Don’t Fear the Reaper: The Many Faces of Death in Cinema
Written by Patti Pauley
As the old saying goes, there’s only two certain things in life; death and taxes. And living in this day and age, I’m not sure which one is more merciful. However, that concept can be argued when it comes to the wonderful world of cinema. The portrayal and appearance of the Grim Reaper himself, or simply referred to as just Death in movies, ranges from light-hearted humor to shit-your-pants-terrifying, and even to a love story that envies that of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.
Death you lady-killer, you.
Yes, Death can be disgustingly merciful and on the flip-side, unforgiving as far as the theater goes. But to be fair here, Death has a job just like any one of us average Joes. So we can’t really hate on the guy with the list of who’s due to make that outer body exit into whatever awaits in the afterlife. We can probably compare Death’s 24-hour job with the classic DMV employee. It’s never their fault you have to be in that stuffy, god-forsaken seventh layer of HELL. But we take our rage out on them anyway, and of course, they get the last laugh with that goofy as fuck picture that ends up on your license. You’re just screwed either way.
That being said, let’s honor the Grim Reaper entity portrayed over the years in films with a little list of the spirit’s coolest portrayals in the cinematic world. And we’re going to start off with a classic childhood favorite.
Last Action Hero
Ian McKellen as the Grim Reaper? Come on, in the words of Skeletor, I’d have to be a He-Fool to not include this performance. Of course, unless you were a child of the ’90s, this film may not hold a soft space in your black heart, being as how it was panned and ridiculed by adults and critics alike, threatening Arnold’s career. Yeah, I suppose they thought it was THAT bad.
In any regard, whether you enjoyed the movie or not, McKellen’s Grim Reaper role is pretty solid, as with anything the man does on film. Death’s fantastic entrance into reality through a movie screen playing most appropriately, The Seventh Seal, is just pure fuckin’ awesomeness. McKellen with his usual charismatic yet slightly cynical vibe he brings to any role plays Death triumphantly. He even scares the crap out a kid telling him when he’s going to die. Damn! Ruthless Ian! Revisit the memorable scene by clicking here.
The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
As with Sir Ian McKellen, I could never live with myself if I didn’t include the legendary Vincent Price’s performance in the sadistic tale from the mind of Edgar Allen Poe. Price is at his finest with pure mustache-twirling villainy in Roger Corman’s 1964 film as one sadistic son of a bitch Prince living under the very horrifying threat of the red plague of death at his doorstep. However, when the lavish sadistic party he throws gets crashed by an unconventionally dressed in red Reaper, played by well, Price himself, his ominous demeanor out does his A+ performance of Prince Prospero.
Look if you can’t appreciate the fine national treasure that is The Frighteners, I’m quite convinced you must be a negative human. While for the most part, it’s a fun movie, the frightening imagery and spirit of a serial killer (Jake Busey) taking the form of the good ole’ Reaper in Peter Jackson’s 1994 film is fantastically unsettling in the best of ways. This powerful pseudo version of the Reaps likes to carve numbers into his victims’ heads, and can even kill other spirits. Plus, Marty McFly vs Death. All other arguments are invalid.
Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life
Well, we certainly can’t have a Reaper list without including the salmon mousse from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life! This version of Mr. Death crashes a pretentious dinner party in the seventh segment of the film, seemingly to escort someone at the table to the afterlife. However, in pure Monty Python fashion, Mr. Death as the party refers to him, is bombarded with a slew of ridiculousness and oblivious chatter from The Flying Circus crew, only hilariously frustrating him further into a foul-mouthed Reaper who just wants to get on with the rest of his day.
The Ghost of Christmas Future is probably one of the most unique portrayals of Death on this list mixing the classic look of ol’ Grims hooded black rags with a modern twist of a television screen as a face in place of the usual skull, or in some cases, nothing at all.
We all know the story of Dickens’ timeless tale of greed and redemption and over the course of countless cinematic retellings of Scrooge, Frank Cross’ (the modern Ebeneezer) encounter with the grisly ghost of what’s to be is definitely the most unsettling. Which is impressive for a film labeled as a comedy. Seriously, if you were a kid watching Scrooged, the trapped souls hiding underneath the spirit’s cloak were kind of terrifying.
More on next page!
‘The Boogeyman’ Director, Rob Savage Wants to Remake Stephen King’s ‘The Langoliers’
Rob Savage is making the rounds for his adaptation of Stephen King’s The Boogeyman. Of course while out making the rounds he was asked if he wanted to remake any other King books. Of course, he had an answer ready and waiting.
Savage chose King’s The Langoliers. This is a short story from Four Past Midnight that was all about a plane trip that ends up crossing dimensions and meeting up with a deadly being known as The Langoliers who are responsible for eating yesterday.
The synopsis for The Langoliers goes like this:
Ten passengers on a red-eye flight from L.A. to Boston discover that they are not the only people on the plane, but after making an emergency landing in Bangor, Maine, they discover that they are the only people on the planet. This film was based off the Stephen King short story Four Past Midnight.
The Langoliers made for a television movie event. The tv movie mainly flopped and was only remembered for its terrible CG effects for Langolier creatures. But, some, like myself loved the story and the cast that worked on the King project. The whole thing plays out like a Twilight Zone episode and it’s a lot of fun overall.
All that said, it would be great to see what Rob Savage would do the entire project. For one, would he make it into a series with multiple episodes? Or, would he go for the film route?
Did you like The Langoiers? Do you think it needs to be remade? Let us know in the comments section.
Watch ‘Terrifier 2’ Now For Free on Tubi
Terrifier 2 is one of those releases that makes us want to watch it over and over and over again. That re-watchability has pulled us back in a few times. That is why the news that Terrifier 2 being on Peacock for free is so rad. Time to get in a few more rewatches.
The return of Art the Clown managed to bring a hell of a lot of good and bad press with it. The fact that people threw up in theaters… or maybe pretended to sure did make a lot of people come out to see the film. Of course, that is awesome news for the film and its hardworking filmmakers.
The synopsis for Terrifier 2 goes like this:
Resurrected by a sinister entity, Art the Clown returns to Miles County to terrorize a teenage girl and her younger brother on Halloween night.
If you haven’t watched Terrifier 2 yet what are you waiting for? You need to give it a look. It is one of those incredibly brutal slashers that have staying power.
Head over to Tubi and give Terrifier 2 a watch. If you hadn’t seen it before make sure to let us know what you think.
‘Hocus Pocus 3’ Has Been Confirmed At Disney
Hocus Pocus was a huge hit. The sequel managed to do really well on Disney+ and scared up a whole lot of candy corn and celebration. It managed to be a huge hit over the Halloween season and we were pretty pleased with it ourselves.
Well, the great news is that Disney’s Sean Baily went ahead and straight up confirmed that there will be a third Hocus Pocus film. The involvement of new witches Whitney Bailey, Belissa Escobedo and Lilia Buckingham is all but confirmed.
We could be looking at a stand alone series with the new witches involved or it could be possible that we may see a lot more of The Sanderson Sisters. We are really hoping to see the classic sisters. They are the heart of Hocus Pocus for me and that feeling isn’t going to be replaced anytime soon.
Hocus Pocus 2 went like this:
Three young women accidentally bring back the Sanderson Sisters to modern day Salem and must figure out how to stop the child-hungry witches from wreaking havoc on the world.
Are you excited about a sequel to Hocus Pocus? Are you hoping to see more Sanderson Sisters? Let us know in the comments section.