Friday, July 9, 2010

Like Beauty & the Beast, but with more killing

What happens in horror when common household goods get angry? Generally, really great things. For the audience. Observe:

Yes, this movie exists and yes, it’s fabulous. A young couple moves into a furnished Brooklyn apartment and find a vintage refrigerator-freezer welcoming them with a plate of cheese. Too good to be true? Naturally, as the titular appliance turns out to be a portal to hell (ironic, cause you know...refrigerators are cold). The fridge doesn’t do much in the way of menace, other than hiding your keys and occasionally closing back and forth on human bodies, but the film itself is quite a hoot. Plus, for extra bonus points, there’s a homicidal blender, house fan, and garbage can (that naturally kills by...closing back and forth on human limbs).\n\nimage

Death Bed: The Bed That Eats

How, you might ask yourself, could one possibly make a monster out of that giant rectangle you snuggle atop every evening? Apparently, with very little talent and money. Make no mistake: Death Bed is a terrible, terrible film that barely can be called one. Characters never actually speak to each other, instead taking turns narrating their emotions. No relationships make any sense. And the bed, ahhhhh the bed. It eats. Should you dare lie down for a nap, expect to be sucked inside so that director George Barry can show off the film’s sole special effect: gooey yellow plasma dissolving whatever floats. It doesn't quite end there, as we learn that while Death Beds don't dream of electric sheep, they do fantasize about spinning newspaper reels that highlight their killing sprees on the cover. It's kind of adorable.

Though it’s the eerie mannequins and evil mannequin maker responsible for most of the terror in this underrated 1979 classic, Tourist Trap does open with some very angry living room furniture, including a Beauty and the Beast-esque armoire armed with an arsenal of weaponry. Beware self-closing windows, flying dishes, and of course, the occasional knife with the mind of its own.

The Mangler

Cynics would say The Mangler was most likely inspired by Stephen King’s need for a new swimming pool. We can imagine America’s most successful horror novelist gazing around the house, hungry for some inspiration and thinking “well, nobody’s ever done a killer washing machine before.” I’ll give him and director Mick Garris a little more credit for eventually ending up with The Mangler, mostly because for all the film’s failings, it does find some innovation in using not just your average Maytag. Set in an industrial laundromat that thirsts for the blood of virgins, The Mangler epitomizes the cheap messiness of '90s horror, for better and worse. And hey: a killer ice machine costars. Anyone else smell a spinoff?

Maximum Overdrive

In 1986, a comet hits the world, mechanical objects of all shapes and sizes go postal, and Stephen King does a whole lot of cocaine. The results of all three are oddly fabulous, as everything from arcade games to a drawbridge take their pent-up rage against all things human (and in the case of a toy car, canine). Sure, the main attraction and biggest baddies is the well-trained army of mack trucks that round up a ragtag band of survivors at a gas station, but we should never forget that for all its bad movieness, Maximum Overdrive does boast a few unique kills. Who knew playing arcade games could be so dangerous?

Final Destination
Technically, it's more of an Invisible Man version of the Grim Reaper that does most of the slaughtering in this modern franchise, but considering the fact that every installment featured an inanimate killer, I couldn't not include it on this list. Examine:

Part 1: Killer water spill, Ginsu knives, violent computer

Part 2: Naughty sink holds jerk hostage in a complicated series of events leading to his eventual death via fire escape. The stovetop serves as an accomplice.

Part 3: Frisky tanning beds

Part 4: Clumsy lawnmower, cheeky chair


It was not my intention to include any form of satanic or demon possessed doll on this list, as that warrants an entire encyclopedia of films that can't even be touched here. So ignore, for a moment, the laughing clown-faced elephant in the room and instead consider the many tangible and typically household objects turned angry meanies: a swimming pool, bucket o' chicken, kitchen chair, braces (Part 2) and mirrors (Part 3). This house can't be clean if you're afraid to touch the vacuum!

I expect--and really, kind of hope--I’ve missed an entire pantry worth of violent appliance films. Share yours below...right after you shut down the power and dispose of all batteries.

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