Some of the best horror movies boast elaborate visual effects sequences that really help them to stand out. These scenes often form some of the feature’s most impressive and iconic moments. The visuals in horror are often more important than people realize. But there’s a lot that goes into pulling them off correctly. It can take weeks to rig a scene that will only last a few seconds. And these moments in film are so technical that absolutely everything must go according to plan. Otherwise, the results could be disastrous.
Sometimes, that does happen. Luckily, none of the movies we will be looking at had any major on-set disasters with their effects. But they did come close…
Sam’s Death in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
Judie Aronson, who played Samantha in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, suffered a lot for her role, particularly in her death scene. Sitting out on that raft for hours at a time, half in the water to accommodate the fake back the knife would be going through, she actually got hypothermia. She could have died if she had been out there longer, and she would have if it weren’t for Jason actor Ted White threating to walk off the movie if she wasn’t pulled out of there.
When possessed Linda attacks Ash with the ancient dagger in The Evil Dead, the contacts she was wearing completely blinded her. She had absolutely no idea where she was swinging the dagger or what she was hitting, directed only by Sam Raimi’s guiding voice. Bruce Campbell, as Ash, had to dodge a lot of close calls during the sequence, but luckily neither of them sustained injuries. There was also a rumor that Campbell was hit in the face with a camera that broke his jaw and knocked out some of his teeth, but this was a story concocted by the actor and Raimi to see if anyone would buy it.
During a scene in which Chris MacNeil—played by Ellen Burstyn—confronts her possessed daughter, Reagan, the actress actually sustained a spinal injury. She nearly broke her back when she was thrown across the room from Reagan’s bedside. The harness was too rough on her, causing her to cry out instantly and halt the filming of the scene. It ultimately resulted in a spinal problem that she still has to this day.
The Friday the 13th series may not necessarily be cursed, but it’s had its share of near-accidents. In the second film, when Ginny is supposed to swing her machete down to be blocked by Jason’s pickaxe, actress Amy Steele slipped and wound up driving the machete right into stuntman Steve Dash’s hand. It required several stitches and resulted in Dash losing the tips of two fingers.
In the infamous, horrifying scene in the original Poltergeist when young Robbie is pulled under his bed by a clown doll, actor Oliver Robbins was nearly killed. The doll’s hand wrapped too tightly around his neck and nearly choked the young actor to death. So, when your parents comforted you to let you know the clown in the movie couldn’t actually hurt you, take comfort in knowing they were wrong.
There were two deaths in A Nightmare on Elm Street that utilized the rotating room effect. One was Tina’s shocking, brutal opening death in which she is dragged up the wall and onto the ceiling before finally dropping down onto her bed. This second scene seemed much less complicated on paper. In Glen’s death, the character played by Johnny Depp is sucked into his bed and a geyser of blood shoots out. This was to be accomplished by turning the room upside down and dumping the blood down through the hole. No one accounted for all the electricity used by a movie set when planning this, so when the blood made contact with the fake ceiling it actually wound up electrocuting the floor. A crewmember was electrocuted, but sustained no serious injuries and the filming continued without any other major errors.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was not simply a movie that a bunch of people got together to make, it was an experience they all lived through. And it almost killed every single one of them. Marilyn Burns took the worst of it, though, to be sure. When her finger is cut during the dinner scene, the effect wouldn’t work, so they just went ahead and actually cut her finger. When she jumps out a second story window through solid glass during her chase scene with Leatherface, they took the opposite of the sane and logical route by using the stunt person for the close-up impact shot and actually making Burns jump out a second story window through a sheet of glass. When Sally is covered in blood at the end, most of the blood is her own. Leatherface actor Gunnar Hansen also had a concern with an effect: the scene where Leatherface hits himself in the leg with his own chainsaw. He kept asking Tobe Hooper how they were going to do it all throughout the filming and Hooper kept saying “I don’t know, we’ll figure it out.” It wasn’t until the final day, when they actually shot the scene, that Hansen realized the director and producers were so quiet because they had taken into account that the effect might kill the actor, and if it did they would already have all of his scenes filmed.