Whenever I am at Todd’s house we’re doing one of a few things. Either we’re playing video games with the boy or we’re talking about movies and all things ScreenAnarchy. Last week I was in a mild state of panic because I hadn’t finalized my theme for this week’s ToM. Lots of ideas but nothing was crystal. So we brainstormed for a few minutes and came up with Death by Power Tools. No guns [per se]. No swords or knives [per se]. No human physicality. Nope, they got to be a blue collar man’s type of kill where death comes swiftly by means of electric motor, compressed air or combustible engine. They got to be kills that your drywall installing dad would appreciate at the end of the day when the dust had settled and he has a cold beer in one hand and the remote in the other. It’s time to man up! Death by Power Tool awaits you in Aisle 3 next to Home Electronics…
First I need to start with honorable mentions. One that immediately comes to mind is of course Ash and his chainsaw for a hand in the Evil Dead movies. It’s legendary in its own right but I mention this movie so much in my ToMs that its repetitiveness mildly dismisses it from the Top 5 this time. Todd brought up the skill saw kill in Ricochet, starring Denzel Washington and John Lithgow. I don’t remember much of it except I did see it during its theatrical run, so a foggy memory dismisses that from the Top 5. He also mentioned Commando and the scalping via the blade of a skill saw. Dismissed only because that was Todd’s idea and again memory of old school Ah-nold movies is grey.
Evil Aliens – Saying death by Combine Harvester would be really easy. The moment more suited to the theme came late in Jake West's splatter film when Candy Vixen, actress for hire, is trapped in a farm building with one of the welsh brothers. He can't use his bow and arrow very well and she has no more shells for her shotgun and they both keeping hitting the overhead lights, keeping them from getting in useful swings like clubs. She loses a shirt but by golly this brave girl keeps on fighting. Lord bless her, she tries to pick up a lawn mower, we think we know what's coming, but it is just too darned heavy and West is giving us a good tease. You would think it a shame, but wait. She backs up to a wall, looks to her left and glory be, it is a portable ground tiller. And she goes to town on the alien invaders tilling the fertile ground that is an alien chest while getting blasted with shots of blood. Hot chick. Hot blades. Hot blood.
Lethal Weapon 2 – Danny Glover is Roger Murtaugh in the second chapter of the famed late 80s buddy cop series Lethal Weapon. As his fellow squad members are being eliminated by the dastardly evil South Africans Murtaugh rushes home to review a video tape shot from his boat in the marina. The scene has been set up. We know that Murtaugh is currently working on an extension to his house over the garage. It looks so pretty at night, the bare incandescent bulbs shining brightly through the polymer plastic sheets. It's almost poetic. Introduce a South African baddie and power tool violence commences. Murtaugh and the baddie struggle and the fight moves to the new extension. The baddie comes at Murtaugh with a knife. With his free hand Murtaugh reaches for a nail gun and bingo, right in the third eye. Does it end there? Hell no. Another baddie reaches through the poly and tries to strangle him. Murtaugh nails him thrice in the chest. This really is riveting stuff.
Braindead – You cannot mention a lawn mower and not make mention of one of the greatest spectacles of bloody fluid expulsion ever committed to celluloid. In Peter Jackson’s Braindead, Lionel Cosgrove has tried his hardest to hide from everyone that his mom has become a flesh eating zombie thanks to a bite from Sumatran rat-monkey. But he’s got a bigger problem. He has his mom, a nurse, the local priest Father McGruder, their zombie love child and a local punk name Void, all zombified and locked up in the basement and his Uncle Les has brought some friends over for a party. Zombies escape, the zombie horde grows, and all a man has left to defend himself and save the life of the girl he loves is a lawn mover. Lionel straps it to his chest and proceeds to slip and slide through the zombie horde until they are a pile of mush as his feet. Classic.
Fargo – One of the great crime films of the 90s Fargo has a memorable moment as well. You know what is. Minnesota police officer Marge Gunderson comes upon Carl feeding his former partner Gaear’s leg through a wood chipper. Sure, the axe may have had something to do with the death part but when you get down to it disposal of the body is just as important as how you have ended the life that was contained in that giant meat bag. That bare foot just sticking up in the air, the plume of crimson snow from the chipper, that crunching sound. Coen films have this knack to lull you into a sense of calm and then they sock it to you with such violence. It's kind of like Kitano and his yakuza films where everything is stoic and quiet and then blam someone's getting shot in the face. In this case you're not expecting Carl to coming running out of the lakeside cabin and stick an axe in the neck of Gaear. And I don't think anyone was expecting to see him putting his weight on the lower leg of him when Officer Gunderson pulled up. Unforgettable.
UHF – Another of my ToM alumnus and not a clean kill but by golly is it a funny scene. Emo Phillips plays the role of shop teacher Joe Early in an episode of Town Talk on George Newman’s network Channel 62. During his demonstration of the table saw he also slices off his left thumb. Blood is squirting everywhere! In George's face. In Early's face. And Early starts delivering the one liners, “Just call me Mister Butterfingers” and “Is my face red”. Classic. I cry every time.