Nothing good can come from a pair of scissors in a horror movie. Whenever a pair of scissors enter the screen, I immediately tense every muscle in my body, waiting from them to snip flesh or enter an eyeball. There is something so utterly disturbing about the sound of scissor blades slicing through skin. To me, it is one of the most effective horror weapons, seeming so innocent with colorful plastic handles, lying peacefully with your crafting supplies. But, when needed, they can become an effective defense weapon, or implement of murder. And, with Jordan Peele’s US coming in only a few short days, I’m sure we’ll soon be able to add another to this list.
These are 10 of the best uses of scissors in horror, from opening up wombs to inflicting self-harm. If you’re able to look at a pair of scissors after reading this without shivering, then I both commend you and worry for you.
10. Dead Again (1991)
This romantic-horror-thriller film revolves around a murder by scissors, but Dead Again (1991)’s most impressive moment involves scissor art. Artist Amanda Sharp (Emma Thompson), who has the most obvious name of all time, makes art that focuses on the crafting instrument. We’re talking giant scissor sculptures. So, of course these protruding blades are poised for bodily penetration if someone trips and falls just the right way. Eventually, the scissors fulfill their duty as Franklyn Madson (Derek Jacobi) is impaled onto their shiny, sharp edges.
9. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
The Halloween franchise is known for its gory deaths, so death by scissors comes as no surprise. In the fifth installment of the franchise, Michael Myers kills Rachel Carruthers (Ellie Cornell), foster sister to Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris), with a pair of scissors. Specifically, he stabs her in the neck and chest. Since Myers has a psychic link with Jamie, the death causes her to go into convulsions. Originally, he was supposed to shove the scissors down Rachel’s throat, but Cornell resisted that decision, asking to get stabbed in the neck instead.
8. Carved (2007)
What’s scarier than a pair of scissors? A giant pair of scissors. Carved, a 2007 Japanese film directed by Kōji Shiraishi, follows an urban legend about a figure called the Slit-Mouthed Woman who wields a giant pair of scissors. The Slit-Mouthed Woman wears a white mask and asks if you think she’s pretty. Once you respond, she removes her mask and reveals her sliced face and asks if you think she’s pretty again. If you don’t answer, she kills you. Carved is on this list not only for one moment, but for its overall use of scissors and for how long it has haunted me because of its cover art.
7. Opera (1987)
Dario Argento is a master of bloody horror, and his 1987 film, Opera, is no exception. This film involves murders happening in, you guessed it, an opera house. Before one of these murders, singer Betty (Cristina Marsillach), and seamstress Giulia (Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni) find a gold bracelet hidden inside a dress. While they examine the bracelet, they are attacked by the masked killer. With her dying breath, Giulia accidentally swallows the bracelet. So, in an effort to retrieve the jewelry, the killer slices her throat open with scissors. There seems to be a theme with scissors being used to perform DIY surgery.
6. The Burning (1981)
Tony Maylam’s 1981 film, The Burning, follows the typical slasher plot, with a killer seeking revenge on a group of teenagers in increasingly violent ways. This film’s villain, Cropsey, attacks a summer camp with a pair of gardening shears, seeking vengeance against those teens who disfigured him years ago. The film’s most iconic scene is the raft massacre, with Cropsey killing a raft full of teens after hiding in a canoe. This scene quickly cuts between stabbing, removing fingers, and slicing open flesh with his trademark shears.
5. Goodnight Mommy (2014)
In Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s Goodnight Mommy (2014), twin boys Lukas and Elias realize something is wrong with their mother and decide to take the situation into their own hands. They tie her to her bed and glue her mouth shut to keep her from screaming for help. However, they realize that they can’t feed her if her mouth is stuck shut and they don’t want her to die just yet. So, they decide to cut her mouth open with a pair of scissors. In an agonizing scene, shot in closeup, they slowly slice through the glue and eventually her lips. I don’t have children, so I can only imagine the added layer of horror for parents, thinking about what their kids could be capable of. Not only do the scissors make this scene horrifying, but it’s the power these young boys exert over their mother, rendering her helpless and begging for mercy.
4. Rabid (1977)
It’s inevitable that David Cronenberg would end up on this list, since I feel like scissors are almost always linked to body horror. In his 1977 zombie film, Rabid, Cronenberg manages to include a horrifying scene involving a pair of surgical scissors and some fingers. Dr. Dan Keloid (Howard Ryshpan) has been infected by Rose (Marilyn Chambers), but doesn’t know it yet. So, when he heads to the O.R. to perform surgery, it seems like just another day in the office. However, he suddenly begins foaming at the mouth and transforms into a zombie. He takes his surgical scissors and begins to cut off a nurse’s fingers so he can drink her blood. Sometimes, surgery has its complications.
3. Oldboy (2005)
If you want to watch a movie that’ll make you feel OK about the world, don’t watch Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy (2005). This iconic piece of Korean cinema is beautifully done, but a brutal look at humanity. At the film’s end, Oh Dae-su (Choi Min‑sik) realizes that his lover is actually his daughter, an incest plot involving hypnosis executed by Lee Woo-jin (Yoo Ji‑tae) to get revenge for the death of his sister. In an attempt to repent for his past deeds, Dae-su takes a pair of scissors and cuts out his own tongue.
2. Antichrist (2009)
Lars von Trier is a divisive figure in the cinema world, with films chock full of misogyny and violence. However, personal feelings about his work aside, Antichrist (2009) contains one of the most horrifying uses of scissors I’ve ever seen on-screen. She (Charlotte Gainsbourg) performs genital mutilation on herself with a pair of scissors as some kind of punishment for not saving her son. I am not entirely clear about why she had to do it, but it is very von Trier to so explicitly show a woman mutilating herself. It’s also the main reason most people know about this film, which I’m not sure is a good thing.
1. Inside (2007)
The New French Extremity movement is known for its excessive gore. Films such as Martyrs (2008), Frontier(s) (2007), and High Tension (2003) push the human body to the extreme, mutilating and warping it into something unidentifiable. Julien Maury’s 2007 film, Inside, is a harrowing example that not only pushes the body to extremes, but addresses themes of motherhood and pregnancy, as well. The film follows Sarah, a pregnant woman who is being stalked by a strange woman who reveals she wants to steal Sarah’s baby. In perhaps the most New French Extremity scene you can find, this strange woman performs a C-section with a pair of scissors as Sarah bleeds out on the stairs. Just remember, if you ever need to perform an impromptu C-section, just reach into your knitting basket and pull out that pair of shears. Just make sure to sanitize them first.
Can you think of any other iconic scenes in horror involving scissors? Share them with the Nightmare on Film Street community over on Twitter, our Official Subreddit, or the Horror Movie Fiend Club Group on Facebook!