Whether you call them garburators (apparently this is a Canadian term?), garbage disposals, or garbage grinders, these sink attachments are never not completely terrifying. I don’t personally get the rationale behind grinding up the soft bits of food left on your plate into mush fine enough to get flushed into your house’s plumbing when the tradeoff is having a metal lamprey mouth inside your sink drain. Mostly they feel like a relic of decades past—a feeling that’s reflected in the release years of most of the titles on this list.
Not all of these garbage disposals go for the kill, but every last one of them exudes a sinister sink-clogging, hand-shredding aura.
12. Heroes (2006)
Like a salamander but shaped like a human teenaged girl, cheerleader Claire Bennett (Hayden Panettiere) can shed damaged parts of herself and generate new cells. In the pilot episode of the series, we get to see Claire navigate the newness of this ability, including a scene where she drops a ring into a running garbage disposal and unthinkingly sticks her hand in to pull it out without turning the unit off first. While the garbage disposal does mangle Claire‘s hand pretty badly, because of her abilities, she’s technically fine. Heroes earns a spot on this list because Emerson Electric, the company behind the InSinkerator, the disposal unit in the show, sued NBC for portraying their product in an unsavoury light. It makes me wonder if any of the other titles on this list got flack for perpetuating the garbage disposal’s dangerous Bad Boy image.
11. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
When Charlie (Adam Hann-Byrd) drops a corkscrew into the sink, he knows it’s risky to send his hand in after it —he tests the switch to see if the garburator is working and can’t help but glance at it nervously. But he reaches his hand into the drain anyway because he really needs that corkscrew. Without it, how will he and his pals be able to party in his boarding school’s basement? This garbage disposal gets a lot of set-up, but is ultimately a red herring to keep Charlie distracted long enough for Michael Meyers (Chris Durand) to sneak up behind him in his CGI mask, but that hasn’t stopped this scene from making some people nervous about the disposal’s destroying potential.
10. Pulse (1988)
In a nifty twist, instead of chewing up hands, Pulse transforms garbage disposals into projectile launchers. Evil electricity has taken over the neighbourhood, melting solder points and infecting every conduit to turn houses against humans. The titular pulse understands the horror of garbage disposals and uses them for not one, but two scares. The first is a kill that happens offscreen — we get a suggesting of a garbage disposal-related disaster in the beginning when we’re shown a body on the kitchen floor and dismantled plumbing. The rest of the details are filled in by a neighbourhood kiddo with a bowl cut (Matthew Lawrence), who regales David (Joey Lawrence) with what happened when the garbage disposal turned on when a metal bolt was jammed inside: “It shot that metal thing right up into her face. Shot it up just like a gun! Isn’t that bad? It shot it up right through her eyeball!” After hearing that story, David is terrified of the garbage disposal in his own house. And he’s right to be scared: by the end of the film, his own garbage disposal has gone rogue, grinding up broken glass and flinging it out at his dad.
9. Rolling Thunder (1977)
In this grindhouse thriller beloved enough by Quentin Tarantino that he named a specialty distribution company Rolling Thunder Pictures back in 1995, the main action is predicated by a group of greedy grunts breaking in to former P.O.W. Major Charles Rane (William Devane)’s home, torture him by grinding his hand off in his own garbage disposal, and leaving him for dead. The hand maceration is gnarly, but was apparently even more graphic before audience responses during previews convinced the filmmakers to tone down the gore before release.
8. Final Destination 2 (2003)
After averting death in a massive log truck pileup on the highway, it’s only a matter of time before Death comes to claim the survivors. The first of these reclamations comes for Evan Lewis (David Paetkau), who is riding high after his brush with death because he’s also won the lottery. When he loses his chunky new ring down his sink drain, it seems obvious that his hand is about to become pâté as soon as he reaches in after it and gets his watch (also new) caught. Perhaps disappointingly, he does manage to free himself, but the sink drain knows what role it played in Death’s plans.
7. Mirror, Mirror (1990)
The strange old mirror in Megan (Rainbow Harvest)’s bedroom is no ordinary mirror: it drips blood and has the power to grant her any wish, even if the granting is often violent. This doesn’t seem to bother Megan too much, though (rather it appeals to her teen goth sensibilities). By the time Megan begins to understand the extent of the mirror’s power, it has already begun its attack against everyone close to Megan. This includes Meghan‘s mom (Karen Black), who loses fingers to a demonically controlled garburator while trying to dispose of the home-cooked spaghetti dinner she’d wanted to share with her daughter.
6. Wish Upon (2017)
The most recent entry on the list follows in the steps of Mirror, Mirror by giving a lonely teen girl a wish-granting device. The strange music box that is gifted to Clare Shannon (Joey King) by her dumpster-diving dad (Ryan Phillippe) is powerful, but it demands a blood sacrifice for every wish. It takes Clare quite a few wishes before she realizes that the people around her are dropping like flies, and it’s her third wish that causes her perfectly friendly neighbour (Sherilyn Fenn of Twin Peaks fame) to get her braid caught in a garbage disposal & pulled with such force that her neck snaps.
5. Hard Candy (2005)
Hayley (Ellen Page) is a precocious teen vigilante set on wreaking vengeance against Jeff (Patrick Wilson), a man that she suspects is a sexual predator. Most of the film centres around the psychological tortures that Hayley takes out on Jeff, most notably drugging him and staging a surgical castration. The icing on this trauma cake is Hayley‘s game of toying with what to do with Jeff‘s apparently removed testes before ultimately sending them down his garbage disposal.
4. House IV (1992)
This is the only case on this list where the garbage disposal might actually be a bit of a godsend. I’m talking about the weird possessed pizza with a face that gets delivered to the Cobb house. Kelly (Terri Treas) makes quick work of dispatching the nasty singing pizza down the garbage disposal, but not before it sends a gloopy cheese tentacle out to try and take her arm through the grinder with it.
3. The Last House on the Left (2009)
If you can get past the gratuitously graphic and over-long rape scene that sets up this movie to get to the parents’ vengeance in the latter half (or, you know, you can skip the first bit), The Last Half on the Left gives some truly bizarre if memorable acts of revenge, from microwaving a man’s head, to — you guessed it — shoving a hand down the garbage disposal.
2. Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes (1989)
I’ll admit that I have never lived in a house with a garbage disposal, but it sure seems like a lot of the people in horror films who do use them like to shove full meals down the drain. Isn’t the disposal just supposed to be for small bits of food? No wonder they always get dangerously clogged. In Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes, Amanda (Zoe Trilling) shoves an ungodly amount of vegetable peels down the disposal. It gets clogged, of course. Before she can lose any fingers, a popular jock-type shows up in his letterman jacket to chide her for not taping the switch up first and then show off his handyman prowess by sticking his own hand into the drain to deal with the clump of food gumming up the blades. The possessed house (or house manipulated by a possessed lamp?) does what it does best and supernaturally flips the disposal switch and macerates his hand.
1. Orphan Black (2013)
Sometimes garburator deaths don’t involve a supernatural force or evil villain; sometimes they’re just (kinda manslaughter-y) accidents. In season one of Orphan Black a group of women (who also happen to be clones) find themselves uncovering deeper mysteries surrounding their existence, including the fact that they have been each assigned a monitor to spy on them and report back to some greater scientific body. Suburban soccer mom Alison Hendrix (Tatiana Maslany) has been suspecting her nosy neighbour Aynsley (Natalie Lisinska) for a while. When she finally decides to have a kitchen confrontation with her would be monitor, Aynsley gets her scarf caught in a running garbage disposal. In her shock, Alison decides not to turn off the switch…and it ends just about as well as you’d expect.
Do garburators strike fear into the very fibre of your being? Did I skip some garbage disposal scenes that have been burned into your brain? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!