It’s been a while since the last full team-based CHUD LIST. Too long. With the goal being to ease back into the swing of things and hopefully get us on track to a list a month, here’s the latest, BAD FOR US, WORSE FOR THEM. The concept is simple.
This isn’t a “Best Kills” list. We’ve done that and done it better than anyone ever could (though we’ll revisit that at some point to rewrite the history books). This is a list of forty deaths in cinema, twenty of which that have a profound affect on the viewer whether by the sheer tragedy of it, how emotionally impactful it is, or how it is a catalyst for a real descent in the progression of the story. The other twenty are deaths that go beyond the call of duty, not because they’re cool or really well executed FX, but because they are just knee-capping in their immediacy, brutality, or simple visceral impact. Kills that will probably leave a mark.
We could have done hundreds of these, but here’s twenty of each from the CHUD staff, delivered two a day for you until the list is done. Enjoy!
Day Four - Cruelty of the Coen Brothers
Richard Jenkins in Burn After Reading.
“The passage from Ozy’s memoir recounting this murder was notable for being the only chapter that wasn’t ohmyfuckboring.”
I can think of no bigger understatement than simply calling Burn After Reading “dark.” To say that it “positively drips with misanthropy and cynicism” is much more accurate. The Coen’s follow up to No Country For Old Men goes nowhere as cold as the masterpiece it came after, yet its lack of mysticism and the presence of so much comedy makes it sting much more bitterly. When considering the darkness of the story, it is extra scary to consider the opening satellite view that, while certainly easy to connect to the theme of espionage in the film, might just be the Coen’s way of universalizing the horrid people and events we are about to watch.
Burn After Reading reaches the peak of its pessimism with the death that effectively ends the story. Ted Treffon, a role conceived for and played pitch perfectly by Richard Jenkins, meets a sticky end at the hand of an enraged, drunk Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich). Ted endures the most horrifying death in the film, despite the fact (or more precisely, because of the fact) that he is the only person in the movie worth a shit. There are certainly a few other hopeful characters- Harry (Clooney), despite being a philanderer, certainly cares for his wife and Chad (Pitt) means nobody harm- but Ted manages to go the whole film without being selfish or completely vapid. The Coens will have none of it though! Ted’s one moment of impurity, selflessly intended or not, is punished with a shot to the chest followed by cranial axe disaster.
What makes this death so stunning (even when compared to Chad’s bad luck) is the lingering wide shot that lets us witness several of Malkovich’s swings. Ted’s head bobbing and bleeding is extremely visceral and extremely shocking, acting as a period at the end of the morbid sentence that is Burn After Reading. We are left only with JK Simmon’s confused recapitulation that grants us no satisfaction, but makes sure to let us know that the selfish woman too blind to see Ted’s affection, gets her fucking tit job.
Pain of Death: HIGH. Runs about with a chest wound, before being hacked about the head and shoulders.
Emotional Loss: MEDIUM. Not a huge loss to the story, but as the last beacon of sincerity for humanity in this universe, he’s a sad one to lose. His unending sincerity makes his death suck.
Will There Be a Closed Casket Funeral: NO, unless John got in an off-screen facial.
Insult To Injury: Caught and misidentified by a drunk misanthrope with a gun/axe while trying to help out the self-absorbed dumb he loves. Wrong place, wrong holy fuck.
Upon noticing this entry on our illustrious list, you may say to me, “But Renn, Buscemi only gets taken out by an axe to the chest. In the scheme of things, that ain’t so bad.” To that, I would reply thusly, “Hey guy, motherfucker gets ground up.” And so it is that this death is notable as much for it’s posthumous ickiness as it is the actual act of murder (besides, Buscemi might have still been alive, comatosin’ under that sheet).
Buscemi’s Carl starts out as an over-talkative two-bit crook, but quickly finds himself in over his head. Once the shit goes down, Carl is perfectly willing to get nasty, but he’s dealing with a true psychopath (Peter Stormare’s nearly silent Gaear) perfectly willing to get nastier. One cop, two rubberneckers, and a Kristin Rudrud later, and the crazy nihilist has turned a simple kidnapping plot into a total disaster. Carl ends up whacking an old and a young himself before becoming an early entry in the Coen Pantheon of “Dudes Who Run Across A Bunch Of Money And Then Get Their Shit Fucked.”
The image of Police Chief Marge discovering Carl’s grinding ground has become one of the more iconic film images of the last quarter century. What is most striking about the scene though, is that Gaear can be faintly heard struggling with the chipper from the moment Marge steps out of her police cruiser. The Coen’s characteristically masterful use and build up of sound effects make the reveal of Carl’s red noise all over the snow that much more horrifying. From the surprise axing to Buscimulch, Carl is one fucked dude.
Pain of Death: HIGH. An axe to the collarbone has to hurt. Also, no way of telling how thorough Gaear was with his murderin’ before he got to Carl chipping.
Emotional Loss: LOW. Iconic as the blood splattered snow is, Carl starts off and ends as an annoying twat.
Will There Be A Closed Casket Funeral: What would YOU have ground up first?
Insult To Injury: Sucks to get kibbled after having a million dollars unexpectedly dropped in your lap.
Today’s installment written by Renn Brown.
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