Hallowe'en and fans of the series will already know that the fifth movie is the one where Michael Myers finally gets to show off his scissor skills. If you like your horror a little more cerebral, look into Jordan Peele. In Get Out (2017), Peele introduced his own brand of social horror that blurred genres to critical acclaim – but without using even a single pair of scissors in the plot. He rectified that, to brilliant effect, with Us (2019).
We won’t give the plot of Us away here, but Peele mirrors the split nature of the twin blades with a twin set of our selves. These doppelgangers happen to have it in for us and they are not afraid to use gold scissors (which are some of the strangest - and likely most useless - scissors we've ever seen!).
Peele explains: “There’s a duality to scissors — a whole made up of two parts but also they lie in this territory between the mundane and the absolutely terrifying.” He draws on the imagery a lot and throws in another image to the mix – white rabbits. “They’re both scary things to me, and both inane things, so I love subverting and bringing out the scariness in things you wouldn’t necessarily associate with that.”
Some great uses of scissors as a murder weapon in movies also include the Alfred Hitchcock classic Dial M for Murder. More recently (2020), Unhinged proves yet again that having a pair of scissors handy can save your life, though, unlike Dial M for Murder, this pair doesn’t get the assailant in the back. (Scissors in the eyeball has become a bit of a screen trope.)
Fans of Klaus Kinski can get into some serial scissor murders with Schizoid (1980). Meanwhile, a gruesome scissor murder of a co-worker was one of many scenes that made Joker (2019) a super dark chapter of the Batman franchise that was 100% no longer okay for kids – and for many adults.
If you are a hard-core horror movie fan and want to dig, or slash, deeper, check out the Nightmare on Film Street podcast for more ideas. As the website notes, you might have to watch closely to catch scissors in a scene – but if you see them, you can be pretty sure you will see them used later to gory effect. “Whenever a pair of scissors enter the screen, I immediately tense every muscle in my body, waiting for them to snip flesh or enter an eyeball,” they write. “There is something so utterly disturbing about the sound of scissor blades slicing through skin.”
We managed to dig up three different horror movies that riff off of the game Rock, Paper, Scissors. We haven’t seen any of them, but a 2017 American film was creatively marketed with the tagline Rock, Paper … Dead! At least you know where that one is going. A 2012 Venezuelan film by that name was submitted for best Foreign Film at the 85th Academy Awards. (It didn’t get nominated.)
We will let others do the rankings of things to watch if you are ever on a scissor-themed horror kick. First, there is Nightmare on Film Street with its All Sliced Up 10 best uses of scissors in horror. It includes a Japanese film called Carved, for which the critic accords special mention for “its overall use of scissors.” We also like the fact they got Oldboy in there as well, as we are huge fans of Park Chan-wook’s revenge trilogy. (If you are after a lot of scissor shots, you won’t find it here: it’s overall use of scissors is minimal but super nasty. Highly recommended, but twisted.)
The Beyond the Void podcast offers their favourite “Scissor Slicing Scenes” with top scissor kills as well. There is a tilt to David Cronenberg movies, but some overlap with the first list above is a nod to Emma Thompson and her giant scissor sculptures in Dead Again. You gotta know, It’s only a matter of time before someone falls on them.
Last, a recommendation engine called BestSimilar.com has generated a “Best stabbed with scissors movies” list (horror and non horror). We remember a nonfatal accident involving lefty scissors in Moonrise Kingdom, but for fans of Wes Anderson and scouting who don’t like violence, we can heartily recommend this quirky and charming coming-of-age film.
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