Dracula, and actually most vampires, can’t (easily) be stopped with firearms. Likewise, ghosts and many other supernatural creatures may be unaffected by mere bullets. In classic horror films, heroes like “Dirty” Harry Callahan and John Rambo would need to do far more than pull out the big guns if they hoped to survive to the end credits.
Guns In Horror Movies Saving the Day
Though firearms are quite effective against zombies, the infected, and your general walking dead, the sheer numbers of those creatures often present a serious problem for the protagonists. Rarely is a single firearm enough in such stories. Yet, there are those horror/thriller films where the right choice of firearm saved the day, and allowed for a happy Hollywood ending.
Here is a recap of the movies (spoilers ahead) where the right firearm proved critical.
It wasn’t the supernatural, but rather one of nature’s apex predators that is truly terrifying in Steven Spielberg’s thriller Jaws that essentially created the summer blockbuster. Decades before he brought believable dinosaurs to life, Spielberg struggled with an unconvincing great white shark – and opted to limit its presence onscreen. What you don’t see actually becomes far more terrifying, especially in the few brief moments where “Bruce” (the name of the animatronic shark) finally had his close-up.
Though not an action film, a number of firearms make an appearance in Jaws, while two stand out. The first is the Greener Light Harpoon Gun, which shark-hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) used against the maritime beast. The rifle, which is based on the single-shot British Martini-Henry rifle from the 1870s, is actually designed for fishing and line launching. It was subsequently seen in the Jaws knock-off Orca (1977) and later in 1995’s Waterworld.
Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Schneider) finally kills the shark by shooting a pressurized scuba tank lodged in the shark’s mouth. Brody uses an M1 Garand. Of course, General George S. Patton famously described the rifle as “the greatest battle implement ever devised.” But even Patton likely didn’t know it could be used to kill sharks too!
Though not the first “slasher film,” John Carpenter’s indie film went on to spawn one of the longest-running and most successful horror franchises in cinematic history. It also created many of the genre’s archetypes, including a seemingly unstoppable villain, a heroine that will somehow survive despite a series of questionable decisions, and liberal use of jump scares to heighten tension. The film also marked the big screen debut of Jamie Lee Curtis, who soon became known as a “scream queen” for her string of roles in horror films.
Halloween tells the story of the now somewhat infamous Michael Myers, an escaped mental patient with a penchant for large knives, who dons a mask made from the cast of William Shatner’s face. For reasons not entirely clear in the original film, he preys on a number of local teenagers, including Laurie Strode (Curtis). Meanwhile psychiatrist Dr. Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasence) constantly pursues Myers, eventually confronting and shooting Michael with a Smith & Wesson Model 15 Combat Masterpiece. Seemingly dead, Michael vanished into the night.
We don’t know why Loomis drew the charge of hunting Myers, remaining a big question in the film franchise. But he chose a weapon equal to the task. However, perhaps Loomis should have used a Model 29 .44 Magnum and ended this thing – even the Boogeyman isn’t getting up from that! Worth special note: Scheider also carried a Model 15 in Jaws; the gun also appeared in 1987’s The Monster Squad.
As with many horror/thrillers, this one starts out in an idyllic town in anywhere America. Cujo is a friendly and easygoing St. Bernard and in another story could have had wild adventures with Tad, the son of Vic and Donna Trenton. Instead, this being a work by Stephen King, it begins with the once lovable dog chasing a wild rabbit into a cave, where he is bitten by a rabid bat. It could even serve to remind viewers why Old Yeller had to be put down.
After killing his owner, an abusive mechanic, Cujo tuns his sights on Tad and Donna, trapping them in her car under the blazing hot summer sun. With her son facing dehydration, Donna must face the infected monster-sized dog with a baseball bat, before finally taking him down with the local sheriff’s Smith & Wesson Model 64 .38 Special revolver. This particular handgun, noted for its manageable recoil, might actually prove a bit light for stopping a supernatural beast. But it proved up to the task of taking out the rabid dog.
Kiss the Girls (1997), along with the zombie apocalypse action film Zone of the Dead (2009) each saw the S&W Model 64 put to good use.
Silver Bullet (1985)
Vampires always prove tough to take out with a firearm. But a “silver bullet” actually proves just right when taking out a werewolf. Based on the 1983 Stephen King novella “Cycle of the Werewolf,” this film goes into the importance of a round made of silver. Initially panned upon release, the film enjoyed a cult following. It served as a lighthearted parody of the werewolf genre–never taking itself too seriously.
In the book version, a Colt Woodsman in .38 Special, a non-existing firearm, took out the werewolf. So the movie employed a Smith & Wesson Model 629 revolver. It actually marked the third appearance of that particular handgun in a movie. It previously saw action in 1981’s Nighthawks, carried by Sylvester Stallone, and later by the villain in 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop.
The particular handgun has gone on to be in dozens of other films, and tragically it was the firearm that killed actor Brandon Lee on the set of 1994’s The Crow.
Blue Velvet (1986)
Before taking on the role of Dale Cooper in the mystery TV series Twin Peaks, Kyle MacLachlan starred in David Lynch’s neo-noir mystery thriller alongside Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, and Laura Dern. Chosen by the American Film Institute as one of the greatest mystery films ever made, this thriller tells the story of a young college student who returns home to visit his ailing father – only to discover a severed human ear in a field.
It leads to a vast criminal conspiracy, involving sex slavery and an illicit narcotics trade, and several plot twists before MacLachlan is able to confront the mysterious “Well Dress Man,” killing him with the “Yellow Man’s” handgun. As with most of Lynch’s tales, if it sounds confusing, it is because you haven’t been paying attention to all the minute details.
Though a few firearms appear in Blue Velvet, including a Colt Official Police with a five-inch barrel and a Smith & Wesson Model 39, a S&W Model 624 finally puts down the film’s villain. Interestingly, the appearance marked the first for the Model 624 in film. We don’t seemingly see it again until a snub-nose version carried by Nicholas Cage in Knowing in 2009.
This 1996 horror/comedy attempted to both pay homage to and satirize many of the clichés found in slasher films. Written by Kevin Williamson and directed by horror myster Wes Craven, Scream followed a group of high school students who appear to be stalked by a mysterious killer. It spawned a series of feature film sequels, an MTV series, and was even parodied in the Scary Movie series.
Instead of an escaped mental patient or supernatural being, the villains have personal (albeit dubious) reasons for their murderous spree. They seek to pin their crimes on the father of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), as revenge for her mother’s affair with one of the killer’s fathers, which broke up his family.
Scream features just a single gun, a Beretta 92FS carried by several characters. it marks one of the few times in these thrillers where the hero employs a semi-automatic pistol, rather than a revolver, to set things right.
The sidearm belongs to Deputy Dwight “Dewey” Riley (David Arquette). Killers Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) and Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard) both wield the Beretta. The sequel should have dealt with the trouble of determining who might have used it and when!
Honorable Mention: The Warriors (1979)
Not exactly a horror film or thriller, but the action sees our heroes chased across New York City by various costume-clad gangs. And these weren’t kids in Halloween costumes!
The troubles being at a summit of the Big Apple’s largest gangs, when Luther, an unbalanced gang leader of the Rogues guns down Cyrus, the leader of the Gramercy Riffs. Luther quickly pins the murder on the Warriors. It is a nonsensical ride from beginning to end, and it certainly showed New York and its subway system at its absolute worst – and could be a portent of where things could, unfortunately, head again.
The gangs mostly rely on knives, clubs, and of course baseball bats. Few guns actually see action. Yet, a Smith & Wesson Model 28 fired the shot that takes out Cyrus, starting the wild chain of events, rather than saving the day!
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