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How Rude! Bad Manners in Horror Movies

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie directed by Tobe Hoopers.

There is no accounting for other people’s manners. Don’t be so disgusting is what my mum used to say at the dinner table while we were eating our stew and talking about a friend who could burp the alphabet. Then she’d tell us a story about a child whose head had been lopped off sticking it out of a train window, and we’d sit there in horror, listening to her fork tines scrape across the metal plate before she shoveled another gobful of stew into her mouth. Did I mention that my mum is a noisy eater?

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In horror cinema, of the many taboos crossed by the legions of the damned, precious little attention has been paid to the violation of good manners and etiquette. In this list of the most bad mannered obscenities in horror cinema, we’ll look at disgusting faux pas committed by the genuine monsters, but also by the victims and supporting cast. Aboe all, we aim to prove that not being polite could cost you … everything. 

Don’t speak with your mouth full 

Lucio Fulci was a sick man. In City of the Living Dead, a  pervert is lobotomised with a drill, a girl necking with her boyfriend throws up her guts in a neverending spool, and the main cast are made to endure a hurricane of maggots. The premise is that a priest hangs himself in the town of Dunwich and opens a gate to Hell, unleashing these weird, paranormal zombies that can pop in and out of reality at will but similarly like to hide behind curtains to creep up on their victims. But way before evil terrorises those poor Dunwich residents, at about the 15-minute mark, there is what I’d argue to be the most ghastly shot in the whole film. Two gravediggers, taking a break, chat at the side of the grave while eating their lunch. One of these uncouth galuts is yabbering away with his mouth full of bits of sandwich. Ugh. Pass me the bucket and send him off to finishing school.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie directed by Tobe Hoopers.

Knock before you enter 

Manners maketh the man, or so they say. Lack of them maketh the monster. Seems logical but there is a scale of gentility. Vampires are the most genteel. They must be invited in. They also dress smartly in bow ties and are seductively civilised in most ways. Further down the barometer of common decency is the It that follows in It Follows (2014). It also knocks – before entering, naked, into a victim’s room, disguised as the victim’s mother – which I guess is considerate. But It will also break down the door if necessary. The It that follows has a flimsy sense of decency. But which monsters show a complete lack of opprobrium. When it comes to the terribly rude, Michael Myers is the prince of the ill-mannered.  In Halloween (2018), even the privacy of a toilet cubicle won’t stop him from entering. He gatecrashes parties for kicks. What a heathen!

At the end of every Halloween film, Michael is chastised with coat hangers, bullets and flame, only to rise again and be a boar in the next sequel. Look at the hapless young hippies who enter the farmhouse in Texas Chainsaw. Had they but left a note with a callback number?

It’s rude to pick your teeth, even if only the dead are watching 

Tobe Hooper’s classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is often called the best horror film ever made. From the opening flash bulb corpses to Leatherface performing Swan Lake with his chainsaw as the sun sets at the end, it is a cornucopia of horrors… and bad manners. There is the traumatic dinner table scene where poor Sally Hardesty finds herself strapped to a chair with not one but four members of the deranged family on the other side. Seeing as they’re going to eat her later, they basically play with their food. Tut tut. They torment her with grandpa’s hammer, upset her with the mask made from the skin of her brother, and rub their hands all over her face. You’d never do that with a bowl of lentil soup. By god, there’s little consent given in the world of horror. On the cutting room floor, perhaps there is a lost scene in which they wash their hands before eating, but no sign of it here – the grubby little miscreants. They regularly get up from their chairs without a by your leave, and there is much resting of elbows on the table. 

But the most disturbing scene for the champion of etiquette is the bit where Leatherface, alone in a room that could do with all the bones being swept from the floor, sits and picks at his teeth. A toothpick is preferred, and even that has a technique. No, though the family all work in the food industry, vertically integrated from slaughterhouse to road cafe, their hygiene is next to nil.

Don’t pick your nose in public 

The Nostril Picker (1993) is scraping more than just the inside of his own noseholes. The poster and title when I was a kid was enough to make you want to blow chunks. Picking our noses is something most of us do in absolute secrecy. This classy picture is a proto-It Follows. Joe, a slack-jawed loser unable to pick up women and fixating on teenage girls, discovers he can transform into anyone he likes to approach them. And then murder them. It is the film that invented Catfishing and warned of the perils thereof in the dinosaur days of the Internet. The alternative title is not The Bogey Man but The Changer, incidentally. 

The Nostril Picker

Remember, it’s rude to stare 

And yet, these villains and monster ceaselessly do. But who is the worst culprit of inappropriate staring? Let’s look at the stalk-and-slash genre for the most starey individuals. While early slasher Black Christmas’ anonymous prank caller is clearly a bit of a peeping tom, there’s only one shot – perhaps the best stare in horror cinema- where we see his eyes bulging illuminous and utterly insane through the crack of the door, but the rest of the time it’s his POV. And POV unsteadicammed. That supreme candidate for finishing school reformatory – Michael Myers, on the other hand, is clearly a chronic starer, depicted both POV, over the shoulder, and caught in the act. Maybe his Kirk mask obscures his eyeballs, leaving two pits of darkness hiding the devil’s eyes – but he is definitely eyeballing his victims. ‘Why don’t you take a picture buddy, it’ll last longer!’

Cutlery! Do as I say not as I do

In The Silence of the Lambs and its sequels, much is made of Lecter’s intolerance for rudeness. When Starling winds up with bodily fluid on her person while visiting Dr. Lecter, he avenges the fair maiden by tormenting fellow inmate Miggs so he swallows his own tongue. Yes, bodily fluids should be kept in check, with a sock or a roll of tissue. All well and true. But what about Lecter’s own eating habits? Time and again he does not use a knife and fork. When he bites off a nurse’s face or a cop’s noses. Yes, he uses knives to debilitate his victims but then eats them where they lie like they were scraps off a kitchen table and he is the family poodle. And if he were your housemate, would he ever clear out the fridge of food past the sell-by date? In Silence, Starling is directed to a garage where Lecter still stores a pickled head from a previous meal from years past. 

Spit discreetly, if at all 

My good friend Pat from Carlow, Ireland, tells a story on his podcast Brother Patrick of the time he got in trouble in class and one of the boys laughed at him. As he was passing his desk on the way out to see the headmaster, the laughing boy yawned and Pat hocked and gobbed a nice chewy slug – kerping – right down his throat, ringing his uvula on the way down. A revolting revenge but perhaps deserved. What however did the team of scientists, mathmaticians, theologians and philosophers do to deserve the minions of the Prince of Darkness gobbing and spewing and upchucking the green slime of Satan down their throats? Called to investigate a strange vial of mystical green fluid in a desolate church, the team soon discover that it is some kind of ancient containment vessel for the son of Satan and… it’s leaking. 

In Near Dark (1987), Bill Paxton not only steals someone’s drink and disses him, but then spits it out on his beard. He then walks all over the furniture and gets blood on everything. Not a good house guest, no. Generally bodily fluids should be disposed of politely and privately – drool and ectoplasmic slime should not be left all over space craft, visiting FBI agents, or libraries.

Prince of Darkness 1987

Smile some and be a good guest 

In the wickedly demented Late Night with the Devil, the real horror is depicted in the dichotomy of manners represented by two of the guests invited onto the late night talkshow by its host.

One, Carmichael, is a snide skeptic and the second, Lily, is a smiling teenage girl possessed by a demonic entity. A good guest knows his audience and doesn’t seek to disparage or undermine another guest whether telepath or not, nor to rudely interrupt renowned psychologists turned authors of books on demonic possession when they are talking. Smiling at people is one of the golden rules of etiquette, but then again there is smiling too much. When it turns out that Lily is actually the vessel of a demon, then smiles are less winsome.

Likewise, in the movie Smile, the crocodile grin welcomes you into its skin. The fear of strangers, exaggerated by our double lives on social media and the catfishers and the charlatans and the predators there abounding, is now so rampant that a smile can also be a sign of deep-seated issues. So smile sparingly and do so appropriately.


Be on time 

Scatman Crothers is from a different age, a superior age of golden standards of etiquette. In The Shining, he travels coast-to-coast and drives almost blindly through blizzards in the Colorado Mountains to be on time to save Danny. On the other hand, because he turned up uninvited by the father of the house, Jack Torrance is justifiably a tad angry. I would argue, in this Sophie’s choice between two conflicting rules of etiquette – being on time or turning up without an invite – Scatman doesn’t deserve to be corrected with an axe buried to the shaft in his ribcage. Had he been a fraction later then Danny would have been served up as elevator Ribena. And besides, Torrance learns Scatman is arriving from a racist butler who deliberately spills a tray of egg nog over the dipsomaniac caretaker.

Don’t f**k with another man’s wheels 

This lesson is learnt the hard way by Buddy and his gang in Carpenter’s Christine. One way to piss off a demonically possessed Cadillac is by taking a dump on it. Carpenter wisely doesn’t show the act, but we hear that it happened and can picture it in our minds. Just who the offender was (my money’s on Moochie) is one of those great and tantalising cinematic mysteries. There is probably an alternate ending with a flashback to who took a crap on Christine in a kind of Rosebud was his sled moment, as in Citizen Kane.

Christine 1983

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