Sunday, April 24, 2011

Blades Don't Need Reloading

Guns aren't scary.

Are they dangerous? Well, duh. Are they responsible for gruesome ends? All the time. Would I be fearing for my life if one happened to be pointed in my direction with malicious intent? You bet your pet corpse. That doesn't make them scary though.

Not scary, unless we're talking about the haircut.

Guns just don't have that off-kilter vibe that makes other implements of death frightening. With a knife, you automatically have a number of creepy elements: it's invasive. It's personal. It's at point-blank range. It takes time and effort on the part of the attacker. With a gun, almost all of that is negated. Guns can be used from great distances. The wrong individual is injured on a regular basis. All the person has to do is pull a trigger, and they don't even have to know their victim or get near them. Again, with a knife, it's personal. For someone to be fatally stabbed, the killer has to get right next to them. They may not know the victim personally, although that is often the case. Makes it easier to get so close. They have to exert considerable strength to have the weapon pierce the intended's skin just a few times, even with a particularly sharp blade. Plus, the victim will be fighting back, making things that much more difficult. But if someone is wielding a firearm, they can be hundreds of feet away, and give it about as much effort as it takes to open a bottle of wine.

This may seem like an awful lot of thought for such a morbid subject, but someone's got to consider this stuff. A killer who prefers a blade is infinitely creepier than some punk with a gun. Besides everything else, Guns just aren't fitting in a horror world. Something about them -their precision design maybe, or their association with other, less terrifying films like westerns or crime dramas- lessens their inherent spook factor. This doesn't make them any less dangerous of course, and it's important to note that in reality, handguns are one of the most lethal items around. In the world of ghosts, demons, and serial killers however, their fear factor doesn't add up to much.

This is why I'm always bothered when horror movie villains opt for a gun, or switch to a gun near the end of their scheme. In particular, the finale of the original Scream never sat well with me. While still a spectacular film, I thought it odd that the killer would suddenly change their M.O. and switch to a gun after using a knife for the entire movie, even if doing so fit the plan. I know that Jhonen Vasquez regrets his earlier work on Johnny the Homicidal Maniac where Johnny occasionally uses a gun. Maybe he worried that such behavior would be more easily imitated than his characters' other acts, or maybe he just thought it didn't fit the perfectly deranged and motivated being that Johnny eventually became. Either way, it's true that using a gun didn't suit the character. Real killers prefer stabbing over shooting.

After writing all this, I realize that it doesn't reflect very well on me, pondering the most effective methods of killing people. But this debate has always bothered me, and I'll be honest, I find knives much more frightening than guns. Sure, I'll still be bawling like a baby if someone waves a Glock in my face, but at least a bullet to the head is instantaneous. You feel a knife going in, kids. You feel it several times. No thanks.


  1. This was a rather... macabre post.

  2. Sure, if you're comparing guns to stabbing knives. But what about throwing knives? Lack all the qualities that make a stabbing knife scary: the person can be far away, they don't have to know the killer is there, people rarely see them coming. There's also knives of the non-lethal variety: The butter knife. The butter knife wouldn't cut paper, let alone human skin.

  3. Two things Daff. One, neither guns nor plain old stabbing takes an extraordinary amount of skill. Oh sure, you have to know what you're doing, but if you're close, the skill required is minimal. Throwing knives takes a lot of practice to hit a large stationary target like a tree correctly, let alone a moving human being. And as for butter knives, have you ever considered things from the butter's perspective? Didn't think so.

    To the first commenter: Yeah, this post was dark, but I thought I'd take a break from all the sugary-sweet cheerful stuff I'd been writing about. X0D

  4. Nice post. Dark...but nice ;-)

    It kind of reminds me about a review I did for a "basher" film a while back (as opposed to a slasher film)--in which the villain beats people to death with a baseball bat rather than stabs you. I mentioned that, in Freudian terms, the penetration of a knife is the violent equivalent of sexual penetration. So while a basher is fucking you up, a slasher is literally fucking you. Or something to that extent.

    Oh, and by the father worked in a psych ward for a while, and he was attacked by a patient wielding a butter knife once. Believe you me, when used (im)properly, those things can definitely break the surface.


  5. Me again...just wanted to let you know that I included a link to this post in the latest "issue" of Spatter Analysis.

    Check it out!