The True ABCs of Death: I is for Impervious


Suggested Audio Jukebox ♬

[1] Queen “Who Wants To Live Forever”

[2] Deniece Williams “Let’s Hear It For The Boy”

[3] The Human League “Together in Electric Dreams”

[4] KISS “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”

[5] Blondie “One Way or Another”

[6] Barbra Streisand & Donna Summer “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)”

[7] Queen “A Kind Of Magic”



Do you ever get the feeling that you may actually be invincible? Perhaps you recently sidestepped a plummeting grand piano in the nick of time, slipped on Alsatian excrement only to fall flat on your face mere millimetres from a set of active combine harvester blades, or skipped your Yoga lesson on the precise day that the entire class contracted a deadly flesh-eating virus. Sounds suspiciously like a pretty charmed existence this bullet dodging business right? And indeed it is but not so much if you’re forced to live out the very same 24-hour period on perpetual loop thanks to our good friend the Groundhog. That said, given that most of us dread the prospect of punching out early, I’m sure we’d jump at the chance to be utterly unbreakable for a constantly recurring day or two, Ned Ryerson or no Ned Ryerson.



“He’s behind me isn’t he?”


You only need look at the horror genre for countless examples of invulnerability. Alas, it is traditionally those with a cross to bear who refuse to be put down as it presents them an opportunity to nab themselves a franchise. Take Michael Myers for example – to the naked eye, this six-year-old boy looked like pretty much your everyday kid. Indeed, when his guardians headed out to enjoy the Halloween festivities, they thought nothing of leaving the little rascal and his teenage sister to fend entirely for themselves. Little did they know that he was actually evil incarnate and no amount of Muffin The Mule was likely to stop him plunging a massive bread knife into her tit the very moment their backs were turned. Needless to say, the authorities frowned on his behavior and promptly shipped him off to Smith’s Grove Penitentiary, where he remained under constant supervision for the next twenty-five years. Far from rehabilitated, Michael spent the time sussing out how to become utterly impenetrable and bided his time until his twenty-first birthday ironically to skip the fence and head off on one of those murderous rampages he’d heard so much about in the nuthouse.


This was a wretched state of affairs for his long-suffering shrink Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) and it only got worse as, despite topping him up with shrapnel and burning him to ashes, nothing appeared to be quite doing the trick. Eventually it was left to his tormented top prize, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), to floor this felon and she did so rather conclusively it appeared by lopping his top box off with a woodsman’s ax at the conclusion of Steve Miner’s Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. What she failed to realize was that he had already recruited a body double, crushed the hapless Paramedic’s larynx so that he couldn’t plead his case as Laurie batted up for her knockout blow, and was watching this comedy of errors from a safe vantage. His plan backfired on him as contractual obligation meant he had to put in a shift for Rick Rosenthal’s risible Halloween Resurrection but, once again, Mikey had proved that you can’t keep a good masked psychopath down.


Suddenly the floodgates were opened wide and who should wash up by the shore miraculously unharmed than the just as unflappable momma’s boy from Camp Crystal Lake, Jason Voorhees. To be fair, he’d already proved fairly fallible when cannonballing to the seabed like a titanium turd at the tender age of ten. But it’s not how hard you fall (or fast you capsize in Jason’s case), but how valiantly you float back to the surface so to speak. Thankfully, mommie dearest was on hand to get the ball rolling while her precious son figured out how never again to sink without trace. By the time Pamela came a cropper (not before preparing a Kevin Bacon-flavored sheesh and getting in a few rounds of target practice with her boy’s archery set), he’d licked the whole invincibility thing and was ready to become the next big AIDS virus. Admittedly, he crashed and burned time and again, usually at the hands of one similarly indefatigable final girl, but it was nothing a few thousand volts of wayward lightning or an unbolted mortuary freeze box wouldn’t put right.



“I must remember to buy that alarm clock”


I have decided to single out the latter for special mention here and for two completely different reasons. Let’s get the selfish one out-of-the-way first shall we? You see, Joseph Zito’s Friday The 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter is like the double-jointed hooker you find your attention creeping back to every time you have a spare hundred dollars in your back pocket and undoubtedly packs the most bang for your buck out of all the many sequels. It’s like a rat out of the trap, shifts like a rattlesnake on speed, boasts a wide array of affable but fully disposable teens, is positively steeped in tension, and is perhaps the goriest of all Fridays. Then we have the small matter of Sultan of Splatter, Tom Savini who, after already working with Zito for his grossly overlooked dorm slasher The Prowler, returned on SFX duties and hit sixer after sixer, thanks to some extraordinary series best dispatches. Hell, need I even state my alternative reasoning? Surely Zito has done enough there alone to warrant having his balls lovingly fondled for the sake of Auld Lang Syne?


Fine, the other reason is that it was here that I recall Voorhees receiving the most monumental shit kicking and at the hands of eleven-year-old snot goblin Tommy Jarvis no less. To give the wee lad his dues, Tommy (Corey Feldman) was something of a budding horror aficionado and far too interested in catching old fifties creature features on cable to waste his time searching for unlicensed pubic flourishes. But still, we could hardly be surprised when Jason opted out of appearing in the flesh for Danny Steinmann’s vaguely misfiring fifth entry, Friday The 13th Part V: A New Beginning, the following year. You see, while others had managed to quash his threat previously, none of them did so with nearly as much spunk as young Jarvis. With divine intervention not appearing to be forthcoming, he took matters into his own hands by shaving his dome to the chrome, relieving the juggernaut of his signature weapon, and giving him the kind of thorough hiding that he’d had coming for years now. That said, down doesn’t necessarily mean out and Jason dusted himself off eventually, albeit with one helluva bruised ego and still sporting frequent migraines.


By the time it was announced that he was about to embark on his Final Friday courtesy of Adam Marcus’s dreadfully routine 1993 effort Jason Goes To Hell, nothing on God’s earth was about to halt his march and he found a whole new way of negotiating the battleground. Should his current donor be displaying signs of fatigue, then Jason simply jumped ship to another host like the bacteria that lurks beneath the rim of one’s toilet seat. With the planet failing so miserably at stopping him in his tracks, the decision was made by James Isaac to freeze his ass like Solo and shoot him into space, where it has been reported that nobody can hear you scream. Alas, this didn’t quite work out according to plan either and it turned out to be a round trip for Jason, delivering him back to his original coordinates just in time for Marcus Nispel’s inevitable thirty-year anniversary reboot. You’ve got to hand it to him, he’s nothing if not persistent. Either that or he’s a cheap date.


Returning to Isaac momentarily, his 1989 nightmare maker The Horror Show introduced us to another nefarious nutbag that proved incredibly troublesome to crack. Dubbed “Meat Cleaver Max” by whatever cops he hadn’t already slaughtered, mass murderer Max Jenke ultimately met his match when being cornered and apprehended by dogged detective Lucas McCarthy (Lance Henriksen). Or so it appeared. You see, while fried in the electric chair like cut-price chicken before his captor’s very own eyes, Jenke channeled every last volt to his junk and enjoyed one last boner for the road. Worse still, he wasn’t the type to take it lying down, pledging to return from the grave and torment the living shit out of McCarthy’s nearest and dearest. He may well have been a vile cretin but, credit where it’s due, he was also a man of his word. Imprudently rebranded as House III before its low-key release, this rather delightful little slasher disappeared faster than Salman Rushdie around Ramadan and it’s a crying shame as the late Brion James cited his turn as Max Jenke as his all-time favorite role and he sure as shit put his back into it.


One of the chief issues was that it was remarkably similar in tone to another movie doing the theatrical rounds at the time, Wes Craven’s Shocker, and Horace Pinker didn’t fare too well either if truth be known. Despite an enthusiastic turn from Mitch Pileggi as the world’s least approachable television repair man, Craven’s film failed to ignite public interest and suffered a similarly sorry fate at the box-office (although not before making triple the studio’s initial outlay it has to be said). It seems that the uneven tone didn’t go down too well, while some took it to task for an overwhelming meanness of spirit and God knows why an unabashed fright flick should have this criticism leveled at it. Regrettably, it was the last we ever saw of Pinker although, the next time the national grid fails and we’re plunged into complete darkness, don’t be surprised if this bald-headed badass is buzzing around your fuse box.


Craven may have had his fingertips mildly burned with Shocker but, by that point, he could already afford the very best plastic surgery that money could buy thanks to the worldwide success of his 1984 game changer, A Nightmare on Elm Street. Actually, burn is the operative word here, as child murderer Freddy Krueger found himself on the business end of a hateful lynch mob after it came to light that he had a vested interest in the children of his hometown. As a result, he was tracked down to his boiler room and toasted like a ham and cheese Panini, then toasted some more until extra crispy. Residents of Springwood 1 Krueger 0 right? Perhaps but, with the boundless playground of dreams now at his disposal, Freddy proved a nightmare to pin down and picked up where he left off the very moment those eyelids grew heavy. Eventually Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) managed to put this dead dog to sleep but not before he had sliced her best friends into pig-tail ribbons. And this was more of a temporary setback than last rites for the dream master as he paid off the Sandman and took to the largest stage imaginable for the seemingly obligatory annual repeat performances.


It must have felt like a no-brainer to Ronny Yu when he provided slasher enthusiasts with the long rumored face-off they’d been clamoring for in 2003. That said, while Freddy vs. Jason went down an absolute storm with a fair section of the fanatics, it could hardly crown a unanimous victor, given that neither Voorhees or Krueger could be put permanently out of commission. Nevertheless, Yu’s match-up proved a hit with the everyday punter, raking in well over $100 million thanks to the two most bankable villains the slasher genre had ever produced. Personally I was just dying for Freddy to have that infernal smirk wiped off his smug face and, as Jason strode from the low tide clutching his adversary’s frazzled bonce in his pitching hand, it appeared as though I would be granted my wish. That was until the poxy and distressingly predictable wink to the camera at least. Trust New Line Cinema to refuse to place their eggs in one basket. thus swindling the die-hards out of the kind of definitive closure we’d been praying for.


It’s one thing attempting to send Freddy or Jason back to hell, but returning the Cenobites to sender is a darn sight more perplexing, seeing as purgatory is little more than an almighty rechargeable docking station for deviants. I happened to be rather fond of Rubix Cube as a kid and, while infuriating in the extreme, it never threatened to tear my soul apart when I peeled off its stickers. The Lament Configuration, on the other hand, is one big puzzle box of wrong and pre-loaded with rusted chains and flesh-ripping hooks making it far from the ideal Christmas gift. Then there are the Cenobites, a group of extra-dimensional beings with a collective hard-on for sadomasochism and ritual slaughter. Boasting all manner of excessive body modifications and clad in S&M gear, these dubious dead heads use a schism in time and space to access our reality and are not at all interested in making it a round trip.



“Will you just hurry up and take the bloody picture?”


Based on Clive Barker’s macabre creations from his novella The Hellbound Heart, these fiendish fetishists weren’t the easiest customers to deal with and the best you could hope for was to coerce them back into the cube, seal that shit shut, and leave it for some other poor bastard to open. The Hellraiser series has spawned no less than eight sequels thus far and, while the inept Hellraiser: Revelations appeared to have effectively nailed the Lament Configuration shut for the final time and was reportedly only made to retain rights to the franchise, the Cenobites are all set to return to our screens in 2017 for Gary J. Tunnicliffe’s upcoming Hellraiser Judgment. Fingers crossed he doesn’t come a cropper as, while Pinhead and pals may be pretty much unassailable, the notorious Order of The Gash likely wouldn’t take too kindly to their prized assets fluffing another recital.


There are other ways to access the human realm from the fiery pits of hell and, would you believe, childbirth is a fairly effective method also. On the surface, golden child Damien Thorn (Harvey Spencer Stephens) didn’t seem too unruly an infant but appearances can be deceiving, especially when the ankle-biter in question just so happens to be the Antichrist. If we’re splitting hairs here, then Damien wasn’t a great deal harder to overcome than any other boy his age, indeed, his own father came within a split end of ending his wretched reign after performing a midnight buzz cut on his son and uncovering the mark of the devil amongst his follicles. However, what made this pint-sized punisher so fearful was his entourage and he recruited a number of rancorous skivvies to assist him in overthrowing mankind.


For starters there were the Thorn’s resident nanny Mrs. Baylock and her intemperate twin Rottweiler, hardly the kind of ruffians you’d wish to happen across in a dark alley at the dead of night. Meanwhile, any attempt to derail Damien wasn’t looked kindly upon either and resulted in a variety of grisly “accidents” for those deemed culpable of sticking their snouts in where not permitted. With teasingly discarded lengths of rope, plummeting lightning rods, defective handbrakes, runaway sheets of glass, hospital gowns with the neckline seemingly sewn shut, peck-happy ravens, passing eighteen wheelers, perilously thin ice, and exploding aneurysms all aiding and abetting the born again Prince of Darkness in his attempts to infiltrate congress and rubber stamp his shenanigans, Damien was granted effective immunity, making him the last problem child on Earth or any orbiting stars you’d wish to put over your knee when he fails to clean up his Tonka trucks before bedtime.


Indeed, death has numerous guises and one of these is everybody’s least favorite house guest, The Grim Reaper. For James Wong’s shallow crowd-pleaser Final Destination, hell’s harbinger decided to play things largely incognito and, instead, used premonition as his bargaining tool. However, we’re not talking the kind of foresight that assists you on lotto rollover week, this was more of the “all of your friends, yourself inclusive, are about to go up in a ball of high altitude flames if you don’t throw a hissy fit pronto” strain and left poor Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) and his almost unanimously hateful gaggle of kamikaze classmates nursing the worst case of sole survivor syndrome imaginable. You see, by evading the Reaper’s icy pinch in the eleventh hour, they were only ever delaying the inevitable and their angel of death had every last sniveling one of these sorry saplings marked. Time for some more curious “accidents”.


The thing about the five-strong (and still counting) Final Destination saga is that, try as you may to remain indifferent, it does shoe-horn in a smattering of slickly staged and somewhat succulent set-pieces to surreptitiously suckle our sensory sap. Indeed, the kills consist of a good few minutes of Where’s Wally as we attempt to figure out which deadly household appliance is about to short a fuse and how that will tie in with the spilled goose fat over by the pile of mousetraps in the corner. Then just as we prepare ourselves for the inevitable, the rug is pulled from beneath our feet and our doomed protagonist is gobbled up by a swooping kestrel instead. You know, that kind of thing. I’ll never consider myself a fan but, by the same token, couldn’t bring myself to pooh-pooh it as, like the similarly drawn-out Saw series, it kind of does precisely what it states on the tin.


Meanwhile, it’s hard to think of any two people more impervious than heterosexual redneck life-mates Tucker (Tyler Labine) and Dale (Alan Tudyk) and in every last sense of the word. With barely a clutch of brain cells between them but hearts as swollen as Roseanne Barr’s ankles after ten minutes on the cross trainer, these lovable lunks have absolutely no sense of spacial awareness and, while Eli Craig’s thigh-slapping hillbilly hootenanny proposes that it will pit them against evil, it all ends up a particularly messy case of crossed wires. This is desperate news for the crack-brained college kids who stumble aimlessly into their neck of the woods and find their numbers dwindling thanks solely to outrageous misfortune, but both hoot and holler for the rest of us as it’s great to see the genre sent up with such boundless enthusiasm and our knuckle-headed leads combine like peas and carrots to supply us a priceless double act.


Sticking to the old cabin in the woods formula, I’m fairly assured that Ashley James Williams cannot be defeated either. When Sam Raimi birthed The Evil Dead way back in 1981, Ash seemed like just another lamb to the slaughter and, as the Deadites ran amok after senselessly reciting passages from the ancient Necronomicon, his odds of making it to dawn’s early night were longer than one of Matthew McConaughey’s acceptance speeches (he damn well earned it if you ask me) and we were fitting him up for a shallow grave before the very first chin stroke. More the fool us as, not only did Ash survive the onslaught, but he proved himself the ultimate sucker for punishment by agreeing to let his old high-school buddy slap him about a second time. Evil Dead II may have taken a more comical approach to tickling our pickles, but Bruce Campbell deserves an honorary Oscar for his harebrained depiction of wrong guy, wrong time.


To suggest that he took a hiding is akin to calling Bill Cosby a tad touchy-feely. His was a southern fried ass-whooping so utterly conclusive that even his own body parts became mutinous. Abused, set upon, kicked, punch, bitten, beaten, tossed into the sin bin, and generally pulverized at every conceivable turn, his wanking hand eventually decided that it could take no more and jumped ship in the most literal manner possible. Kudos to Ash as he wasted the bare minimum amount of syllables bitching about his free-roaming righty, slid down his visor like Irene Cara, grabbed the nearest available juiced up chainsaw, and applied himself a quick-thinking upgrade. Spanking the monkey was still deemed a hazard too far, but at least he got to hang out with a deer’s head. The Deadites may be a rabble most rowdy, but it’s Ash who plays piper, and the lot of them are still dancing to his merry tune well over three decades on. Now if that’s not impervious, Campbell’s chin ain’t titanium and we should all know by now that it very much is.


Shifting coordinates just a smidgen but keeping things firmly in the goofball trench, the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail had himself some chain mail didn’t he? With the fearsome Rabbit of Caerbannog roaming about the nearby caves, I guess that armor was a pretty critical inventory item to any budding paladin, but this particular suit boasted properties some way beyond magical. I can’t be 100% certain but would imagine that having one’s grabbers and getaway sticks removed by way of broadsword would certainly smart some. At the very least, a wince would animate our mild discomfort right? Perhaps even a grimace or two. So you would think but the Black Knight actually happened to find it all rather invigorating being cut down to size by a soundly befuddled King Arthur, so much so that he positively pleaded for further punishment. Who would have thought that I would learn the benefits of adopting a positive mental attitude from those cheeky little Pythons? Indeed, had it not been for The Meaning of Life, then I would never have been formally introduced to the machine that goes ping and would’ve had to learn about it through unofficial rumors and the black market. And what a sorry state of affairs that would be.


From the neck down, Connor MacLeod (of the Clan MacLeod no less) was pretty much bulletproof. Russell Mulcahy’s Highlander pitted him against fellow immortal, the dreaded Kurgan (Clancy Brown) as they bid to become the last immortal standing thus picking up “the prize”. The problem with the kind of immortality we were dealing with here was that decapitation proved something of a grey area. Therefore, you were immortal as long as nobody cut your head off. Kind of makes you want to rush out and purchase that sporran don’t it? I’m reasonably certain that I would perish if somebody cut my head off in a dark alleyway so, by the MacLeod logic, that would make me an immortal too right? Thankfully, Sean Connery was on hand to clear up any confusion as Connor’s very own Miyagi, Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez although it was damn near impossible to keep up with him on account of his thick Spanish accent. I love that about Connery, he could play a Hindu rug salesman and still come off sounding like William Wallace’s randy uncle Dennish (no typo).


Regrettably, I was less sold on leading man Christopher Lambert and feel guilty just saying that shit as his performance certainly didn’t warrant such meanness, questionable accent aside. I could never place my finger on what it was about Lambert that I never felt fully comfortable with. Dare I say he lacks a little natural charisma? Plus I always got the feeling that his forehead was likely to rupture any given moment and spew forth a small army of mini Lamberts. I guess that made him a shoe-in for the role of Connor MacLeod (of the clan MacLeod no less) as his power seemed to be concentrated solely within that bulging cranium. By all accounts, Highlander was a cracking little fantasy flick, and I settled my differences with Lambert after he made Fortress anyway, so I reckon my top box is safe from subtraction for the next generation or so.



Another delight knocking about in the late-eighties poured from a similar elixir was Steve Miner’s Warlock and this one saw Julian Sands in wonderfully nonchalant form as the necromancer of the title. His attention was focused on getting his hands on a satanic verse by the name of The Grand Grimoire, and it was left to waitress Kassandra (Lori Singer) to halt him in his tracks before he can unmake existence. Luckily for her, witch-hunter Giles Redferne (Richard E. Grant) has followed his bounty forward in time from 1691 and agrees to help her stamp out this seemingly invulnerable pest. It’s well worthy of a look-see, although it’s hard to watch Grant being chaperoned around the village without expecting him to frantically wind down his window and yell out “Scrubbers!” at any given moment.


So there we have it Grueheads, just a few unbreakable stragglers from the cinematic vaults and I’m fully anticipating hate mail from Marvel for not giving some of their best renowned stalwarts a mention. I’d love to lend a hand guys but can’t, for the life of me, keep up with who’s invincible and who’s not nowadays. Besides, you’ve got no divine right to be pissed off when Count freaking Dracula didn’t even bag himself a shout out. Do you see him bitching and griping about lack of inclusion? Of course not, he’s on nights and won’t be up until this shit has been signed, sealed, and delivered. Needless to say, I’ll get it in the neck the very second he slides out of his sarcophagus the wrong side but you Marvel lot don’t take that into consideration do you? Why else do you think that Deadpool doesn’t want to hang out? Don’t shoot the messenger, you can take that shit up with him directly. But don’t think you can sweet talk him as I hear he’s pretty impervious.






The Hurt Locker




I’m done with talking about invincibility, surely it’s high time we explore a little mortal anguish as this is The True ABCs of Death after all. I’m not sure about you, but I fancy wrapping this baby up with some fucking carnage. Thus please find enclosed are a liberal sprinkling of unfortunate souls for whom death equates rather decisively to final. I guess that would make them pervious right? And do you reckon I need a head doctor while we’re on topic? If so then I do hope he wheels in the machine that goes ping before I bite down on that sponge. Never gets old that one. You see, lobotomy ain’t all bad. Same time tomorrow then? Guys?..Guys? Nurse, is this thing even on? What do you mean it’s a rolled up copy of Mad Magazine? I explicitly asked the vendor for Cracked dagnabbit.


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1 Comment

  1. I really like the concept of the alphabet for reviews or in this case retrospectives. You covered the gamut of every horror film with a character that somehow cheats death. Really quite brilliant in the execution.

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