• Editorial

The Museum of Killer Things - Matt Butler

Which of your possessions might be planning your murder…

Zombies? Seen it.

Ghosts? Boring.

A pair of jeans that will rip you apart limb from limb? Okay, now we’re talking!

That’s right, today marks the release of Shudder’s newest original film: Slaxx. (18th March) This Canadian horror comedy sees the employees and customers of a trendy clothing store fight for their lives against a pair of possessed jeans… No, I am not making this up.

It may surprise you to discover that horror movies based on killer objects are not all that uncommon. There is an entire subgenre dedicated to these inanimate antagonists. And no, I don’t just mean that basement in Cabin in the Woods; I am talking about when the object itself comes to life, grabs a weapon and decides to gouge your fucking eyes out.

So, sit back, relax and let me talk you through some of the most prolific objects in my killer cabinet of curiosities…

1. Toys

Every kid dreams of their toys come to life, but as horror has tried to warn us; this might not be as fun as it sounds. From ventriloquist dummies to ‘Gwendy’ dolls, we have seen what happens when toys turn on their owners – I guess we can’t all have friends like Woody and Buzz.

The most famous example of this has got to be Mr Charles Lee Ray himself, aka Chucky the Doll. Starring in 7 movies and a reboot, this is not the type of doll you want to snuggle whilst you fall asleep. Trapped inside the body of a ‘Good Guys Doll’, this notorious serial killer is simply trying to transfer his soul back into a human body. He just so happens to kill anybody who gets in his way – which even includes Britney Spears, who literally got in his way and was ran off the road in 2004’s Seed of Chucky.

But it’s a doll! How dangerous could it really be? Well, this cheeky little fella has been known to get creative when it comes to the art of murder. Alongside girlfriend Tiffany, whom he also tricks into inhabiting the body of a doll, the couple has one hell of a portfolio. Lawnmowers, mirrored ceilings and yoyos are just some of the ways this pint-sized pair have finished the job. You may want to think twice about that teddy sitting in the corner of your room, as most victims of this dangerous doll duo tend not to realise they are in any danger until it’s simply too late to do anything about it.

2. A Car

Any car owner will tell you there's been times when it feels like their vehicle has a mind of its own; whether it’s the radio skipping, the windows opening or that you could’ve sworn you parked it on the other side of the road… These vehicles are dangerous enough with a person behind the wheel, and with technology advancing it won’t be long until we have cars that can ‘think’ for themselves. Anyone with an education in horror can tell you why that’s a bad idea with just one simple word – Christine.

Made to order in Autumn Red, this 1958 Plymouth Fury was seemingly bad from first assembly. With little explanation as to what Christine is, or what evil spirit may possess her (Although the original novel has a different explanation, with the car’s demonic behaviour due to possession by previous owner, Roland D. LeBay’s evil spirit) she appears to have a vampiric nature, feeding on the adoration, love and obsession given from her owner

The brainchild of horror mastermind, Stephen King, Christine is not the type of car you want to fender bender. Pissing her off, or slandering her owner, will result in your death at the ends of this four-wheeled menace. She will choke you, crush you or fling you through her windshield and repair herself before anyone even notices she was gone. Once she has you in her crosshairs, you are never safe again.

Although defeated during her story, both the novel and film adaptation are left open ended, with it heavily hinted that Christine is not finished with these pesky teenagers just yet. So, if you ever see an Autumn Red 1958 Plymouth Fury driving down the motorway, be sure to keep two seconds behind… in fact maybe make it more like 3 or 4 just to be safe!

3. Hair Extensions

Yep. There is an entire film out there about killer hair extensions. And you know what the craziest thing is? It’s actually not a bad film.

Coming from Japan and staring Chiaki Kuriyama – that’s the infamous GoGo Yubari to you Tarantino fans – ‘Exte’ tells the story of a young hairdresser unknowingly accepts hair extensions from a man who harvests the hair from the inside of a corpse. And yes, I said from INSIDE the corpse.

In true J-Horror fashion, the hair is attached to the vengeful spirit of a young woman who was trafficked for her organs. Despite being dead, the woman’s hair continues to grow and not just out of her head but her eyes, tongue and open wounds. The hair grows at exceptional rates and scalps, chokes and devours anyone who encounters it. She seeks to settle the score with those who killed her and will stop at nothing until she has justice.

This is perhaps one of my favourite films on this list and deserves more credit, as it sounds a lot more ridiculous than it actually is. Hair is such a key element in other horror movies from the far east and has become an icon of J-Horror to the western world. This film really utilises and pushes that to the extreme, and it doesn’t feel as silly watching it as it might sound on paper.

4. A Tyre

An independent satire hailing from France and set in the Californian desert; Rubber tells the story of Robert, a tyre who one day comes to life for seemingly no reason whatsoever.

I hear you! You understand how Christine could do it, she’s a whole damn car - but Robert? He’s a bit of rubber, what could he possibly do to hurt you? Well, I may have forgotten to mention that the sentient tyre has telekinetic powers that he uses to blow your head off…

The film purposefully provides little explanation as to what, why or how Robert came into being, but there is definitely an air of innocence about the fella. We watch as he discovers the world for the first time in an almost childlike way, learning how to roll and crush things beneath him. When he comes across something his little rubber body can’t crush, he discovers his powers in what could be viewed as a tantrum. He becomes infatuated with a pretty girl and decides to follow her, causing death and destruction that attracts the attention of local law enforcement.

There is something very juvenile about this character and by the end of the story Robert even evolves into a tricycle – I told you it was a weird film. The story has a very self-aware feeling, and even features its own in-story-audience commenting on the absurdity of the situation. It’s hard to tell if this film is extremely clever or dumb as fuck but it is absolutely worth the watch for anyone looking for something outside of the box.

5. A Scarecrow

Personally, I fucking hate scarecrows. There is nothing scarier to me than being on a dark farm with one of these bastards looming over you. Films with a rural setting often use these effigies to put an audience on edge, as we can never be sure what is actually staring at us through the cornfield. In fact, THAT scene from Jeepers Creepers 2 lived rent free in my mind throughout most of my teenage years, and I still can’t look a scarecrow in the eye.

Whilst the Creeper was just cosplaying, there are numerous films that feature animated scarecrows with a thirst for blood. Films such as ‘Scarecrow’ – duh – ‘Husk and ‘Dark Harvest’ all have characters which get brutally butchered by these straw men. However, very often these are not actual scarecrows, but possessed corpses dressed to look as such.

One recent example where this is not the case is 2019’s ‘Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark’. Although Harold the scarecrow is not the film's main antagonist, and only presents a danger to one character, he is still pretty damn terrifying. Whilst delivering eggs to a neighbour in the dark, Tommy soon realises he is being stalked by his family’s scarecrow, Harold. He fights back, but it’s hard to kill something that is made of straw, and Tommy is swiftly stabbed with a pitchfork.

Now, technically this isn’t what kills Tommy, as the boy begins to vomit straw and subsequently becomes a scarecrow himself. Harold seemingly causes this transformation by attacking him, which is why I chose to keep him on this list. After all, being unable to move or talk; and having to spend the rest of your days watching your family search for you when you are right in front of them is a fate way worse than death. I mean talk about a bad case of hay fever…

And the scariest thing of all? If Tommy took Harold’s place as the scarecrow, then where the hell did Harold go? Which is why I will be avoiding farms for the foreseeable future, thank you.

6. A Laundry Press

Okay, I’ll be honest with you here – I didn’t really know what a laundry press was before I wrote this. But from my research it appears to be a fancy appliance that removes the wrinkles from clothes – and no I don’t mean an iron. Often referred to as a ‘mangle’, this was basically two rollers that you would crank clothing through to flatten and fold them. Now imagine cranking a human body through it and we have ourselves some nightmare fuel.

This is another one from the haunted mind of Mr Stephen King, and inspired by his time working in an industrial laundromat. ‘The Mangler’ told the story of a demon who possessed a laundry press and waits for you to get a little too close. Ready to crush you between its rollers, this machine seemed to operate on pure bloodlust with no clear goal in mind other than to feed.

Pretty simple right? Just stay away from the machine and you’ll be fine? Wrong! This thing doesn’t always stay put and has been known to venture out of the laundromat in search of its next meal…which honestly just sounds like the maddest thing you could happen upon during your daily lockdown stroll.

Your best bet against this one is to simply strike up a deal with the demon. You might want to start considering which of your friends you like the least, as this demon does accept life for life trades. The Mangler has also been known to help you out from time to time, and your financial situation could improve dramatically provided you give up your teenage daughter - Now I think about it, are we sure the demon isn’t just Prince Andrew?

7. An Entire House

If you decide to build your house up on a haunted hill or on top of an ancient Indigenous burial ground, then odds are you are going to end up with a few paranormal visitors. The ‘Haunted House’ trope is a staple in the horror genre and often residents of the house find themselves tormented by the entities that lived there before them. But every now and then; it’s the house itself that fights back.

2006’s animated horror Monster House does exactly that, as DJ, Chowder and Jenny attempt to solve the mystery behind the ole’ Nebbercracker house. The trio get way more than they bargained for when the house literally lifts itself from its foundations and chases them down the street – you can see now why this worked better as an animation.

Like most things on this list, the house is of course possessed, or more specifically had a human soul merge with it. In this instance the soul being that of circus performer Constance the Giantess, who fell to her death and was encased in concrete in the unfinished basement.

The biggest difference between Constance and the rest of the items on this list is that she never technically kills anyone. Despite swallowing many characters throughout the film, we learn at the end that nobody actually died. But this was a kids’ film, so hey, what did you expect?

8. Everything Else

I couldn’t finish this list without bringing up a horror franchise that prides itself on the crazy and outlandish deaths that can happen with everyday household objects. I am of course talking about Final Destination.

The Final Destination series warns us of the dangers of cheating death and how it will always come back to find us in even more gruesome and undignified ways. This film franchise is responsible for people’s irrational fear of sun beds, logging trucks, laser eye surgery, nail guns and escalators, just to name a few. It features over 50 unique deaths over 5 separate movies and certainly sets the bar when it comes to creativity in terms of kills. You are never safe when death is coming for you, and characters can be killed off by something as simple as a pebble – literally.

These films remind us that everything is dangerous if used in the right – or wrong – way. In fact, no character in this series has survived once they have been marked for death. Even those that do manage to survive the film's run time are usually killed between films or in the following instalment – RIP Clear Rivers. Few things in this life are guaranteed, but as Final Destination proves, death is certainly one of them.

Slaxx is available to watch on Shudder UK from today. Do you think the super shaper jeans have earned their place in the cabinet, or will you be chucking them in the charity bin?

Matt Butler is an MA Screenwriting graduate and proud member of the LGBT+ community. Can be found on twitter @mjpbutler

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