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Why Slasher Movies Expose the Folly of Gun Control

In the opening scene of the hit slasher movie Scream, Drew Barrymore’s character, Casey Becker, sees her boyfriend tied up, beaten and bruised, then gutted. She is chased through and out of her house before the killer catches and kills her. During her murder, she tries desperately to get the attention of her unwitting parents, who are pulling into the driveway, but they don’t see her.

This famous scene raises an intriguing question: would Casey Becker have been killed if she had a gun? After all, the killer was armed only with a knife, which requires close contact to be effective. Casey could have could have blown the punk away long before he reached her, and, if she had missed, her parents would have heard the shots and come to her rescue. Instead, she was stabbed, disemboweled and hung.

This question can be applied to all the slasher flicks of the 90’s, mainly because they differ from their 70’s and 80’s predecessors in one important respect. Jason Vorheese, Freddy Kreuger, Michael Myers, et al, were superhuman, supernatural killers – nothing, from a B.B. gun to a bazooka, could stop them (sure, Michael Myers was beheaded in the latest Halloween movie, but was it the real Michael Myers?).

The current killers pose a lesser, if no less fearsome, threat because they are ordinary, flesh-and-blood human beings – clever, dangerous, and lethal, but vulnerable. When stabbed, they bleed just as readily as their victims, and die just as readily when shot (although it usually takes several stabbings and shootings to finish them off). Since the killers forsake guns for sharper, bloodier weapons (knives, axes, etc), it is much safer to kill someone who does not have a gun. Such serial killers would love gun control since it makes their job so much easier.

Take the six most popular 1990’s slasher movies: Scream, Scream 2 and Scream 3; I Know What You Did Last Summer and its sequel I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, and Urban Legend. Of the approximately forty-five characters murdered, only four are armed with a gun – three police officers and a professional Hollywood bodyguard (although we never see the bodyguard’s gun, it’s a safe bet he is armed).

Granted, some victims are taken by surprise, and even if they had a gun, probably would not have had time to use it. However, several had ample time to shoot the killer and thus save themselves.

For example, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character in I Know What You Did Last Summer is chased by the killer from a police car, through an empty park and her sister’s store before finally being caught in a narrow side street and killed, just a few feet from a passing parade! Imagine, if at any time during her ordeal, she could have simply turned, planted, aimed, and fired.

Furthermore, of the seven, possibly eight, killers in the six films, five meet their doom by a heat-packing potential victim. In every single movie, the introduction of a gun saves a potential victim’s life, even if that same gun injures the victim if it’s used against them, and even if the gun itself does not dispatch the killer.

A good example of the latter is found in Urban Legend, in which a vengeance-crazed college coed slaughters her fellow classmates in various gruesome methods based on – you guessed it – urban legends. At the end, our heroine, Alicia Witt, is strapped to the bed and the coed killer, Brenda, is about to carve out her kidney when Reese the college security officer arrives, gun in hand. However, Brenda stabs her and grabs the gun, shooting her in the shoulder. At that point, the hero, Paul, shows up and distracts Brenda, allowing a wounded Reese to shoot Brenda with her second gun. Struck in the arm, Brenda drops her gun, and Alicia snatches it up and blows Brenda away and out the third-story window (Brenda is a resilient psychotic, though: she survives the gunshots, the fall, and, later, a plunge off a bridge. The sequel, Urban Legend: Final Cut, came out recently. I haven't seen it.). The point is obvious: a would-be victim staves off certain death with a gun.

Still not convinced? Then take I Know What You Did Last Summer and its sequel, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.

In the first movie, Ben Willis carves up the teens who, the previous summer, ran him over with a car and dumped him in the ocean, leaving him for dead. Wielding a meat hook, he breaks into their homes and stalks them in the streets. No one has a gun, so he is unstoppable. In the end, he gets thrown from his fishing boat at sea (dumped into the ocean again), but we do not see him die.

Willis returns in the sequel, this time luring the survivors from the first movie to a deserted resort island, where he uses the same meat hook to slice up his prey. However, back in the States, Julie James’ boyfriend, Ray, learns of the ruse, and, beating the Brady five-day waiting period (the movie takes place in 1998), acquires a gun at a pawnshop and heads for the island. The only way Ray can save is girlfriend is to circumvent a gun-control law.

In the end, Ray arrives just as the killers are about to carve up Julie (the man with the meat hook gains an accomplice: his son, Will. Don’t ask – it’s complicated). Ray attempts to shoot Willis, but apparently leaves the safety on (one can almost hear a National Rifle Association member yelling at the screen: “Learn how to use it before you have to!”). Will tackles and overpowers Ray, knocking the gun away, and holds him up for Willis to hook him, but Ray dodges just in time, and Willis gives the hook to his son, killing him. Enraged, Willis charges Ray, but Julie has grabbed the gun and she pumps six rounds into Willis. They are saved. Without the introduction of a gun-toting hero, Julie James would have been killed.

Horror movie critics have long asked why more characters in slasher movies don’t have a gun. Jenny McCarthy in Scream 3 makes this same point, complaining that her character in the fictional movie Stab 3 “is too stupid to have a gun in the house after her boyfriend’s been cut into fish sticks.” These critics do not understand that a scary movie wouldn’t be scary if all the victims were armed. Suspense is created when menacing killers with sharp objects chase unarmed victims. When victims are armed, they gain, at the very least, a fighting chance, and at best, a decided advantage. That is why characters in horror movies must be disarmed throughout the film, only to acquire a gun at the very end to save themselves. The undeniable message of 1990’s slasher movies: guns save lives.

This is where art imitates life. Just as fictional characters in a slasher movie can save themselves and their loved ones with a gun, real people can and do the same every day. Armed resistance is the best way to thwart the all-too-real criminal predators, and depriving law-abiding citizens of the means to do so is sheer folly.

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