Tomorrow, we celebrate Thanksgiving...
...It's a time when we typically gather around the table with family, some of whom we don't even recognize. Aunt Whomever insists you look like shit and need to start sleeping more, while Grandpa rambles on about how social media is destroying the youth. But for horror fans, it's a time where we tend to remember the sickest, most depraved, stomach churning moments in horror history!
At least, that's what I do.
Set out on the table for you is part one of a list of some of the best "dinner scenes" in horror, ranging from the shocking to the sick and the truly bizarre. Horror has a long history of nasty dinner moments, so not all of your favorites will be here, but hopefully what I've listed is enough to satisfy that craving for some deliciously demented terror.
The Invitation - Cheers to Death
When all of us are finally out of quarantine, getting friends together for dinner is going to be an unbelievably satisfying moment, but it’s likely going to be a little awkward too. For fuck’s sake, we’ve all been locked indoors for the better part of a year and all probably look like bridge trolls with about as much charm as one too, and yes I am projecting, leave me alone!
One of the best films to capture that awkwardness of coming together with old friends is Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation, which sees a man named Will (Logan Marshall-Green) becoming reacquainted with his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and friends after a tragic incident split them up. With new boo Kira (Emaytazy Corinealdi) tagging along for support, Will expects the night to be awkward, but not this awkward. That’s because Eden and her new boo, David (Michiel Huisman) have become enthralled with a new belief system, aka, a cult, which they’re hoping to convert everyone into by the end of the night. All of which leads to a dinner scene so tense even stomachs are afraid to grumble for fear of breaking the silence, culminating in shocking chaos that will make you second think who’s preparing your food for you.
I imagine this is what it will be like for anyone going home to see cult-like, Trump-supporting family members for Thanksgiving, but hopefully with less murder.
Waxwork - The Sauce is to Die For
One food I will never understand: steak tartar. I get it. Some of you weirdos like your meat to still be breathing a little when you dig in. But I say get that shit away from me! Make my steak well-done. Burn it for all I care. But I do not want it still mooing when it goes in my mouth hole.
Which brings us to Anthony Hickox’s outrageous and creature filled Waxwork, which sees a group of teens who end up at a creepy wax museum run by David Warner, and find themselves transported into the waxy scenes depicted throughout. One of those unlucky souls is China (Michelle Johnson), who ends up at a dinner party with vampires, where questionable meat topped with red “sauce” is on the menu. I don’t care how good looking the host with his dreamy eyes is, when a stranger offers you mystery meat, you say forget the meal, let’s go back to your place instead! This isn’t hard, people.
Needless to say, watching China play with her “food” in this scene is enough to make anyone a vegetarian, if only for a day.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) - Look Who's Coming to Dinner with the Sawyers
Of course, I can’t have a “best dinner scenes in horror” list without mentioning what is potentially the greatest of them all, Sally’s (Marilyn Burns) introduction to the Sawyer family in Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre!
Few scenes in movie history have matched the utter insanity of this unforgettable moment. Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), the Hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) and the Old Man (Jim Siedow) are simultaneously the most obnoxious, rude and terrifying dinner guests to ever have a seat at the table. It isn’t just that they have Sally tied to a chair with armrests made of human arms, or that they’re serving her up meat that “might” be made from her friends while they contemplate how long to torture her before killing her.
It’s that everyone at the table is completely and utterly mad, including Sally at that point. And I don’t just mean in the film. I mean on set. During a commentary for Texas Chainsaw, Gunnar mentions how, by that point, the cast was so dehydrated from the heat and exhausted by the long hours, that they had all begun to lose it, to where Gunnar actually thought he was supposed to try to kill Marilyn Burns for a moment. That’s scary stuff, and that sleep-deprived insanity translates through to the screen to form one of the most uncomfortable depictions of Hellish madness we’ve ever seen.
Alien - Eating for Two
Don't you just hate it when it unannounced dinner guest pops in and spoils the meal?
Ridley Scott’s Alien was the first film to truly terrify me, and the adorably disgusting chestburster making a surprise dinner guest appearance is the one scene that forever haunts me. It’s one of those moments that reminds us how quickly horror can strike. One minute, you’re eating cheap, stale food with your friends, and the next, an alien is chomp-chomp-chomping through your ribcage and serving up your guts for dessert!
The agonized gasps of Kane (John Hurt). The high-pitched screech of Kane’s rib baby. The shocked faces of the cast as they waited for the alien to successfully pop out of Kane due to a happy accident on set that led to a more forceful burst of blood…all of it creates one of the most shocking moments in horror history, and one that I still think about every time my gut feels like it’s about to burst at Thanksgiving dinner.
Would You Rather - No Dessert Until You Kill The Guests
Okay, this is one is a bit of a cheat…sort of.
Iris (Brittany Snow), a desperate woman in need of cash to get her brother life-saving treatment, takes up an offer from so-wealthy-he-probably-uses-money-as-toilet-paper Shepard Lambrick (the great Jeffrey Combs), in which all she has to do is attend a dinner party. Piece of cake, right? Wrong. There sadly isn’t even any cake at this party.
Instead, Iris and the other guests are thrown into a sinister game of Would You Rather, in which they must make choices like whip someone else or take a whipping. Not an easy choice, especially when the person you have to whip is a sweet old lady. Would You Rather is really just one long, nightmarish dinner party to end all dinner parties, and further proof that if we don’t eat the rich, they’ll most certainly eat us, and laugh with a cigar in their mouth while doing it!
To be continued...
By Matt Konopka